Tour de France – Glossary of French Terms

The Tour de France is undoubtedly the sports highlight of the summer, and more than a hundred million people from all around the world watch it every year. It boasts the best cyclists, exciting tactics, beautiful French scenery, and also lots of foreign terms and arcane jargon.

So you won’t ever get confused watching the Tour de France again, we have prepared a glossary of the most common French terms used at the Tour and in cycling in general. ?


Alpe d’Huez ­

The most famous climb at the Tour de France, where cyclists have to climb 21 switchbacks. A win at Alpe d’Huez is very special and important.



The group of riders left behind the peloton. In this group, riders help each other so they can reach the finish line within the given time limit. On mountain stages, for example, the autobus usually consists of sprinters. The autobus is also called grupetto.



Water bottle. At the Tour de France, fans often pick up the bottles discarded on the side of the road by the riders.



The famous avenue in Paris where the last stage of the Tour finishes. This is also where the winner of the Tour is announced.




The biggest group of riders on the road at any given time during the race.



An exclamation which could be translated as “Good job!”. Its literal meaning is hat. When exclaiming “Chapeau!”, the riders figuratively lift their hat to congratulate a fellow rider for their performance.


Directeur sportif

Sporting director. They are responsible for the team’s strategy at the race and give instructions on how to ride from the accompanying vehicle.



A rider who works for the benefit of their team or the team captain, sacrificing their chances for a win in return. Their job includes riding in front of the captain to help them maintain as much energy as possible, setting the pace, getting drinks, etc. Their job depends on the strategy of the individual race.


Flamme rouge

The red flag indicating entry into the last kilometre.


Grand Départ

The first stage of the Tour de France.


A rider who does very well on climbs or in the mountain stages. A climber.


Maillot jaune

Yellow jersey. Worn by the best rider in the general classification.


Maillot vert

Green jersey. Worn by the rider with the most points collected. Its is usually worn by sprinters, as flat stages bring more points than hilly or mountainous stages.


Maillot blanc

White jersey. Worn by the best young rider in the general classification. A rider is classified as a young rider if they are younger than 25 years of age.


Maillot à pois rouges

Polka dot jersey. Worn by the best climber. Riders who are the first to climb a hill are rewarded with the most points.



A special bag containing food and drinks riders receive from their accompanying staff during the race. The bag has long straps so the riders can put it around their neck to transfer the food and drinks to their jersey pockets.



Team staff who take care of the practicalities of a race.  Their job includes filling the musettes, doing laundry, making hotel reservations, giving massages to the riders, etc.


Tête de la course

Head of the race. It refers to the rider or riders in the lead at any given point on a stage.