The Unofficial Tour de France Phrase Book

The Unofficial Tour de France Phrase Book

Devastating defeats, breath-taking mountain views, really enormous lungs – it’s time again for the Tour de France! But are you prepped for the peloton?

Here are some helpful French phrases for cyclists and fans, to use in the race, by the roadside, or right at home.

1. For riders: "J'aurais dû faire du curling." ("I should have chosen curling instead.")

This race isn’t for the faint-hearted. The Tour de France covers more than 2,175 miles, broken up into 21 stages. Each year, the route across France changes, sometimes entering other European countries, but it always challenges riders over all sorts of terrain, with stages on the flat, in the hills, and in the mountains.

2. For spectators: "Je ne pensais pas qu'il était possible de manger autant de brie! Maintenant je regrette de n'avoir pas su m'arrêter!" ("There is such thing as too much brie. I regret my decisions immediately.")

For those who have travelled to see the spectacle in person, it’ll be hard to ignore the famous cheeses along the route. You might want to try some P'tit Basque in the Pyrenees, a bit of Beaufort in the Alps, and some Camembert in Normandy.

3. For riders: "Puis-je participer au Tour en Segway?" ("May I compete using a Segway?")

The road bikes used by the Tour de France riders are constructed from the lightest possible materials. For example, fat tubes of thin-walled aluminum are used to form the main triangle of the frame. These tubes are exceptionally light and stiff, which prevents any energy from being absorbed by the frame and allows it all to go into accelerating the bike.

4. For riders: "Je ne sens plus mes jambes." ("I can't feel my legs.")

To call the race “painful” would be an understatement. These athletes are performing under excruciating conditions! Following any intense exercise, muscles are full of micro-tears which are akin to small nicks in a pair of tights.  A thorough cool down is important, as it allows the heart rate to recover to its resting rate, and potentially reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, pain that is sometimes experienced one to three days after intense muscle activity.

5. For riders: "Ce maillot jaune me donne-t-il un look sportif?" ("Does this yellow jersey make me look sporty?")

The yellow jersey appeared for the first time in the Tour de France in 1919, when the race was won by a Belgian cyclist named Firmin Lambot. The jersey was yellow after the colour of the pages of the organizer’s journal, L’Auto.

Today there are also prizes for the fastest sprinter (the green jersey), the fastest climber (the red polka dot jersey), and the fastest rider under 25 (the white jersey).

6. For aspiring cyclists: "Puis-je me joindre à vous?" ("Mind if I join you?")

Serious cyclists can live their dreams by signing up for a Tour de France "stage vacation". Some travel companies organize the adventures, which include full-guided or self-guided options. Applications must be received by the end of March every year, to have a chance to ride along with the Tour de France professionals. (We’ll stay on the couch for this one).


Speaking of spokes, you can learn more cycling's most trying race in The Bicycle Bookan extraordinary celebration of the history of cycling from BMX and mountain biking, to track and road racing. Take a ride through the sport's history and discover classic and cutting-edge bicycles, following the evolution of cycling throughout the decades

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