They say you never forget how to ride a bike, but for road racers it’s much more complex than just pushing the pedals. The language of professional cycling and its terminology can be baffling, the different types of races and their tactics can be confusing and yes, you can really be the overall winner of a multiple stage race without ever winning a stage!


There are different levels of registration for cycling teams…


These are governed by the International Cycling Union (UCI – Union Cycliste International) and indicate which circuit of races the team can enter. However, there are opportunities for teams to secure ‘wild card’ places for races they may not otherwise be eligible for.

The different registration levels for male teams are:

UCI Continental Teams – consists of professional or amateur riders, contesting races on the continental circuit

UCI Professional Continental Teams – consists of at least 14 professional riders, contesting races on the professional continental circuit

UCI Pro Teams – this status is the highest level of registration, and carries the right and obligation to participate in all World Tour races.

Team Novo Nordisk pro-cycling team is a UCI Professional Continental Team and will race in road races and Tours throughout  the  year.

Cycling teams comprise riders with different roles and specialist skills. Overall great stamina, astute strategy and powerful acceleration are vital to achieve success.

Cycling is a hugely demanding sport, which means it takes a whole team to give just one rider the chance of success.

Aerodynamics and energy conservation are a crucial part of cycling tactics, so effective teamwork is critical to protect and shelter a team’s leader; the rider deemed to have the best chance of success at a given race. The team’s leader may change depending on the profile or type of race.

Riding directly behind another cyclist, called drafting, places a rider in a slipstream, which dramatically reduces wind resistance and the effort required to ride at the same speed. It is estimated that up to 40% energy can be conserved through drafting.

A key responsibility of the team is to guard and support the leader through pacing, drafting and protection in the peloton. Where a cross wind is experienced, the riders will form an echelon or diagonal line across the road to maximise the effect of drafting.


Each racing circuit consists of a number of different races, which include one or more of the following forms:


Road Race – a straight final held on closed public roads. Cyclists start together in a bunch and the first to cross the finish line is the winner. The courses are of varying distances and can take several different formats:

  • One-day races from one point to another
  • A circuit (a specialised circuit race is also known as a criterium or crit race)
  • Stage races consisting of several races, or stages, ridden consecutively also known as Tours. The most well-known are the three-week long ‘Grand’ Tours; the Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España and the most famous of all, the Tour de France. There are also a number of shorter duration stage races such as the Tour of California, the Tour of Argentina, the Tour of Denmark and the Tour of Turkey

Individual Time Trial – individual cyclists start at regular intervals e.g. 90 seconds apart and the fastest over the course is the winner. This type of race is often a crucial element in a stage race

Team Time Trial – follows the same principle as for the individual time trial but the whole team works seamlessly together to post the best time for the overall team.

Certain members of the team will act as domestiques, literally the servant of the team, supporting the leader

in additional ways such as fetching food and drinks from team cars.

Specialised skills are also required for mountain and flat stages. The climber will be the rider in the team who  can ride especially well on highly inclined roads and the sprinter is the rider who can finish a race very explosively by accelerating quickly to a high speed.

The key jerseys to be won in each stage race are:

Leader’s jersey – worn by the rider with the lowest cumulative time over all the stages in the race; the overall race or General Classification winner

Sprinter’s jersey – worn by the most consistently well placed rider based on points awarded for high places on each stage

Mountain’s jersey – worn by the rider who performs most consistently well in the mountains based on points accumulated over different climbs and stages


Know your bidons from your pelotons…

– a water bottle

Bonk – or hitting the wall, this is when a cyclist completely runs out of energy on a long ride

Breakaway – a rider or group of riders that has left the main group behind

Broom wagon – the vehicle that follows a cycling road race picking up stragglers (or sweeping them up) who are unable to make it to the finish of the race within the time permitted

Commissaires – the referees in cycling

General classification (GC) – tracks the overall cumulative time for each rider in a stage race. The cyclist with the lowest cumulative time to complete all stages is the race leader and  declared the overall (GC) winner

Lanterne rouge – the last placed rider overall in a stage race

Lead-out – riders from one team who raise the  pace of a race in the final kilometres to give their  sprinter the best position and chance to contest the race finish on a flat stage

Peloton – the main group of riders. Sometimes known as the bunch in English