Welcome, new or not-so-new cycling fans! With Parts Un through Trois done, you now know what it is, who the hell is out there, and enougth slinky French cycling terms so that you could pass for Lance Armstrong, without being a doping vengeful !@#wipe whose selfishness, methodical codependent exploitation of junior domestiques, and mendacity almost destroyed the sport. But what *other* cycling words and tactics do you need to know, so you can enjoy the race *and* gain instant street cred with insular long-term cycling freaks? These!
Neutral Start or Neutral Zone: if you all start riding full-gas the second the race begins, you'll be so freaked you'll all go down in a 180-person crash, and the race'll be over before it even begins. So, they start you out niiiiiiiiice and slow til you get your sea legs under you. And you don't even wanna *hear* from some 5-million-euro prima donna's agent if you screw this up and their entire season's major goal is crushed. Just drop your phone and go hide instead!
Neutralizing the Stage: normally, frankly, the race organizers don't give a crap if you're riding up or down a treacherous mountain road in an epic rainstorm, a hypothermia-inducing blizzard, or on two inches of sleet-welded ice, because it makes for sexy, if dangerous, television. But if they think you might win the race, or losing but they think your prospects would improve if guys who ride better than you in bad weather get cut off at the knees, they might pick an arbitrary ending point and neutralize some portion of the stage, in which case, guy at front right then wins the day. Boy, has much hilarity ensued when half the guys aren't told the race was neutralized, and the ones who *did* stop when told to do so sit up, slow down, and lose the race!
Relegation: you acted like an !@#hole, generally in a sprint, by cutting someone else off by swerving in front of them, or, if you're really pugilistic, actively elbowing them in the guts or face. You won the stage--but not for long. You've been relegated, and the guy who came in second gets the win. Hope you liked wearing that winner's jersey on the podium while the race organizers make the call--at least until the new winner tries to strangle you with it!
Barrier: yep, the metal things covered with advertising banners meant to protect the riders from stupid fans in the last few hundred meters of the sprint. Don't worry--you can still scare the crap out of the cyclists and screw up their finale by sticking a flag or promotional thingy over the edge of it! Design Tip: the ones with the metal legs that stick out into the race course *really suck*, unless the sadistic perv who made 'em is *trying* to take innocent riders down. Jaysus, can you guys *fix* that already?
Road Furniture: You're going 60 kilometers an hour in a bike race, and the socialist nanny-state engineers concerned with paltry nothings like pedestrian or auto safety who built the street have put islands, posts, or other stupid crap right in the center of the race course, making you leap like a pole-vaulter to avoid smashing into it. Even more impressive when some bureaucrat nimwit forgets to stick a freakin' flag on it until it's entirely too late to avoid. Common sense here, people--just set the route carefully in the first place!
Attack: I want to win this stage! I want to test out my rivals' legs to see how much energy they've got left! I need a new contract for next season and want to impress other teams with my work ethic! You go for it, and you hit the gas--just not too early, or you'll've wasted all that energy for nothin'!
Mechanical: short-hand for "mechanical problem." Flat tire, chain snap, chain gets sucked into your wheel, tho' once, if I recall correctly, George Hincapie's handlebars sheared right off, nearly impaling him like some medieval pit-trap. Etiquette Tip: you do *not* attack the GC leader at a crucial time while he has a no-fault mechanical where the entire three-week race can be won or lost by seconds, unless you are a Schleck brother, in which case, you do it to the race leader first and spend the next two years bitching that the race leader did it right back to you thus hugely unjustly costing you the race. Be consistent, or shut the hell up!
Sticky Bottle: In the guise of needing a water bottle from your team car, you cling on to the one your DS hands you from the window like a lemur to be pulled along by the car and save your legs some pain. Variant: riding right behind a series of team cars to save energy on your way back up to the peloton after a mechanical problem, crash or poorly-timed *nature break. You're cheating, and yes, everybody *does* do it. Master class: Vincenzo Nibali, who actually got kicked out of the Vuelta for pulling this !@#$, which he damn well deserved for brazen stupidity alone:
Wheelsucker: a derogatory term for a lazy opportunistic weasel who, instead of doing their fair share of the work by riding in front of their small group and taking turns taking the brunt of the wind and setting the pace, sits on someone's wheel in their slipstream*, then attacks within meters of the line when the other fellow is now completely exhausted and takes the win, and the glory. Congratulations, !@#$face!
Pack Fodder: another sorta derogatory (but also rather prideful) term, this time for someone who's good enough to get a job, but not good enough for a DS to allow any other teammates to work for. And yes--he can *still* stomp your sorry rump like that grotesque screeching alien nuclear monster from "Cloverfield" that wasted the entire island of Manhattan, so show some respect!
Feed Zone: as noted in our discussion of "soigneur", you are fed while you ride, so you don't have to waste time and stop. Don't crash don't crash don't crash!
Newspaper: an old-school way for your fans to show true love, they will hand you actual sheets of newspapers at the top of a climb to act as a wind barrier so you don't freeze to death ribcage-first on a fast descent. Just ignore the headline making fun of you for blowing the GC yesterday!
Going Backwards: you're not of course, but relative to the speed of the peloton that is going faster than you are, you're slower so you're dropping back with each pedalstroke. Either you've done your job for your captain for the day and are completely burned out, or you've forgotten to eat or drink like a twit and you've utterly bonked. Fear not--some punk-!@# superdomestique (hi, Alejandro Valverde!) will attack his own team leader on a crucial climb, and the moto cameras'll ignore you from then on!
*Slipstream: if you ride right behind someone else, with their body and bike in front of you getting hit by the air first, you get the aerodynamic benefit of their effort without doing a damn thing yourself. Except riding for six hours, and having everyone hate your guts for all eternity.
**Nature Break: just what it sounds like. With some skill, you can do it while riding at speed, which is precisely when the race coverage will gnarl out the rest of us by focusing on you basically peeing on the poor bastard right behind you. Etiquette Tip: the race leader gets to call a nature break for the entire peloton, and you *never*, *ever* attack him then. Cry Me a River, Guys Tip: you know how the women do it, rather'n drop trou and entirely disrobe in front of a road full of strangers? According to the She-Cret Pro, THEY !@#$ING HOLD IT FOR THE ENTIRE RACE while they're also hydrating like maniacs. So if you're a guy at the Tour and *are* attacked, quit yer whinin', you pampered spoiled crybaby!
All righty-rooty, I think that covers it--now, you can dissect the race over a pile o' beer like a true professional fanatic. If I missed something, don't hesitate to ask--there are no stupid questions, at least none *I* haven't had to ask already! Coming up: yer Last Intro to Cycling post: the fans!