The linguistic survival kit for one week Tour de Suisse
12. June 2019









What is the royal stage in French? What’s the devil’s cloth for? What do chocolates have to do with cycling? With the following terms, even cycling novices can master a tough week of Tour de Suisse.

In cycling jargon, some people only understand the station. That is due not only to the numerous technical terms used to designate the components of a bicycle, but also to the emblematic expressions which characterise that language variant. In order to shed some light on the subject, we have summarised the most common and “most memorable” terms – French and Italian included, of course.

Royal stage

Intentional meaning: In a stage race it is the most difficult and most important stage, which almost always takes place in the high mountains and is often the deciding factor in the overall classification.

Translations: fr.l’étape reine, ital.latappa decisiva

Top group

Meaning: the front group in a race

Translations: fr. le groupe de tête, gruppo di testa

Main field

Meaning: Group with the most riders

Translations: fr.le peloton, gruppo (compatto)


Intentional meaning: In cycling, a runaway is a professional who, by suddenly increasing his speed, gains an advantage over other participants in the race. The term outlier group is also derived from this term.

Translations: fr.le coureur échappé, fuggitivo

Mountain Goat

Intentional meaning: Mountain goats are usually small and slender riders who can climb steep and long mountain passes particularly well.

Translations: fr.le grimpeur, ital.lo scalatore

Rear wheel lollipop

Intentional meaning: In cycling, a lollipop or rear-wheel lollipop is a rider who always rides in the slipstream of his colleague and does not perform any leadership work himself.

Translations: fr.In French the verb “sucer la roue” is mainly used, succhiaruota (verb: stare a ruota)


Meaning: The Rouleur is a professional cyclist who can maintain a high speed for a long time during a road race. Rouleurs are usually very good time drivers.

Translations: fr.le rouleur, passista


Meaning: In cycling, sprinters are the power packs in the peloton (closed main field of cyclists). You can compete for the victory of a stage or race in the last 200 metres.

Translations: fr.le sprinteur, velocista


Meaning: Every cycling team has a captain on a round trip or a one-day race. The driver with the best chances of success is usually chosen as captain. The captain gets support from his team mates during the race.

Translations: fr. le leader, capitano


Intentional meaning: In cycling, the noble helper is a rider who could be successful himself, but still helps his captain and works for his success.

Translations: fr.l’équipier, ital. il gregario

Classification drivers

Meaning: The classification rider is a professional cyclist who is able to achieve a good position in the overall classification due to his skills.

Translations: fr.le coureur du général, leader di classifica générale

Water carrier

Intentional meaning: In cycling, a water carrier is a professional cyclist who supplies his colleagues and especially the captain with the necessary drinks.

Translations: fr.le porteur d’eau (This term is no longer often used in French today. Instead, the more general term Edelhelfer [équipier] is often used), portatore d’acqua

Wind relays

Intentional meaning: Strong crosswind makes it difficult for riders to find slipstream. In search of slipstreams, they form rows of drivers diagonally across the road, so-called wind relays.

Translations: fr.l’éventail, ventaglio

Broom wagon

Intentional meaning: In road races the broom wagon drives behind the field of riders and picks up the participants who have given up the race. Drivers who get into the broom car due to exhaustion, illness or injury must hand in their start number.

Translations: voiture-balai, carro scopa

Starvation diet

Intentional meaning: The hunger pangs occur when all carbohydrate reserves from the muscle cells and liver have been used up. This results in hypoglycaemia and a severe drop in performance.

Translations: fringale, crisi di fame

Devil’s cloth

Intentional meaning: The devil’s cloth is a red triangle that indicates the last kilometer before the finish.

Translations: flamme rouge, triangolo rosso

Of course there are also some Swiss expressions for which there are no corresponding translations. The funniest of these are listed below:

Dachshund Cutter

Meaning: Among racing cyclists, dachshund cutters are jokingly referred to as particularly narrow racing bike tyres.

Monkey chop

Meaning: Common name for a banana

Es Praliné set

Meaning: When a rider makes an attack and breaks away from the group at increased speed.

Driving in the kitchen

Meaning: driving in the peloton

For the linguistic perspective:

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