02 July 2011

Word of the Day: Prologue

A Prologue is a short individual time trial before a stage race, used to determine which rider wears the leader's jersey on the first stage.

There was no Prologue in this year's Tour de France. The Tour de France started today with Stage 1 with no one wearing a yellow jersey (Alberto Contador wore the #1 on his jersey). There will be 21 stages in the 2011 Tour de France with 2 rest days. It seemed odd not to see Fabian Cancellara win a prologue at the beginning of a stage race. Cancellara owns the prologue.

Fabian Cancellara won the prologue which opened the 2010 Tour de France. putting him into the yellow jersey. Today Fabian Cancellara instead wore his new Swiss National Champion Road jersey at the start of the Tour as he will at the start of tomorrows stage (although that was an exciting move he made at the end of Stage 1 of the Tour de France today).

Fabian Cancellara's prologue palmares (note that there is not always a prologue every year at these races)

2011 - 1st Prologue, Tour de Luxembourg

2010 - 1st Prologue Tour de Suisse, 1st Prologue (ITT) Tour de France

2009 - 1st Prologue Tour of California

2008 - 1st Prologue Tour of California

2007 - 1st Prologue, Tour de France, 1st Prologue, Tour of Switzerland

2006 - 1st Prologue, Volta a Catalunya

2004 - 1st Prologue, Tour de France

2003 - 1st Prologue, Tour de Suisse, 1st Prologue, Tour de Romandie

2002, 2001 - 1st Prologue, Tour of Rhodes<

  1. The Prologue is an introduction race for sprinters on time trial bikes
  2. Prologues are traditional (but not mandatory) starts to a multi-day stage race. 
  3. A prologue can be thought of as an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details. 
Certainly in cycling the prologue is what you see in front of the curtain, the opening pageantry preceding the race (although it is still a race). The Prologue marks the first time the majority of the fans will be presented with the racers. The first introduction and sign-in of the riders can be quite fun to watch. It is also the time when every rider will be present (later sickness or crashes or quits may eliminate some riders from the race).

The night before the Prologue is filled with PR ritual: press meetings, photographs, dinners, sponsor highlights, VIP extras, and formal team presentations. The racers are kept busy with PR obligations. Behind the scenes team staff will be scrambling to get their equipment, food, bags, bikes, cars, security and plans arranged for the action packed week ahead.

In cycling the term Prologue is defined as: a short individual time trial before a stage race, used to determine which rider wears the leader's jersey on the first stage. The time trial could be very short. In 2008, the Tour of California featured a 2.4 mile Prologue. Fabian Cancellara won that day with a time of 0:03'51". That is a fast prologue! You may not see each rider for a long period, but the riders will be spread out over hours. That means hours of fun hanging out as a fan watching the pageantry.

We won't have to wait long for this kind of time trial action, tomorrow we will have the Team Time Trial of the Tour de France. Stage 2 Tour de France TTT . No point in having two time trials in a row, and I would much prefer to see a Team Time Trial then a prologue, although the TTT could result in big time gaps for the General Classification contenders starting with stage 3 of the TDF.