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A race stage, leg, or heat is a unit of a race that has been divided in several parts for the reason such as length of the distance to be covered, as in a multi-day event. Usually, such a race consists of "ordinary" stages, but sometimes stages are held as an individual time trial or a team time trial. Long races such as the Tour de France, Absa Cape Epic or the Giro d'Italia are known for their stages of one day each, whereas the boat sailing Velux 5 Oceans Race is broken down in usually four stages of several weeks duration each, where the competitors are racing continuously day and night. In bicycling and running events, a race with stages is known as a stage race.
In an ordinary stage of road bicycle racing, all riders start simultaneously and share the road. Riders are permitted to touch and to shelter behind each other. Riding in each other's slipstreams is crucial to race tactics: a lone rider has little chance of outracing a small group of riders who can take turns in the strenuous position at the front of the group. The majority of riders form a single large group, the "pack" (in French, the "peloton"), with attacking groups ahead of it and the occasional struggling rider dropping behind. In mountainous stages the peloton is likely to become fragmented, but in flat stages a split is rare.
Where a group of riders reach the finish line together, they do not race each other for a few seconds of improvement to their finishing time. There is a rule that if one rider finishes less than three seconds behind another then he is credited with the same finishing time as the first. This operates transitively, so when the peloton finishes together every rider in it gets the time of the rider at the front of the peloton, even though the peloton takes tens of seconds, and possibly even a couple of minutes, to cross the finish line.
Riders who crash within the last three kilometres of the stage are credited with the finishing time of the group that they were with when they crashed, if that is better than the time in which they actually finish. This avoids sprinters being penalized for accidents that do not accurately reflect their performance on the stage as a whole given that crashes in the final three kilometre can be huge pileups that are hard to avoid for a rider farther back in the peloton. A crashed sprinter inside the final three kilometres will not win the sprint, but avoids being penalised in the overall classification.
Ordinary stages can be further classified as "sprinters' stages" or "climbers' stages". The former tend to be raced on relatively flat terrain, which makes it difficult for small groups or individual cyclists to break away from the peloton—there are no big hills to slow it down. So more often than not, the entire peloton approaches the finish line en masse. Some teams are organized around a single specialized sprinter, and in the final kilometres of a sprint stage, these teams jockey for position at the front of the peloton. In the final few hundred metres, a succession of riders "lead out" their sprinter, riding very hard while he stays in their slipstream. Just before the line—200 metres away is about the maximum—the sprinter launches himself around his final lead-out man in an all-out effort for the line. Top speeds can be in excess of 72 km/h (about 45 mph). Sprint stages rarely result in big time differences between riders (see above), but contenders for the General Classification tend to stay near the front of the peloton to avoid crashes.
Mountain stages, on the other hand, often do cause big "splits" in the finishing times, especially when the stage actually ends at the top of a mountain. (If the stage ends at the bottom of a mountain that has just been climbed, riders have the chance to descend aggressively and catch up to anyone who may have beaten them to the summit.) For this reason, the mountain stages are considered the deciding factor in most Tours, and are often attended by hundreds of thousands of spectators.
Mountains cause big splits in finishing times due to the simple laws of physics. Firstly, the slower speeds mean that the aerodynamic advantage gained by slipstreaming is much smaller. Furthermore, lighter riders generate more power per kilogram than heavier riders; thus, the sprinters and the rouleurs (all-around good cyclists), who tend to be a bit bigger, suffer on the climbs and lose much time—40 minutes over a long stage is not unheard-of. Generally, these riders form a group known as the "bus" or "autobus" and ride at a steady pace to the finish. Their only goal is to cross the line within a certain limit—usually the stage winner's time plus 15% -- or else they'll be disqualified from the race (at the discretion of the officials; on rare occasions a lead breakaway becomes so large that the entire peloton falls that far back and would normally be allowed to remain in the competition to avoid having only a small field still in competition).
Meanwhile, the lighter climbers hurl themselves up the slopes at a much higher speed. Usually, the General Classification riders try to stay near the front group, and also try to keep a few teammates with them. These teammates are there to drive the pace—and hopefully "drop" the opposition riders—and to provide moral support to their leader. Typically, the leader will attack very hard when there are only a few kilometres to go, trying to put time into his main rivals. Gaps of two and even three minutes can be created over just a few kilometres by hard attacks.
In larger stage races, some stages may be designated as "medium mountain", "hilly" or "intermediate" stages. These stages are more difficult than flat stages, but not as difficult as the mountain stages. They are often well-suited for a breakaway (as described below). Occasionally, the distinction between medium mountain and mountain in stage classification, decided by race officials, can be controversial. The Giro d'Italia has had a reputation of labeling selective, very difficult stages as merely medium mountain.
Lastly, a handful of stages each year are known as being "good for a breakaway"—when one or a few riders attacks the peloton and beats it to the finish line. Typically these stages are somewhere between flat and mountainous. Breakaway stages are where the rouleurs, the hard-working, all-around riders who make up the majority of most teams, get their chance to grab a moment in the spotlight. (The climbers will want to save their energy for the mountains, and the sprinters are not built for hills.)
In the big multi-day events like the Tour or the Giro, there is a secondary competition on points (e.g. Points classification in the Tour de France), which tends to be contested by sprinters. Riders collect points for being one of the first to finish the stage and also for being one of the first three to finish an "intermediate" sprint. Sprinters also can get time bonuses, meaning that good sprinters may lead the general classification during the first few stages of a big multi-day event.
In NASCAR racing, starting with the 2017 season, races in the top three national touring series are completed in three stages, four in the case of the NASCAR Cup Series's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600.A stage consists of normal green flag racing followed by a stoppage on a designated lap signified by the waving of a green and white checkered flag, then a yellow flag. The top-10 finishers in each of the first two stages are awarded bonus championship points. The points earned are added to a driver/owner's regular season points total, while the winner of the stage receives an additional point that can be carried into the NASCAR playoffs. The stage lengths vary by track, but the first two stages usually combine to equal about half of the race. The final stage (which still pays out the most championship points) usually equals the other half. The first driver to win a National Series race under the stage race format was Camping World Truck Series driver Kaz Grala who won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in February 2017.
Round-the-world sailing races are sometimes held over stages. Notable examples are the Volvo Ocean Race, Velux 5 Oceans Race, Clipper Round the World Yacht Race and Global Challenge.
The 2009 Amgen Tour of California was the 4th running of an annual cycling race contained within the state of California. The event was staged February 14–22 and began with a prologue in the state capital of Sacramento. The event was held as part of the schedule of both the UCI America Tour and USA Cycling Professional Tour. The race was won by Levi Leipheimer for the third consecutive year.
The 2009 Giro d'Italia began on 9 May, with Stage 11 occurring on 20 May. The first stage, like it had been since 2007, was a team time trial, a stage where each member of the team raced together against the clock. Like most cycling Grand Tours do, the beginning of the 2009 Giro included a string of flat stages that were contested by sprinters. These stages were contested by Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Cavendish, among others, with Petacchi in victory becoming one of the only riders to defeat Cavendish in a sprint in the 2009 season.
Stage 12 of the 2009 Giro d'Italia took place on 21 May; the race concluded with Stage 21 on 31 May. The second half of the Giro began with a long and challenging individual time trial in Cinque Terre. It was in this time trial that Denis Menchov took the overall lead in the race. This was followed by a flat stage, after which most of the sprinters in the Giro withdrew from the race, as they did not figure to be in contention in the hilly and mountainous stages to follow.
The 2010 Giro d'Italia was the 93rd edition of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tours. The Giro started off in Amsterdam on 8 May and stayed in the Netherlands for three stages, before leaving the country. The route included climbs such as Monte Zoncolan, Plan de Corones, the Passo del Mortirolo and the Passo di Gavia before ending in Verona with an individual time trial.
The 2008 Giro d'Italia began on 10 May, with Stage 11 occurring on 21 May. The first stage, like it had been in 2007, was a team time trial, a stage where each member of the team raced together against the clock. This stage was won by the American team Slipstream–Chipotle, who had viewed it as their primary goal in the Giro. It allowed their leader Christian Vande Velde to wear the first pink jersey as race leader. Unlike in most cycling Grand Tours, the first road race stage 2008 Giro was not a flat stage decided by sprinters, but rather one over a hilly course that would be won by a breakaway or a strong climber. Though Stages 3 and 4 were both flat and conquered by sprinters, this meant that it was unlikely that a sprinter would get to wear the pink jersey at any point in the race.
The 2010 Tour of California was the fifth running of the Tour of California cycling stage race. It was held from May 16–23, and was the first edition of the race held in the month of May, after the first four occurred in February. It was rated as a 2.HC event on the UCI America Tour. It began in Nevada City and concluded in the Agoura Hills.
The 2010 season for the Lampre–Farnese Vini cycling team began in January with the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria and ended in October at the Giro di Lombardia. Though the team holds a valid UCI ProTour license, they were denied ProTour registration in November 2009. The matter remained unresolved at the time of the Tour Down Under, meaning the team missed the first major race of the season, but during January the UCI issued a temporary licence as a member of the ProTour until the end of March. Full license rights were restored at the end of March.
The 2010 season for Quick-Step began in January with the Tour Down Under and ended in October at the Giro di Lombardia. As a UCI ProTour team, they were automatically invited and obliged to attend every event in the ProTour. The team looks to remain as one of the world's foremost in the spring classics. Its ridership is mostly unchanged from 2009, in spite of an offseason attempt to sign reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
The 2011 Giro d'Italia was the 94th Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tours. The race started on 7 May with a team time trial in Turin to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, when the city served as the first capital of the single state.
The 2015 Giro d'Italia was a three-week Grand Tour cycling stage race that took place in May 2015. It was the 98th running of the Giro d'Italia and took place principally in Italy, although some stages visited France and Switzerland. The 3,481.8-kilometre (2,163.5 mi) race included 21 stages, beginning in San Lorenzo al Mare on 9 May and concluding in Milan on 31 May. It was the fifteenth race of the 2015 UCI World Tour. The Giro was won by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff–Saxo), with Fabio Aru (Astana) second and Aru's teammate Mikel Landa third.
The 2015 Giro d'Italia began on 9 May, and stage 11 occurred on 20 May. The race began with a team time trial from San Lorenzo al Mare to Sanremo.
The 2015 Giro d'Italia began on 9 May, and stage 12 occurred on 21 May.
The 2016 Giro d'Italia was the 99th edition of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tour races. The Giro started in Apeldoorn on 6 May with a 9.8 km (6 mi) individual time trial, followed by two other stages in the Netherlands, both between Nijmegen and Arnhem. After a rest day, there were 18 further stages to reach the finish on 29 May. These stages were principally in Italy, although two stages partly took place in France.
The 2017 Giro d'Italia was the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tour races. The race started on 5 May in Alghero on the island of Sardinia, and ended on 28 May in Milan. The race was won by Tom Dumoulin, who became the first Dutch male winner of the Giro.
The 2018 Giro d'Italia was the 101st edition of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tour races. The race started in Jerusalem on 4 May, with a 9.7 km (6 mi) individual time trial followed by two additional stages within Israel. After a rest day, there were 18 further stages in Italy before the tour reached the finish in Rome on 27 May.
The 2021 Tour de France was the 108th edition of the Tour de France, one of cycling's three grand tours. Originally planned for the Danish capital of Copenhagen, the start of the 2021 Tour was transferred to Brest because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Copenhagen hosting four matches in the UEFA Euro 2020, which had also been rescheduled to 2021 because of the pandemic. Originally scheduled for 2 to 25 July 2021, the Tour was moved to 26 June to 18 July 2021 to avoid the rescheduled 2020 Summer Olympics. This would have been the first occasion on which the Tour de France had visited Denmark. Denmark will now host the Grand Départ in 2022.
The 2019 Giro d'Italia was a three-week Grand Tour cycling stage race organised by RCS Sport that took place mainly in Italy, between 11 May and 2 June 2019. The race was the 102nd edition of the Giro d'Italia and was the first Grand Tour of the 2019 cycling season. The race started with an individual time trial in Bologna, and finished with another time-trial in Verona. The race was won by Richard Carapaz, who became the first Ecuadorian rider to win the Giro d'Italia. Italian Vincenzo Nibali finished 2nd, with Slovenian rider Primož Roglič in 3rd place. Carapaz also became the second South American rider to win the Giro, after Nairo Quintana in 2014.
The 2021 Vuelta a España was a three-week cycling race which took place in Spain between 14 August and 5 September 2021. It was the 76th edition of the Vuelta a España and the third and final grand tour of the 2021 men's road cycling season. The race departed from Burgos and finished in Santiago de Compostela.
The 2021 Giro d'Italia is the 104th edition of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tours. The Giro began in Torino with an individual time trial on 8 May, and Stage 11 occurred on 19 May with a stage to Montalcino. The race finished in Milano on 30 May.
The 2021 Giro d'Italia will be the 104th edition of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's Grand Tours. The Giro began in Torino with an individual time trial on 8 May, and Stage 12 occurred on 20 May with a stage from Siena. The race finished in Milano on 30 May.