Tour de France: How riders use the ‘sticky bottle’ to gain an advantage

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"Sticky bottle" tactic used to gain an advantage

"Magic spanner" also used

CNN  — 

Even some of the world’s best athletes need a helping hand every now and again.

Or in the case of the Tour de France, a helping bottle.

Like most sports, cycling has its own unwritten laws. Informal gamesmanship means rules are bent – to gain an advantage over opponents — but not broken.

Which brings us to the “sticky bottle” – or as they say in French: “la bouteille collante.”

Should a cyclist need a drink of water, they approach their team’s car and receive one from the director. Upon handing the bottle back, they retain their grip for just a little longer so as to receive a quick boost of speed.

A toot of the horn from one of the race organizer’s cars is issued as a warning if the rider is deemed to be holding on for too long.

Judges will often not punish the rider, although a time limit of one or two second seconds is usually enforced.

However, earlier this season Romain Bardet was expelled from the Paris-Nice race after the Frenchman was caught on camera holding onto his team car.

Most famously, Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, who won the Tour of France in 2014, was disqualified from La Vuelta – the Tour of Spain – in 2015 following a “sticky bottle” moment.

As well as the “sticky bottle,” cycling also occasionally makes use of the “magic spanner,” which involves the mechanic in a team car “making repairs” to a rider’s bike, in effect pulling him along with the vehicle.

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History of the Tour de France

There have been four cyclists who have won the tour five times:

- Jacques Anquetil of France (1957 and 1961-1964)
- Eddy Merckx of Belgium (1969-1972 and 1974)
- Bernard Hinault of France (1978-1979, 1981-1982, and 1985)
- Miguel Indurain of Spain (1991-1995), the first competitor to win five consecutive races.

Lance Armstrong held the record for most Tour de France wins (seven) but he was stripped of those wins in 2012.

France has won more times than any other country. (36)

Three Americans have won: Greg LeMond (1986, 1989, 1990), Lance Armstrong (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) and Floyd Landis (2006). Both Armstrong and Landis have had their titles stripped due to allegations of doping.

Tour de France: La Grand Boucle

Tour de France: La Caravane du Tour

Tour de France: Maillot à Pois Rouge


1903 - Henri Desgrange, a reporter and cyclist, creates the Tour de France.

1903 - Maurice Garin of France is the first cyclist to win the race.

1910 - First time the race goes through the Pyrenees.

1989 - Greg Lemond defeats Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds, the smallest margin of victory so far.

1999-2005 - Lance Armstrong wins seven times in a row.

2003 - The 100th Anniversary, but not the 100th race (the race was canceled 11 times during WWI and WWII).

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September 20, 2007 - Floyd Landis, winner of the 2006 Tour de France, is stripped of his title when an arbitration panel rules in favor of the USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency). Landis, the first Tour de France winner stripped of the title, initially maintained his innocence but later admitted to doping and accused others, including Armstrong, of doing the same.

October 22, 2012 - The International Cycling Union announces that Armstrong is being stripped of his Tour de France titles and is being banned from professional cycling for life.

October 26, 2012 - The International Cycling Union announces that no one will be declared the winner of the Tour de France from 1999-2005, after Armstrong is stripped of his titles.