What Is GC In Cycling? – Easy Explanation Of Cycling Terms

By Falk Baumann •  Updated: 09/13/22 •  7 min read

I was watching a mountain stage of the Tour de France with a friend of mine in the summer. The commentators on TV kept talking about GC contenders and my friend had no idea what was going on.

If my friend sounds like you – you’re not alone. Cycling can be confusing – there are so many rules and regulations. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll explain what GC in cycling is, and how it affects the race.

Understanding GC in cycling is essential if you want to follow the race. This information will help make you a more knowledgeable fan – and who knows, maybe you’ll even start following pro cycling!

What is the GC in Cycling?

GC stands for General Classification, and it’s the most important ranking in a stage race. The rider who has the lowest cumulative time at the end of the race is the winner of the GC.

Being first in GC is a coveted position – just ask any cyclist! It means you’re the best all-around rider in the race and can win on any type of terrain.

The GC is important not only because it determines the winner of the race, but also because it determines how much prize money each rider will take home. The GC winner usually takes home the largest share of the prize purse, so riders need to try and target this classification if they want to make some serious money.

What is a GC Rider in Cycling?

A GC rider is a rider who focuses on winning the overall classification in a stage race. A stage race is a multi-day event in which riders compete against each other in several stages, with the winner of the overall classification being the rider with the lowest cumulative time over all of the stages.

GC riders typically have strong all-around abilities and can stay with the front runners in all stages of the race. They also tend to be good at time trialing, which is an important discipline in stage racing.

GC riders usually start the race as one of the favorites to win, and they often play a major role in determining the final outcome of the race.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful as a GC rider. Riders have to be able to perform well in both short and long stages, and they need to be very strong climbers as well as good time trialists.

GC rider in yellow jersey climbing a mountain

What color jersey does the leader of the General Classification wear?

There are three stage races that people usually think about when they ask about General Classification.

The Tour de France is the most famous of any bicycling race. It is a three-week race around France and the leader of the GC wears a yellow jersey.

The Giro d’Italia is a three-week race around Italy and the leader of the Giro wears a pink jersey.

The Vuelta Espana is the last three-week race of the year, usually in August and the leader of the race wears a red jersey.

How do GC contenders train for the win?

When it comes to training for a GC win, there are a few key things that make all the difference.

First, GC riders need to be prepared to ride long distances at a relatively high intensity. This means putting in some serious mileage during their training rides, and also doing some specific workouts that target their endurance and aerobic capacity. Pro cyclists can easily hit 20,000 miles a year.

Another important aspect of training for a GC win is to be able to handle sustained climbs. This means not only being able to power up a hill at a good pace but also being able to maintain that pace for an extended period of time. To help with this, it’s often useful to do some interval training sessions on hills or inclines.

Climbs are usually where stage races are won or lost as it’s the easiest way to win or lose time against their opponents.

Finally, it’s also important to be able to sprint at the end of a race when it’s all on the line. This means doing some high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in workouts leading up to the event.

Maybe if your training is getting stale you can incorporate some of these options to spice things up a bit?

What factors influence GC standings?

The most important factor in the GC standings is the time each rider takes to complete the stage.

Another factor is bonus seconds for placing in the top 3 during a stage. Usually, the winner of a stage gets a 10-second bonus, second place gets a 6-second bonus and third place gets a 4-second bonus.

A couple of seconds might not sound like a lot but 3-week races have been won or lost with seconds between first and second place so usually pros sprint for every second!

Related Questions

What is the Difference Between a Prologue and a Time Trial?

One of the key differences between a prologue and a time trial is that a prologue is usually run over a much shorter distance than a time trial. This means that riders in a prologue tend to go all-out from the start, whereas in a time trial they may pace themselves more carefully in order to sustain their effort over the longer distance.

Another key difference is that a prologue is run as part of a stage race, whereas a time trial can be a standalone event. This means that riders in a prologue need to be aware of the consequences of going all-out and potentially blowing up later in the stage race, whereas riders in a time trial that isn’t part of a stage race can just focus on going as fast as possible without having to worry about conserving energy.

The bigger stage races usually include at least one or two individual time trial stages.

What is the Difference Between a Road Race and a Criterium?

A road race is a race on paved roads over a long distance. A criterium is a short, fast-paced race on a closed circuit.

A road race can be thousands of miles over multiple weeks of racing with all kinds of different types of stages. A criterium is usually a flat round course with multiple laps. These laps are usually a mile or less.

Criteriums are also rapidly becoming more popular.

A criterium can also be an exhibition race where winners of the GC from a stage race get invited to just show off their racing skills after winning a prestigious stage race.


The GC or General Classification is the most prestigious title to win in road cycling. It is based on the lowest overall time over a stage race. This means a GC rider needs to be an all-rounder who can be the best in time trialing as well as hard mountain stages.

There are other classification jerseys up for grabs in a race like the Points Jersey and King of the Mountains Jersey but they are not as important as the GC jersey.

I hope my explanation helped you as much as my friend who found it a lot easier to follow the TV commentators after hearing it.

Falk Baumann

Falk Baumann is the founder of Prodify Cycling. Falk has been riding and competing in Mountainbike and Road Bike racing since he was very young. He started Prodify Cycling to bring more people into the sport and help them get started with the most fun sport there is.

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