|This article does not cite any references or sources. (December 2009)|
The general classification (or the GC) in bicycle racing is the category that tracks overall times for bicycle riders in multi-stage bicycle races. Each stage will have a stage winner, but the overall winner in the GC is the rider who has the fastest time when all the stage results are added together.
Riders who finish in the same group are awarded the same time, with possible subtractions due to time bonuses. Two riders are said to have finished in the same group if the gap between them is less than one bike-length. A crash in the final three kilometers of a normal stage means that all riders in the same group entering the final kilometer are given the same time. A restriction on this rule occurs during stages that finish in a mountain climb. Riders involved in a crash during the last three kilometers of these races must still finish the stage and are awarded the time received when crossing the finish line.
Note that it is possible to win the GC without winning even one stage of a multi-stage race. It is even possible to win the GC of the race without being the GC leader on any stage before the last stage of the race.
In many bicycle races, the current leader of the GC gets a special jersey awarded. In the Tour de France, the leader wears a yellow jersey, in the Giro d'Italia a pink jersey, and in the Vuelta a España the leader's jersey is red. It is considered an honor to wear the special jersey.
The most important stages of a bicycle race for GC contenders are mountain stages and individual time trial stages. Both of these offer the best chance for a single racer to outperform other racers.