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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 and compounded. Hence, whoever wins the GC is generally reckoned as the winner of the race.
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 three seconds. A crash or mechanical incident in the final three kilometers of a stage that finishes without a categorised climb usually means that riders thus affected are considered to have finished as part of the group they were with at the 3km mark, so long as they finish the stage.
It is possible to win the GC without winning even one stage of a multi-stage race or 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, in the Vuelta a España the leader's jersey is red, and in the Tour Down Under the leader's jersey is ochre. 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.