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Old 03-14-09, 09:42 AM   #1
billallbritten
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I'd liked to be a more informed spectator - book? website? on theory/technique

of pro cycling? I followed Paris-Nice/6 on Twitter and would like to have some referent for my own informed opinion on what happened. Team (Astana) failure? AC bonk? Bad coaching? AC bad judgement? Inexperience? I just don't know. Any advice for reading up on this level of the sport would be appreciated.

Sincerely,

Bill
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Old 03-14-09, 10:09 AM   #2
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Lesson #1: Put a spoiler alert in the title (or at least the race title) if you are going to discuss race results on a forum.

I'd reccomend "Roadie" for good reading on the life of a bike racer. It also includes some basic tactics.
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Old 03-14-09, 10:35 AM   #3
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Lesson #1: Put a spoiler alert in the title (or at least the race title) if you are going to discuss race results on a forum.

I'd reccomend "Roadie" for good reading on the life of a bike racer. It also includes some basic tactics.
Sorry, the event was over, didn't think that would matter, mainstream newsfeeds are carrying it. I'll check out the book, for sure. Thanks for the info.

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Old 03-14-09, 11:19 AM   #4
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fyi some cycling fans (like myself) will actually avoid news on races so that (sometimes) I can read the live text feed archive to get an idea of what actually happened. Then I'll look at the sites I know will spoil the fun.

So for me, cyclingnews.com is first (they don't put spoilers in their titles or links).

Then I check Velonews (they print spoilers - usually a pic of the day's winner on the home page).

Then I check whoever else.

But it's all good. At least it was Paris Nice, not the Tour.

Anyway, for tactical stuff and how to approach racing, you can read some of the bike racing tactics books. I like Tom Prehn's the best, he basically points out that there are a given number of things you can do on the bike and you have to figure out when to do them.

You can also read books covering a particular Tour (for stage races). One is by Samuel Abt, a very good writer. He covers the 1984 Tour and has an incredible amount of detail in the book, and much of the tactics is still valid today. Other ones include books that follow Lance's various Tours.

I'd also check out "behind the scenes" DVDs, like the one covering Saunier Duval in the 2006 Tour, or CSC, etc. Although not a "textbook" per se, they offer some insights on how riders, races, and tactics work.

As far as a good rider losing gobs of time, it's usually a problem with the rider. Not enough food, etc. But it can be tricky. Tactics encompasses a lot of things - road conditions, weather, course lay out, etc.

The best way to learn how things work (or at least to feel like you're guessing sort of correctly) is to read lots of race reports and to watch races. I'm a fan of set piece strategy (like chess) but I still don't understand (American) football. I mean, yeah, I can sort of see what happens, but I have no idea who does what and why there are even names for the different positions. I look at it like a cycling team - there are the runners, the receivers, the big guys, and the fast guys. I don't know their titles, but when someone sprints down the sideline, I know they're a fast guy who can catch a ball, or at least they're pretending to be one. The big guys in the middle, they're the big guys in the middle. etc.

Some good cycling tactical stories which illustrate the importance of knowing more than just "tactics":
1. In one Tour stage, the feed zone was located just before a narrow bridge that led to a narrow road. A French rider Jean Francois Bernard had just taken the yellow and looked very good. A rival Stephen Roche decided he would ride hard to and through the feed zone. He wasn't going to attack there (that's bad form) but he was going to attack right afterwards. He, his teammates, and a select few others that learned about this planned attack loaded up on food prior to the feed zone, rode hard at the front, and strung out the field in single file as they went through the feed. JF Bernard happened to puncture at this point, but he was already far back in line and unable to respond to the various attacks. He lost a minute just waiting for the team cars to catch up, Roche and company were gone, and JF lost the yellow forever.

2. Renault Elf, a pro team in the 80s, had a race local to their sponsors. Their riders were all in poor form (sick etc) and they couldn't ride strongly. So they lined up across one part of the course, let a couple teammates up the road, and physically blocked a very frustrated field. Eventually they got off this driveway-like road and the field took its revenge on the break. Renault Elf riders later apologized, but they did it because it was the only thing they could do to get their sponsor in a break.

3. Greg Lemond had a really bad day one year in the Tour (he eventually won it). He missed a feed or dropped a bag or something and jammed a finger on his right hand. Because of this he lost some of his fine motor control and he kept locking up the rear wheel (because his hurting hand controlled the rear brake). This eventually led to a flat when he was not among teammates and very vulnerable (no help to chase back). He had to wait, I think 2 or 3 minutes (!), and in his frustration threw his wheel off into the bushes. He wrenched his back doing this, and when he finally got a wheel, he had a hurt back, hurt finger, and he was minutes behind all of his rivals. His team director called back teammates in a break, had everyone else sit up and wait from the field (except one or two riders assigned to look after the field), and eventually he got back on. I believe this was the last year he won the Tour.

4. Laurent Fignon once crashed in the Giro, and an Italian rival attacked as soon as he saw Fignon hit the deck. That's not really good etiquette, although usually other rivals will tag along. In this case guys tagging along eventually worked pretty hard. Stephen Roche felt this was wrong and although he was a rival to Laurent Fignon, he set about helping Fignon chase back the break. The break was caught and I'm sure Fignon and his director took note of who played dirty that day.

5. Roche once attacked way out from a summit finish. He felt his biggest rival was Pedro Delgado, an excellent climber, and to stay in contention he figured he needed to attack from an unexpectedly far distance. When Roche attacked (just leaving a feed zone - he had loaded up on food prior to the feed), he had some company tagging along. In particular he had a couple/few riders from the rival Fagor team. Yet they worked their butts off to gain time on Delgado. Why? Well, Roche had just signed for the following year with Fagor, and the guys on the team knew it'd be in their best interests to help out their future boss. So although the Fagor riders had nothing to gain (officially) they still rode hard to get Roche some time.

5a. Eventually Delgado's superior team brought them back, just as the last climb popped up, and Delgado immediate attacked the exhausted Roche. With about 1 k to go Delgado held a 40-50 second lead, but Roche, bonking and exhausted, slammed it into the big ring and sprinted to the finish, closing to within a few seconds of Delgado.

6. Merckx once won the Giro by 16 seconds (? I think). His main rival was Baronchelli. Baronchelli attacked on some climb, Merckx was struggling. Merckx had put longer cranks on for the climbs, but the constant attacks put him at a disadvantage. Long cranks are good for steady pace, not constant accelerations. He debated internally if he should chase or not, and he decided that he'd ride to control the gap, lull Baronchelli into thinking he'd cracked Merckx, and then, when it was too late for Baronchelli to up the pace, do a massive sprint to the top. At 1 k to go he started his forever sprint, and at the top he'd saved his jersey by a few seconds.

When riders gain a lot of time on the field, it's usually because it's hilly or the field chased too late (or not at all). When it's hilly it's hard to chase because teamwork is not as helpful on uphills, the descents can be tight and awkward for teamwork, and there is sometimes so little flatter road that there's literally no chance for the team to work together.

However, when a favorite loses a lot of time, it's usually because they either bonked, underestimated a lower placed rival, or something like that. I have no idea what happened in the race above.

cdr
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Old 03-14-09, 12:45 PM   #5
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Thanks for the note, I'll take care on the posts, the PN (multiple factors, it seems) issue just highlighted my ignorance as to what was happening.
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Old 03-14-09, 01:50 PM   #6
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Sorry, the event was over, didn't think that would matter, mainstream newsfeeds are carrying it. I'll check out the book, for sure. Thanks for the info.

Bill
No worries. I always go to cyclingnews first if I want to check out a live feed before I hear the outcome of a race. I was just thinking about others.
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Old 03-14-09, 03:03 PM   #7
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fyi some cycling fans (like myself) will actually avoid news on races so that (sometimes) I can read the live text feed archive to get an idea of what actually happened. Then I'll look at the sites I know will spoil the fun.

So for me, cyclingnews.com is first (they don't put spoilers in their titles or links).

Then I check Velonews (they print spoilers - usually a pic of the day's winner on the home page).

Then I check whoever else.

But it's all good. At least it was Paris Nice, not the Tour.

Anyway, for tactical stuff and how to approach racing, you can read some of the bike racing tactics books. I like Tom Prehn's the best, he basically points out that there are a given number of things you can do on the bike and you have to figure out when to do them.

You can also read books covering a particular Tour (for stage races). One is by Samuel Abt, a very good writer. He covers the 1984 Tour and has an incredible amount of detail in the book, and much of the tactics is still valid today. Other ones include books that follow Lance's various Tours.

I'd also check out "behind the scenes" DVDs, like the one covering Saunier Duval in the 2006 Tour, or CSC, etc. Although not a "textbook" per se, they offer some insights on how riders, races, and tactics work.

As far as a good rider losing gobs of time, it's usually a problem with the rider. Not enough food, etc. But it can be tricky. Tactics encompasses a lot of things - road conditions, weather, course lay out, etc.

The best way to learn how things work (or at least to feel like you're guessing sort of correctly) is to read lots of race reports and to watch races. I'm a fan of set piece strategy (like chess) but I still don't understand (American) football. I mean, yeah, I can sort of see what happens, but I have no idea who does what and why there are even names for the different positions. I look at it like a cycling team - there are the runners, the receivers, the big guys, and the fast guys. I don't know their titles, but when someone sprints down the sideline, I know they're a fast guy who can catch a ball, or at least they're pretending to be one. The big guys in the middle, they're the big guys in the middle. etc.

Some good cycling tactical stories which illustrate the importance of knowing more than just "tactics":
1. In one Tour stage, the feed zone was located just before a narrow bridge that led to a narrow road. A French rider Jean Francois Bernard had just taken the yellow and looked very good. A rival Stephen Roche decided he would ride hard to and through the feed zone. He wasn't going to attack there (that's bad form) but he was going to attack right afterwards. He, his teammates, and a select few others that learned about this planned attack loaded up on food prior to the feed zone, rode hard at the front, and strung out the field in single file as they went through the feed. JF Bernard happened to puncture at this point, but he was already far back in line and unable to respond to the various attacks. He lost a minute just waiting for the team cars to catch up, Roche and company were gone, and JF lost the yellow forever.

2. Renault Elf, a pro team in the 80s, had a race local to their sponsors. Their riders were all in poor form (sick etc) and they couldn't ride strongly. So they lined up across one part of the course, let a couple teammates up the road, and physically blocked a very frustrated field. Eventually they got off this driveway-like road and the field took its revenge on the break. Renault Elf riders later apologized, but they did it because it was the only thing they could do to get their sponsor in a break.

3. Greg Lemond had a really bad day one year in the Tour (he eventually won it). He missed a feed or dropped a bag or something and jammed a finger on his right hand. Because of this he lost some of his fine motor control and he kept locking up the rear wheel (because his hurting hand controlled the rear brake). This eventually led to a flat when he was not among teammates and very vulnerable (no help to chase back). He had to wait, I think 2 or 3 minutes (!), and in his frustration threw his wheel off into the bushes. He wrenched his back doing this, and when he finally got a wheel, he had a hurt back, hurt finger, and he was minutes behind all of his rivals. His team director called back teammates in a break, had everyone else sit up and wait from the field (except one or two riders assigned to look after the field), and eventually he got back on. I believe this was the last year he won the Tour.

4. Laurent Fignon once crashed in the Giro, and an Italian rival attacked as soon as he saw Fignon hit the deck. That's not really good etiquette, although usually other rivals will tag along. In this case guys tagging along eventually worked pretty hard. Stephen Roche felt this was wrong and although he was a rival to Laurent Fignon, he set about helping Fignon chase back the break. The break was caught and I'm sure Fignon and his director took note of who played dirty that day.

5. Roche once attacked way out from a summit finish. He felt his biggest rival was Pedro Delgado, an excellent climber, and to stay in contention he figured he needed to attack from an unexpectedly far distance. When Roche attacked (just leaving a feed zone - he had loaded up on food prior to the feed), he had some company tagging along. In particular he had a couple/few riders from the rival Fagor team. Yet they worked their butts off to gain time on Delgado. Why? Well, Roche had just signed for the following year with Fagor, and the guys on the team knew it'd be in their best interests to help out their future boss. So although the Fagor riders had nothing to gain (officially) they still rode hard to get Roche some time.

5a. Eventually Delgado's superior team brought them back, just as the last climb popped up, and Delgado immediate attacked the exhausted Roche. With about 1 k to go Delgado held a 40-50 second lead, but Roche, bonking and exhausted, slammed it into the big ring and sprinted to the finish, closing to within a few seconds of Delgado.

6. Merckx once won the Giro by 16 seconds (? I think). His main rival was Baronchelli. Baronchelli attacked on some climb, Merckx was struggling. Merckx had put longer cranks on for the climbs, but the constant attacks put him at a disadvantage. Long cranks are good for steady pace, not constant accelerations. He debated internally if he should chase or not, and he decided that he'd ride to control the gap, lull Baronchelli into thinking he'd cracked Merckx, and then, when it was too late for Baronchelli to up the pace, do a massive sprint to the top. At 1 k to go he started his forever sprint, and at the top he'd saved his jersey by a few seconds.

When riders gain a lot of time on the field, it's usually because it's hilly or the field chased too late (or not at all). When it's hilly it's hard to chase because teamwork is not as helpful on uphills, the descents can be tight and awkward for teamwork, and there is sometimes so little flatter road that there's literally no chance for the team to work together.

However, when a favorite loses a lot of time, it's usually because they either bonked, underestimated a lower placed rival, or something like that. I have no idea what happened in the race above.

cdr
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Old 03-14-09, 04:01 PM   #8
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For an elementary book, We Might as Well Win by Johan Bruyneel is a good one. He really waters everything down so that a child can understand bike racing, but there are some redeeming qualities to the book (i.e: one of the greatest team directors ever is sharing his success)
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Old 03-14-09, 04:47 PM   #9
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Time to dial up Amazon, I think. Thanks for the recommendations. Also, fascinating vignettes from the past. Thanks.
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Old 03-14-09, 06:03 PM   #10
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Move along, kid. You're hurting my sales.
Sold!

Been meaning to buy this for quite a while, thanks for the reminder.
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Old 03-14-09, 06:38 PM   #11
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just get roadie...ive gotta say this...i have a good amount of cycling books...most of the lance stuff (not about bike, war, performance), graeme obree book, joe parkins dog in a hat...tour de france for dummies etc...most are scattered around the house, given away to friends and what not...but i have a very specific and special place for two, and only two books, The Rider and Roadie. I do not think anything better will come along...eva!
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Old 03-14-09, 08:13 PM   #12
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Surprised no one has yet suggested The Rider by Tim Krabbe.

Great first hand impression of the tactics of a race from a riders perspective; also contains a bit of Euro-Pro cycling history; its short; its a great read.
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Old 03-15-09, 06:31 AM   #13
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just get roadie...ive gotta say this...i have a good amount of cycling books...most of the lance stuff (not about bike, war, performance), graeme obree book, joe parkins dog in a hat...tour de france for dummies etc...most are scattered around the house, given away to friends and what not...but i have a very specific and special place for two, and only two books, The Rider and Roadie. I do not think anything better will come along...eva!
<----- speechless and appreciative. Thank you!

Glad you enjoyed reading it!
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Old 03-15-09, 11:56 AM   #14
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no problem jamie, thank you for writing it!
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Old 03-15-09, 12:35 PM   #15
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Jamie's the man

His book is pretty awesome as well!
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