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Old 07-06-08, 06:34 PM   #1
Laminarman
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TdF strategy question

New to understanding TdF so please excuse the idiotic questions. When stage leaders are minutes ahead, how do you know the peleton will catch them like the commentators state? Do they all talk in the group? Is it a given they'll catch them due to their slipstream/breaking wind as a group? ("breaking wind" didn't sound quite right...).

Just interested in the strategy. My family thinks you just pedal harder and win (like racing cars is just going around in circles and if you push the pedal harder you'll win). I see when the peloton is about to catch them they just resign themselves to it, is it due to fatigue? Why will Valverde certainly relinquish the yellow jersey? Is it because he's now a marked man and the team will burn out trying to keep him at the front?

I find the strategy fascinating. Excuse the dumb questions, just be thankful cycling has a new fan.
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Old 07-06-08, 06:36 PM   #2
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Typically riding in a big group is a lot easier than being on your own. Basic drafting rules apply. 95% of the time, the breakout riders will be caught once the Peleton picks up speed.
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Old 07-06-08, 07:02 PM   #3
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New to understanding TdF so please excuse the idiotic questions. When stage leaders are minutes ahead, how do you know the peleton will catch them like the commentators state? Do they all talk in the group? Is it a given they'll catch them due to their slipstream/breaking wind as a group? ("breaking wind" didn't sound quite right...).

Just interested in the strategy. My family thinks you just pedal harder and win (like racing cars is just going around in circles and if you push the pedal harder you'll win). I see when the peloton is about to catch them they just resign themselves to it, is it due to fatigue? Why will Valverde certainly relinquish the yellow jersey? Is it because he's now a marked man and the team will burn out trying to keep him at the front?

I find the strategy fascinating. Excuse the dumb questions, just be thankful cycling has a new fan.
Buy The Rider by Tim Krabbe; quick read; you'll be finished before the Tour gets into the mountains, and you'll undestand a whole lot more about how wind, drafting, fatigue, strategy, psychology, timing, hills, breakaways, good and bad sportsmanship, the team, the peloton, etc., each play a role.
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Old 07-06-08, 07:24 PM   #4
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Cool, thanks.
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Old 07-06-08, 08:13 PM   #5
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Ah, I remember asking similar questions awhile back...

The riders have race radios, so they pretty much know where the breakaway is. Every once in awhile the breakaway will get too big of a lead and can take the stage; iirc that happened at least once in this year's Giro d'Italia.

Also, the peloton rarely allows a breakaway to continue if it contains too strong of a rider (or one too highly placed in the GC). So not only does the peloton have more riders to share the load, it will have stronger riders as well.

E.g. if the #4 rider in the GC classification gets into a breakaway, the other teams will reel it in, to prevent the #4 guy from potentially getting a big advantage. Sometimes the only team who will work at it is the team with the #1 guy, sometimes they might collaborate.... Varies depending on strategy, who is getting along with who, etc.

As to Valverde, he is a GC candidate but it's highly unlikely he'll wear the MJ for the whole race. He simply isn't that strong of a rider, and yes he's a marked man at the moment. Also, he is honor-bound to "protect" the Yellow jersey, at least for a while, so he will have to expend more energy at the start of the Tour, when ideally he should be warming up for the mountains. Wearing it is both a burden and an honor, and giving it up quickly is considered a little bit tacky.
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Old 07-06-08, 08:21 PM   #6
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New to understanding TdF so please excuse the idiotic questions. When stage leaders are minutes ahead, how do you know the peleton will catch them like the commentators state? Do they all talk in the group? Is it a given they'll catch them due to their slipstream/breaking wind as a group? ("breaking wind" didn't sound quite right...).

Just interested in the strategy. My family thinks you just pedal harder and win (like racing cars is just going around in circles and if you push the pedal harder you'll win). I see when the peloton is about to catch them they just resign themselves to it, is it due to fatigue? Why will Valverde certainly relinquish the yellow jersey? Is it because he's now a marked man and the team will burn out trying to keep him at the front?

I find the strategy fascinating. Excuse the dumb questions, just be thankful cycling has a new fan.
Studies that have been done show that riding in the peleton requires 10-30 percent less energy depending on where you are in the group due to aerodynamic effeciencies. So these guys have used less energy towards the ending of the race and can actually ride faster as a group than an individual can. On most occasions the breakaways are caught and the breakaway groups get sucked up into the peleton. Occasionally a breakaway rider gets far enough ahead so that he/she doesn't get caught. But this is rare in races like the TDF where the road is wide and the peleton can bunch up together tightly.
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Old 07-06-08, 08:53 PM   #7
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Breakaways are a way for a team to get cheap publicity and the small chance of a stage win. Some are self started, but most are premeditated; or at the least a team will send a member(s) on breaks to have a presence.

The strong teams in the peloton allow break groups that pose no serious threat, and prefer to catch them in the final meters to prevent counter attacks.

Oh, and welcome to the addiction, kiss your future Julys goodbye!
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Old 07-06-08, 09:30 PM   #8
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Take a look at the jersey numbers in the breakaways. Let's say one guy has the number 56 (or something similar). That means he's the #6 best rider (hence the x6) on the 6th best team (hence the 5x). Chances are, this guy's a domestique (aka water boy) and won't finish high in the GC. The peloton might let this guy get a headstart since he's not too good of a cyclist. However, if #11 begins to pull away, expect the entire peloton to follow closely since he's (best rider on the 2nd best team) a good rider.

I know my numbers aren't right, but it's a decent rule of thumb.
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Old 07-06-08, 10:19 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Laminarman View Post
New to understanding TdF so please excuse the idiotic questions. When stage leaders are minutes ahead, how do you know the peleton will catch them like the commentators state? Do they all talk in the group? Is it a given they'll catch them due to their slipstream/breaking wind as a group? ("breaking wind" didn't sound quite right...).

Just interested in the strategy. My family thinks you just pedal harder and win (like racing cars is just going around in circles and if you push the pedal harder you'll win). I see when the peloton is about to catch them they just resign themselves to it, is it due to fatigue? Why will Valverde certainly relinquish the yellow jersey? Is it because he's now a marked man and the team will burn out trying to keep him at the front?

I find the strategy fascinating. Excuse the dumb questions, just be thankful cycling has a new fan.
As others have stated radio communication has changed the race a lot. The riders are getting constant communication from their team cars so they know what the time gaps are.

There is definitely a lot of chatting that takes place between the breakaway riders. Some is friendly, and some less so. In order for the breakaway to succeed they have to cooperate and share in the pacemaking.

In the early stages breakaways are usually reeled in because not only has no clear leader been established in the green jersey competition, but early in the race is really the only chance a sprinter has to pull on the yellow jersey.*

Later in the race in the rolling stages is where breakaways tend to succeed. Once the GC and green jersey competitions have worked themselves out a bit and sprinters who have managed to make it over the mountains are still recovering they're happy to let a few nobodys go up the road a bit. The peloton will still have their radios warning them if anyone dangerous is in the breakaway or if the gap is getting too big.

Here are a few other reasons teams send riders into breakaways.

1. If your team has a rider in the break, your riders don't have to work to chase the break down. They ca n sit back and get a free ride.
2. Teams sometimes send riders who are not well placed in the green jersey or KOM competitions up the road to grab points at the intermediate sprints and climbs so a rival team's leader in one of these competitions does not get them.

As for the Valverde question, defending the yellow jersey is a huge effort for a team. It's tough to sustain that kind of effort over three weeks.

The popular theory right now is that he will try to keep it for one more day to get the last starting spot in the first time trial. That seems like a wise move. Valverde is better than a lot of riders in a time trial, but not the best. He is likely to lose the jersey in the time trial anyway, but starting last will give him the best chance to gauge his effort over the course.

*This year is a bit different though, since there is no prologue time trial (which favors sprinters), and there are no time bonuses.
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Old 07-06-08, 11:01 PM   #10
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It's seen as the responsibility of the team of the top placed rider to take charge of the peleton and work to reel in any break aways if they get too far away. In 2006, Landis was in yellow, and on one stage there was a breakaway with about a 30 minute lead. Christophe Moreau yelled at the camera, complaining about Phonak not reeling in the breakaway. His team (FdJ) could have worked to pull them in, but his team, and all the other teams left it too late, playing chicken waiting for Phonak to work. That backfired for all of them, giving Pereiro a huge time chunk, enough for him to be the official winner!
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Old 07-07-08, 06:41 AM   #11
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Wow, thanks! Sucks, gotta work today, but taping the third stage. I think the addiction has begun. I've always watched it, but never quite understood the complexities.
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Old 07-07-08, 03:41 PM   #12
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Take a look at the jersey numbers in the breakaways. Let's say one guy has the number 56 (or something similar). That means he's the #6 best rider (hence the x6) on the 6th best team (hence the 5x). Chances are, this guy's a domestique (aka water boy) and won't finish high in the GC. The peloton might let this guy get a headstart since he's not too good of a cyclist. However, if #11 begins to pull away, expect the entire peloton to follow closely since he's (best rider on the 2nd best team) a good rider.

I know my numbers aren't right, but it's a decent rule of thumb.
Sure unless your number is derived from your place at last years tour.
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Old 07-07-08, 05:22 PM   #13
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Looky there, a break-a-way stole the show cause the peleton screwed up and did not pick the pace up.
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Old 07-07-08, 06:24 PM   #14
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As far as the numbering goes, Numbers 1-9 go to the team of the best placed rider from the previous year. 11-19 2nd best, etc. It is up to the team to distribute the numbers as they see fit. x1 is generally given to the GC guy (yellow jersey contender), or top sprinter, or climber, if there is no GC contender. Basicall x1 is the guy that the others need to protect. The other numbers are often assigned alphabetically for the rest of the team members.
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Old 07-08-08, 01:05 AM   #15
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Take a look at the jersey numbers in the breakaways. Let's say one guy has the number 56 (or something similar). That means he's the #6 best rider (hence the x6) on the 6th best team (hence the 5x). Chances are, this guy's a domestique (aka water boy) and won't finish high in the GC. The peloton might let this guy get a headstart since he's not too good of a cyclist. However, if #11 begins to pull away, expect the entire peloton to follow closely since he's (best rider on the 2nd best team) a good rider.

I know my numbers aren't right, but it's a decent rule of thumb.
You're right, you're numbers aren't right. With the exception of the number ending in 1 denoting team leader all other numbers have no relation to any perceived hierarchy within a team. They are just that, numbers, they allocated by the TdF organisation, not by the team manager sitting down and spending hours working out which of his riders falls where in terms of ability.

Also teams aren't ranked either. The rider with 1 will be last years winner or the rider that finished highest in the absence of that rider, so his team will be 1 to 9. Other than that it's allocated by the organisation. Have a look at the riders numbers for example Barloworld are 6th team, are they the 6th best team in the world? They're a good team but not in the Pro Tour where there are 18 teams.
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Old 07-08-08, 11:13 AM   #16
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Take a look at the jersey numbers in the breakaways. Let's say one guy has the number 56 (or something similar). That means he's the #6 best rider (hence the x6) on the 6th best team (hence the 5x). Chances are, this guy's a domestique (aka water boy) and won't finish high in the GC. The peloton might let this guy get a headstart since he's not too good of a cyclist. However, if #11 begins to pull away, expect the entire peloton to follow closely since he's (best rider on the 2nd best team) a good rider.

I know my numbers aren't right, but it's a decent rule of thumb.
Wrong. Numbers within teams aside from the team leader are alphabetical. Teams aside from 1 are not based on how good the team is.
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Old 07-08-08, 11:18 AM   #17
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Ah, I remember asking similar questions awhile back...

The riders have race radios, so they pretty much know where the breakaway is. Every once in awhile the breakaway will get too big of a lead and can take the stage; iirc that happened at least once in this year's Giro d'Italia.

Also, the peloton rarely allows a breakaway to continue if it contains too strong of a rider (or one too highly placed in the GC). So not only does the peloton have more riders to share the load, it will have stronger riders as well.

E.g. if the #4 rider in the GC classification gets into a breakaway, the other teams will reel it in, to prevent the #4 guy from potentially getting a big advantage. Sometimes the only team who will work at it is the team with the #1 guy, sometimes they might collaborate.... Varies depending on strategy, who is getting along with who, etc.

As to Valverde, he is a GC candidate but it's highly unlikely he'll wear the MJ for the whole race. He simply isn't that strong of a rider, and yes he's a marked man at the moment. Also, he is honor-bound to "protect" the Yellow jersey, at least for a while, so he will have to expend more energy at the start of the Tour, when ideally he should be warming up for the mountains. Wearing it is both a burden and an honor, and giving it up quickly is considered a little bit tacky.
Leading wire to wire in the GC lead is all but impossible. If Eddy, Bernard and Fausto could not do it in the TDF I don't see anyone today doing it. Since WW II (Possibly WW I) No one has done it in the TDF.
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Old 07-08-08, 11:32 AM   #18
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Studies that have been done show that riding in the peleton requires 10-30 percent less energy depending on where you are in the group due to aerodynamic effeciencies. So these guys have used less energy towards the ending of the race and can actually ride faster as a group than an individual can. On most occasions the breakaways are caught and the breakaway groups get sucked up into the peleton. Occasionally a breakaway rider gets far enough ahead so that he/she doesn't get caught. But this is rare in races like the TDF where the road is wide and the peleton can bunch up together tightly.
Now go out and run 100 meters as fast as you can, next try a kilometer. Not as fast. But for the Peleton the guys a ways back get that 10-30% benefit and the guys in the fron take turns working hard, running those 100 meters. So it is like one runner vrs a relay team.

What makes things interesting is the goal of the guys in a break is NOT to make sure the break succedes. For most riders in the break it is to win the stage. The goal for the riders in the Peleton is NOT to catch the break (Unless there is a highly placed GC rider in it) it is to gain something for your team at a reasonable price (e.g. winning the stage while burning out the team for a few days is not a reasonable price). So everyone in both the break and the Peleton wants everyone else to do the work.

In the majority of tours there will be a break that has a reasonable chance to stay clear that fails because the riders in the break stop working as a team too soon. This is not entirely foolish, if you are the rider who works longer than the others you are apt to come away with nothing.

BTW having a situation like stage 2 where a rider who is not a GC contender is all but assured Yellow if the break stays away does a lot to help a break. That one rider will work to keep the break away, in some cases even into what works out as a leadout for the other riders. Recently this has been rare as time bonuses were enough to prevent this.
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Old 07-08-08, 12:04 PM   #19
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Take a look at the jersey numbers in the breakaways. Let's say one guy has the number 56 (or something similar). That means he's the #6 best rider (hence the x6) on the 6th best team (hence the 5x). Chances are, this guy's a domestique (aka water boy) and won't finish high in the GC. The peloton might let this guy get a headstart since he's not too good of a cyclist. However, if #11 begins to pull away, expect the entire peloton to follow closely since he's (best rider on the 2nd best team) a good rider.

I know my numbers aren't right, but it's a decent rule of thumb.

I seem to remember a guy wearing 181 winning the TDF. I wouldn't put too much stock in that numbers theory.

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Old 07-08-08, 12:18 PM   #20
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I seem to remember a guy wearing 181 winning the TDF. I wouldn't put too much stock in that numbers theory.

I wonder if that was intended to be a put down by the TDF organizers? Or a subtle tactic to make Armstrong feel less worthy.
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Old 07-08-08, 12:37 PM   #21
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I wonder if that was intended to be a put down by the TDF organizers? Or a subtle tactic to make Armstrong feel less worthy.
That would have been 1999; Armstrong was just another rider then (maybe a long-shot GC contender). Also, pre- 9/11, so the France - USA rift was not as big then. Lance did not become hated until after he began winning.
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Old 07-08-08, 01:24 PM   #22
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Regarding the chasing a break thing...

A "rule of thumb" is that a break needs 1 min advantage for every 10 km of flat roads left in the stage. So if they have 10 minutes at 100k to go, that's good. 4 minutes at 40k to go, good. 2 minutes at 40k to go, not so good.

In the last kms it's more like 15-20 seconds per kilometer. This is all due to the draft etc as explained earlier.

This is NOT the case where there is significant climbing somewhere in there. Then it's a different story, it's really about how fresh the riders are, both up front and behind. It's possible to close 30 seconds per km on a steep climb but it takes a lot out of the chasers. And teammates can't help due to little/no draft, so the actual leaders will have to work hard.

To give an example of how significant drafting is, I ride at about 200w when I'm going hard. At the Harlem crit, I went 200w for 40 min, avg 27 mph. If I was going 200w on my own, I might be going about 17-18 mph.

On the other hand, in a race involving hills, I'm usually off the back in the first mile of climbing. I'd need to sustain 280-300 watts to climb with a weak Cat 3 and I can't do that for more than a couple minutes.

Since the pros pulling the field seem to be able to crank out 500-600w towards the end of a race (to hold 30+ mph), a break that is limited to, say, 300-350w (25 mph - what a tired pro can crank after 3-4 hours of hard effort) is pretty doomed.

An interesting game (tactically speaking) is Pro Cycling Manager 2007 (or 2008). I have 2007. It's very interesting how a rider fades pretty hard at the end of a long day. If you go on a break, forget it, it's almost impossible to make it to the end. If you sit in, you can make up huge amounts of time at the end but you risk not being able to make up enough time (if you're behind). It's only a game but I find it pretty realistic in that sense.

It's all more complicated than that but the above things should get you started.
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Old 07-08-08, 02:25 PM   #23
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Looky there, a break-a-way stole the show cause the peleton screwed up and did not pick the pace up.
yep...

Hahahaha Samuel Dumoulin is so short!
nice finish though.
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