First off, I'd like to say that I know virtually nothing about strategies of racing. However I was very intrigued by the way the TV commentators describe the various strategies and dynamics that go on in TDF. What happened in stage 3 prompted me to initiate a post, hoping that those in the know could explain it to me in plain easy language that a 5-year-old could understand. Below is an excerpt:
Whatever chances the break might have had evaporated when a shift in wind sparked a vicious attack from Team Columbia-HTC, shattering the field and thrusting 27 riders to the finish. In that group were all eight teammates of the previous stage winner Mark Cavendish, along with yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara and Astana's Lance Armstrong. Notably absent were every other major contendors for the general classification. The likes of Sastre, the Schleck brothers, Denis Menchov, Cadel Evans, and most conspicuously, Alberto Contador were all caught sleeping when the move was made.
Just this excerpt alone triggered a lot of questions for me:
1. why was a shift of wind able to "shatter" the field? doesn't everyone has to ride the same path, face the same wind?
2. Alberto Contador were all caught sleeping when the move was made. how did someone got "trapped" in the second group? It's not like one could be blocked. Why wouldn't Contador or other contenders, in this case, just rode harder to catch up with the front group? If they can't, what's the "barrier" that prevented them from catching up?
3. I saw on TV that Cancellera and some riders actually rode over the median frantically. What was the big deal for them to do such things? And if doing so gained them some advantage, why didn't all riders do that, instead of just a few?
4. This is related to q.2, Once the split was made, what made the 27th rider stayed up front and the 28th rider stayed back? Is there something with staying with other front group that "gains" a rider some energy? versus staying with the 2nd group "drains" the energy out of the riders?
I guess all my questions are in some sense very related. I just don't understand from the psychological/physical/mental standpoint why the above "split" made all the difference in the final outcome. I am here to learn and anyone could help me out, I would greatly appreciate it.