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  1. #1
    Senior Member totalnewbie's Avatar
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    help with understanding strategies and dynamics of racing

    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.

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    Life isnít fair. Man up and quit whining.

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    Lance Hater Laggard's Avatar
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    Closing a gap is not just as easy as riding faster to catch up. Once a gap form and especially in the wind it can be a ***** to close it.
    i may have overreacted

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    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    1. Headwind makes it much harder to close the gap once formed, also the break group was large so the peloton did not get any real advantage in numbers in chasing.

    2. You have to match the acceleration before the gap forms once it forms AC cannot move through the pack and then bridge especially with the headwind and the strength of the break riders. Also there is some hesitation once the break forms as no one is sure who is in it and whether they should chase or not.

    3. I don't think there was any advantage they were just trying to stay with the group

    4. The acceleration is extreme you have to make a split second decision, if your not paying attention it is over and see #2
    Last edited by stonecrd; 07-07-09 at 01:56 PM.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

    2013 Noah RS

  5. #5
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Add to that, the riders at the head of the sudden second group aren't organized for pulling. While they get organized the lead group is putting time on them. Note how quickly the gap grew right after the break before it stabilized at about 25 sec. That was when the second group finally got their **** together.

    The few organized groups were able to hang on - Skil/Shimano had four men in a line; Lance had three; and of course Columbia had all 9. Cancellara bridged alone, but he's a beast.
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

    - Will Rogers

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMF View Post
    The few organized groups were able to hang on - Skil/Shimano had four men in a line; Lance had three; and of course Columbia had all 9. Cancellara bridged alone, but he's a beast.
    My question is, with AC regarded as the best GC guy, shouldn't he be a strong enough rider to match that effort of Cancellara?

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    Big Blade Howzit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    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.
    These are good questions, I am glad you asked this. There has been A LOT of misinformation in the Stage 3 thread.

    The first thing I will say is this: The TV commentators have A LOT of experience, but also, a lot of what they say is rhetoric, to make the commentary exciting, and make the athlete's efforts, sometimes, above or below what they are to appease fans.

    So getting to your specific questions.


    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    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?
    The wind was able to "shatter" the peleton because it was a cross wind. When a cross wind occurs, the bunch forms "echelons". These are diagonal lines that start closest to where the wind is coming from, and the riders take shelter behind each other is this diagonal fashion. The trouble with cross winds is, even within an echelon, the wind still batters you a little and its not easy for anyone. Secondly, you can only have so many riders spread out across the width of the road in these echelons. Once the riders pile up on the edge of the road in last position at the end on the echelon (in cycling this is called the gutter), those riders are completely not sheltered, so a second echelon forms, and once that one fills the width of the road, a third forms and so on.
    This creates gaps between the riders from echelon to echelon, usually groups of 15 to 30 riders.
    Echelons usually happen on flat roads, because there may be a wide open plain that the winds sweeps across, or its by a body of water. As a result, smaller riders end up in the echelons further back, because they lack the strength to both pedal their way through the cross wind, and control their bike, it takes a lot of effort. Third, they just arent as strong and good in the flats and bigger more powerful riders.

    Naturally, this results in stronger riders in front echelons, and weaker riders in the echelons further back. So the effect is compounded as the front echelon rides away, its almost like natural selection.
    Lastly, its just one of those things, where some riders are better in the wind than others.

    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    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?
    Yes, they were "blocked" by the wind!
    No matter how hard they rode, they could not get across. This is why cross winds are a special phenomenon in cycling. No matter how hard you may try, if there is a cross wind, you are not going to bridge the gap to the next group. The "barrier" that was there was the cross wind. Now there are some people here that may try to tell you that you can bridge a cross wind ridden gap, but dont believe it. Proof was in the pudding yesterday, and for the last hundred years in bike racing. One does not simply posses the power to ride across. A man cannot throw a stone to the moon, he simply doesnt have the power. Now, since this is a mostly an Amercian speaking forum, i should add that there are exceptions. Usually, when one says "All" in conversation, it means majority but not all.

    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    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?
    Couple of reasons. It doesnt take much effort or skill to hop over a median to join the main group if you see a small number going the long way and you dont want to.
    Secondly, Cancellera heard on the radio, that that turn signaled that the new direction of the road meant the cross wind in question. Knowing this, he wanted to make sure he was in the first 20 spots in the bunch. Going the long way around that round-about would have placed him a lot further back in the bunch. In an interview after the race, Cancellera tells the media that just shortly after juncturing the group after hopping the median, the split happened.
    All the riders didnt do that because they do this all day. Half the time a small group goes the long way around the round-about, and they rejoin the group just fine, albeit some place further back in the group. They just didnt expect the split to occur the way it did and when it did. Im sure they were all aware of the windy roads, its just that these guys ride thousands of kilometers in races day after day going around these turns and return to the bunch just fine without having to frantically hop medians. I must add however, that a lot of riders do hope the median, turn after turn. Cancellera just happened to be more worried about it than others, and wanted to make sure he played it safe than sorry, and luckily for him, it was a safe thing to do. Lance on the other hand just happened to be there. When the wind is strong, there is constant reshuffling that goes on for positions to keep in the first 20 places. The whole row that is sheltered from the wind often moves through towards the front very fast, while a whole row of riders on the other side against the wind moves backwards. If you watch carefully, you will notice Lance near the middle or back and once he gets to the sheltered side, you see him riding all the way back to the front as soon as he can. It just so happened that Popovych was making his way back to the front and Lance ws on his wheel, and when the split happened, he was there. This is not to say Cantador was "caught sleeping". See, all the favorites usually kinda stick together, marking and watching each other. The fact that all the GC guys got "caught out" shows you that they just so happened to be making their way back up to the front after the group shuffled them towards the back. This is where the race commentary meant "caught sleeping" in a rhetoric sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    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?
    Anyone who was in the second group was "trapped" in the second group. Anyone who "made" the first group was lucky enough to be there, while others (Team Columbia) in the first group were the driving force of why that group was getting away. The first group had "lucky passengers" (Lance and yellow jersey) and protagonists (Team Columbia) while the second group had "stupid time" riders (people who lost time because they didnt make the split and should have been in front), "workers" (those team mates with GC contenders caught out trying to claw the gap down) and "weak passengers" (riders who are just tired and trying to survive.

    Now, lastly, the "gap" opened, because Team Columbia "shafted" the bunch. This means they made an echelon only wide enough so that there can only be about 11 riders sheltered (their team plus a few passengers) and put the rest of the field "into the gutter". Tam Columbia then put the speed way up to string out the bunch. The riders "in the gutter" where basically burning their legs, hanging onto the wheel in front of them, WITHOUT drafting benefits, because remember, its a cross wind. So once ONE rider let a gap open between wheels, everyone behind that rider "got trapped" in that group, because its just so hard to ride across that small gap to the first group that was starting to ride away.

    Hope this all makes sense. Also, you have to have raced to understand some of this. Coz some of it is psychological as well.
    Quote Originally Posted by Laggard View Post
    Weren't you supposed to disappear after the TDF was over?
    Quote Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
    But then I'll never understand how taking a dump became precedent either. Why don't they call it leaving a dump? I mean... you're not really taking it anywhere.

  8. #8
    OnTheRoad or AtTheBeach stonecrd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TechKnowGN View Post
    My question is, with AC regarded as the best GC guy, shouldn't he be a strong enough rider to match that effort of Cancellara?
    It is a big Peloton I believe AC was much farther back when the split occurred. If they were together I am sure he would have made it into the break.
    The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard and the shallow end is much too large

    2013 Noah RS

  9. #9
    Big Blade Howzit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TechKnowGN View Post
    My question is, with AC regarded as the best GC guy, shouldn't he be a strong enough rider to match that effort of Cancellara?
    Read second last and last paragraph of my explanation above. Has nothing to do with how strong he is.
    Or are you suggesting he should have bridged the gap? Cancellara never rode across on his own. he made the split when it happened....so i dont understand the "match that effort of Cancellara" part of your question.

    What exactly is your question?
    Quote Originally Posted by Laggard View Post
    Weren't you supposed to disappear after the TDF was over?
    Quote Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
    But then I'll never understand how taking a dump became precedent either. Why don't they call it leaving a dump? I mean... you're not really taking it anywhere.

  10. #10
    Light Makes Right GV27's Avatar
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    Meh - it seems to be true, unfortunately.

    I'm not sure anyone has really answered the question at a basic "newbie" level. All of this can be summed up with one word: Aerodynamics. A group taking turns into the wind can share the wind load amongst a bunch of riders. This is what's known as the "draft" Into the wind, the length of the draft line - up to a point - dictates how fast the group can go. The longer the line the better. A big group working together can generally catch a smaller group (again, up to a point). But with the cross winds, the length of the line is limited by the width of the road and the angle of the wind. Once the big strong group got away, there was little chance of the peloton catching them and zero chance of loan riders bridging up.

    Shot in the dark: know anything about NASCAR? At least at a very basic aerodynamic level, it's the same thing.

  11. #11
    Senior Member totalnewbie's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot Howzit. Your explanation was really clear in a way that someone totally lacking in cycling knowledge like me could understand the essence of the dynamics involved. The way you explained how echelons formed in cross winds and how riders are left out of the echelons were certainly "A-ha" moments for me.

    From an outsider's perspective, I see a lot of things in the sport that don't seem to make sense to me (for example, when I saw a lone rider pulling, then suddenly went sideway and dropped all the way back, I would ask myself "if he knew he would run out of stamina, why would he be riding up front in the first place?" Of course I don't know the answer.) But I know there are reasons why things happen in the race, I just don't know what they are.

    Anyway, thanks you again for enriching my knowledge in the sport.

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    Big Blade Howzit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GV27 View Post
    ......Once the big strong group got away, there was little chance of the peloton catching them and zero chance of loan riders bridging up.....
    lone rider
    Quote Originally Posted by Laggard View Post
    Weren't you supposed to disappear after the TDF was over?
    Quote Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
    But then I'll never understand how taking a dump became precedent either. Why don't they call it leaving a dump? I mean... you're not really taking it anywhere.

  13. #13
    Lance Hater Laggard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    From an outsider's perspective, I see a lot of things in the sport that don't seem to make sense to me (for example, when I saw a lone rider pulling, then suddenly went sideway and dropped all the way back, I would ask myself "if he knew he would run out of stamina, why would he be riding up front in the first place?"
    You'll notice that sprinters typically have four five teammates in front of them towards the end of the stage (unless your name is Robbie McEwen). Their job is simply to ride as hard as they can and when they can't do it no more drop off. The next teammate takes over. They usually time it so that the final leadout guy drops off at with 300 to go. It's them up for the sprinter to take it to the line and hopefully win.
    i may have overreacted

  14. #14
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    Thanks a lot Howzit. Your explanation was really clear in a way that someone totally lacking in cycling knowledge like me could understand the essence of the dynamics involved. The way you explained how echelons formed in cross winds and how riders are left out of the echelons were certainly "A-ha" moments for me.

    From an outsider's perspective, I see a lot of things in the sport that don't seem to make sense to me (for example, when I saw a lone rider pulling, then suddenly went sideway and dropped all the way back, I would ask myself "if he knew he would run out of stamina, why would he be riding up front in the first place?" Of course I don't know the answer.) But I know there are reasons why things happen in the race, I just don't know what they are.

    Anyway, thanks you again for enriching my knowledge in the sport.
    At the speeds they ride on the flat stages a guy out front is working 20-30% harder than the guy right behind him. I have been told that sometimes a rider in the middle of a tight peleton will be barely working at all. Once you get that idea firmly in you head you age at least half way to understanding. I'm no racer, let alone a TDF rider, but this got well set in my mind years ago. I was in a paceline with a tandem up front on a very slight downgrade (less than 1%). It was easy staying in the line. But the guy in front of me let a gap open. I actually reacted pretty quiclly, it was less than one bike length when I jumped past him and tried to catch up. About 1 1/2 to 2 bike lengths to make up. I never did though I shifted quickly from hardly working to working my butt off.

    BTW I have many disagreements with Howzit, but his explaination of cross winds was very good.

    One thing I will add to the specifics of the stage. The team of Cavendish had a lot to gain. Since it worked he got 35 Green Jersey points and Husvold got 30. The rest of the sprinters got 0. For some other rider to make up that gap just man on man with Cavendish (e.g. the other rider winning and cavendish finishing second) will take 7 stages. This is huge in the Green Jersey competition. His team could afford the effort for the payoff. With the TTT the next day a GC contenders team can not afford an energy expendture anywhere close to it.

  15. #15
    Lanterne Rouge
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    One thing that will give you a feel for what is going on is to get on your bike at the top of a decent hill. Pedal down the hill until you are going about 25 or 30 mph. Feel the wind? Feel it push you around?

    That's about how fast pro riders are going all the time on flats. They feel that wind all the time unless there is someone in front to break it for them.

  16. #16
    Big Blade Howzit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    Thanks a lot Howzit. Your explanation was really clear in a way that someone totally lacking in cycling knowledge like me could understand the essence of the dynamics involved. The way you explained how echelons formed in cross winds and how riders are left out of the echelons were certainly "A-ha" moments for me.

    From an outsider's perspective, I see a lot of things in the sport that don't seem to make sense to me (for example, when I saw a lone rider pulling, then suddenly went sideway and dropped all the way back, I would ask myself "if he knew he would run out of stamina, why would he be riding up front in the first place?" Of course I don't know the answer.) But I know there are reasons why things happen in the race, I just don't know what they are.

    Anyway, thanks you again for enriching my knowledge in the sport.
    You'r welcome brother.

    By the way, a team as you know has riders who have different roles. The kind of riders in question who pull in front and "seem" to blow right off are known as, im sure you already have heard or know this, domestiques. These are riders who either like having this position in a team, older riders who cant win anymore but are still darn good pros, or guys who have reached their talent potential and have realized they are just not the super stars, and so are happy to take a position on a big fancy team as a "worker". They have many responsibilities, some include going back to get water, talk to the Team director for race tactics to take back up to the leader and so no.
    The other list of jobs for them is "protecting" the GC riders. This is EXACTLY why there were two rider along Lance in the split yesterday, make sense? Their job is to stick next to their leader and make sure they are sheltered as much as possible. They also stick next to them in case they have a mechanical problem. Sometimes, at a critical moment, one of the domestiques will give their bicycle to their team leader if the bikes are similar size, so the leader doesnt lose too much time. These days though, the team and neutral support cars are so quick, the GC leader just stops and gets a new bike or wheel. In this event, 2 or 3 of these "worker" riders will wait for the GC guy, and help bring him back to the front. They do this for two reasons. Sometimes, its just so he conserves energy, but more often than not, its to play it safe. The field can boost its speed at anytime (although if they hear over radio that a GC contender has had problems, the field waits as a gesture of sportsmanship, but sometimes they dont get the news, so they go fast without knowing) , when this happens, and you stop, you can chase the field the whole day and never get back to it, especially when you get wind. In fact, if something like that happens, you can finish so far behind, sometimes up to an hour behind. Usually it wont be so bad for a GC contender, because they will wait for him, but it will sure cost him a lot of effort should the wind kick up. So whenever a leader has to stop, often times, 3 or 4 team mates will wait for him, just to play it safe, in case a wind picks up, or the field drops the hammer. Basically, these workers sacrifice themselves for the team and team leader, and they are more than happy to do so, because this is the reason that team may have signed them on, and in fact, the whole reason they get a pay check every month. And if its a big team like a Grand Tour Team, its almost an honor, even if its just to sacrifice yourself, because he could just otherwise be in a small division 3 team doing small regional races.

    When you see these domestiques pull then just drop off, usually, they somehow reattach themselves to the back dont worry. Thats why domestiques in the peleton are to me, the real warriors. When it comes down to the last 10km however, and they are working to pick up their sprinters, when they "peel" off and go backwards, at that point, they just cruse to the finish, they cannot hang on to the back. They lose around 10 or 15min or so, but it doesnt matter to them. They are not there to time themselves like the GC (General classification) riders. After a few weeks however, when they cruse in they lose more than that. In the mountain stages, they lose close to hours, along with the sprinters.
    More uses for domestiques;
    Sometimes, domestique are "sent" up the road. This means from kilometer one, a team sends a guy out either on his own, or if a few guys join him from other teams, the better. These are the "4" riders you always see get "captured" near the finish. Their job is to get TV coverage for their team and nothing else. Once in a while, you get some riders who manage to stay away to the finish to claim a win.

    Sometimes, you get "Super domestiques" the likes of Jacky Durant who escape from near the start, but are seriously trying to ride by themselves for hours and hours to win the stage.
    This art form is slowly dieing, as sprinters teams have been perfecting the art of capture within the finish sight, and also because people like Lance brought in a new era of race tactics. Formula is the rule of the day, while heart and courage are out the window. Some years ago, this was common on Tour stages actually. These "greyhounds" or "escape dogs" offered the fans the passionate side of cycling, the sympathetic sight of a lone warrior trying to fend off a whole peleton from near the start. Sprinters like Zabel, Cipo and Steels would often get caught out, and they started developing this art form of capturing these lone riders near the finish. This was not limited to the flat stages, guys like Rodolfo Massi and Richard Virenque would attack from near the start in mountain stages too. Lone riders escaping and riding over 2 or 3 beyond category climbs alone, even making it to the finish alone. This wasnt even 8 years ago, before Lance brought in the "formula", or "template" as Lance himself likes to call style for riding the Tour De France.

    So all these "worker riders" are not there to contest the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. Thye are just there to either help the leader, or try to strike out and claim a win for the team on a given stage. Often times, the next day, they abandon the race and go home after an effort like that, and if they win a stage. They have so many different jobs, but it all boils down to sacrificing themsleves in one way or the other.

    So thats a little on domestiques, and why you see some riders "burning" themselves off.
    Last edited by Howzit; 07-07-09 at 04:54 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Laggard View Post
    Weren't you supposed to disappear after the TDF was over?
    Quote Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
    But then I'll never understand how taking a dump became precedent either. Why don't they call it leaving a dump? I mean... you're not really taking it anywhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Howzit View Post
    You'r welcome brother.

    people like Lance brought in a new era of race tactics. Formula is the rule of the day, while heart and courage are out the window. Some years ago, this was common on Tour stages actually. These "greyhounds" or "escape dogs" offered the fans the passionate side of cycling, the sympathetic sight of a lone warrior trying to fend off a whole peleton from near the start. Sprinters like Zabel, Cipo and Steels would often get caught out, and they started developing this art form of capturing these lone riders near the finish. This was not limited to the flat stages, guys like Rodolfo Massi and Richard Virenque would attack from near the start in mountain stages too. Lone riders escaping and riding over 2 or 3 beyond category climbs alone, even making it to the finish alone. This wasnt even 8 years ago, before Lance brought in the "formula", or "template" as Lance himself likes to call style for riding the Tour De France.
    Careful ... your bias is showing Things have not changed, there will be courageous breakaways on every individual stage during this years tour ... both flat and mtn. The peloton has always been very adept at tracking the majority of these breaks down before the end. The reason breaks are more rare to succeed today has nothing to do with the evil Lance and everything to do with race radio and gps telemetrics in every team car. All of the teams have the exact distance and speed calculations available to map out exactly how fast they need to ride to catch the breaks and radio them up to their riders.

    Edit: For the first time this year there will be no race radio on 2 of the later stages. I am really looking forward to those. It will be interesting to see how the racers respond without the constant flow of information to and from the comand centers in the team cars.
    Last edited by Paniolo; 07-07-09 at 06:12 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paniolo View Post
    Careful ... your bias is showing Things have not changed, there will be courageous breakaways on every individual stage during this years tour ... both flat and mtn. The peloton has always been very adept at tracking the majority of these breaks down before the end. The reason breaks are more rare to succeed today has nothing to do with the evil Lance and everything to do with race radio and gps telemetrics in every team car. All of the teams have the exact distance and speed calculations available to map out exactly how fast they need to ride to catch the breaks and radio them up to their riders.
    Personally at least compared to 40 years ago I thing the biggest difference is the number of teams and the depth of rider talent. Go back to the time of Merckx and there were 12 teams or so. A break of 6 riders, where none were GC threats, with no team having 2 in the break meant half the teams had little or no reason to chase. Only 6 teams not in the break. Today it is 16 teams not in the break.

    Though I do agree Lance gets too much credit or blame. Anquetil made things just as boring until his age was over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Howzit View Post
    You'r welcome brother.

    By the way, a team as you know has riders who have different roles. The kind of riders in question who pull in front and "seem" to blow right off are known as, im sure you already have heard or know this, domestiques. These are riders who either like having this position in a team, older riders who cant win anymore but are still darn good pros, or guys who have reached their talent potential and have realized they are just not the super stars, and so are happy to take a position on a big fancy team as a "worker". They have many responsibilities, some include going back to get water, talk to the Team director for race tactics to take back up to the leader and so no.
    The other list of jobs for them is "protecting" the GC riders. This is EXACTLY why there were two rider along Lance in the split yesterday, make sense? Their job is to stick next to their leader and make sure they are sheltered as much as possible. They also stick next to them in case they have a mechanical problem. Sometimes, at a critical moment, one of the domestiques will give their bicycle to their team leader if the bikes are similar size, so the leader doesnt lose too much time. These days though, the team and neutral support cars are so quick, the GC leader just stops and gets a new bike or wheel. In this event, 2 or 3 of these "worker" riders will wait for the GC guy, and help bring him back to the front. They do this for two reasons. Sometimes, its just so he conserves energy, but more often than not, its to play it safe. The field can boost its speed at anytime (although if they hear over radio that a GC contender has had problems, the field waits as a gesture of sportsmanship, but sometimes they dont get the news, so they go fast without knowing) , when this happens, and you stop, you can chase the field the whole day and never get back to it, especially when you get wind. In fact, if something like that happens, you can finish so far behind, sometimes up to an hour behind. Usually it wont be so bad for a GC contender, because they will wait for him, but it will sure cost him a lot of effort should the wind kick up. So whenever a leader has to stop, often times, 3 or 4 team mates will wait for him, just to play it safe, in case a wind picks up, or the field drops the hammer. Basically, these workers sacrifice themselves for the team and team leader, and they are more than happy to do so, because this is the reason that team may have signed them on, and in fact, the whole reason they get a pay check every month. And if its a big team like a Grand Tour Team, its almost an honor, even if its just to sacrifice yourself, because he could just otherwise be in a small division 3 team doing small regional races.

    When you see these domestiques pull then just drop off, usually, they somehow reattach themselves to the back dont worry. Thats why domestiques in the peleton are to me, the real warriors. When it comes down to the last 10km however, and they are working to pick up their sprinters, when they "peel" off and go backwards, at that point, they just cruse to the finish, they cannot hang on to the back. They lose around 10 or 15min or so, but it doesnt matter to them. They are not there to time themselves like the GC (General classification) riders. After a few weeks however, when they cruse in they lose more than that. In the mountain stages, they lose close to hours, along with the sprinters.
    More uses for domestiques;
    Sometimes, domestique are "sent" up the road. This means from kilometer one, a team sends a guy out either on his own, or if a few guys join him from other teams, the better. These are the "4" riders you always see get "captured" near the finish. Their job is to get TV coverage for their team and nothing else. Once in a while, you get some riders who manage to stay away to the finish to claim a win.

    Sometimes, you get "Super domestiques" the likes of Jacky Durant who escape from near the start, but are seriously trying to ride by themselves for hours and hours to win the stage.
    This art form is slowly dieing, as sprinters teams have been perfecting the art of capture within the finish sight, and also because people like Lance brought in a new era of race tactics. Formula is the rule of the day, while heart and courage are out the window. Some years ago, this was common on Tour stages actually. These "greyhounds" or "escape dogs" offered the fans the passionate side of cycling, the sympathetic sight of a lone warrior trying to fend off a whole peleton from near the start. Sprinters like Zabel, Cipo and Steels would often get caught out, and they started developing this art form of capturing these lone riders near the finish. This was not limited to the flat stages, guys like Rodolfo Massi and Richard Virenque would attack from near the start in mountain stages too. Lone riders escaping and riding over 2 or 3 beyond category climbs alone, even making it to the finish alone. This wasnt even 8 years ago, before Lance brought in the "formula", or "template" as Lance himself likes to call style for riding the Tour De France.

    So all these "worker riders" are not there to contest the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. Thye are just there to either help the leader, or try to strike out and claim a win for the team on a given stage. Often times, the next day, they abandon the race and go home after an effort like that, and if they win a stage. They have so many different jobs, but it all boils down to sacrificing themsleves in one way or the other.

    So thats a little on domestiques, and why you see some riders "burning" themselves off.
    As TotalNewbie said your info is top notch. A noob to the sport like me can gain knowledge easily thank you.

    But as a favor could you explain my question in my forum about the types of riders?

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    Senior Member SilverSurfR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Howzit View Post
    So thats a little on domestiques, and why you see some riders "burning" themselves off.
    ^^^ Dude, you wrote a like 1/2 a chapter on the subject.

    Thanks for the 2 lengthy posts though. Helped me (new to following the sport) understand a bit more on what's going on.

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    Senior Member jaxgtr's Avatar
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    I think putting radios in the ear of the rider did a lot to take away from the escape. It rare that one succeeds these days, which is why I am looking forward to the 2 non-radio days this year.
    Brian | 2013 Cannondale SuperSix 5 | 2003 Trek 7300 | 2011 Raleigh Record Ace - Steel is real
    Quote Originally Posted by AEO View Post
    you should learn to embrace change, and mock it's failings every step of the way.

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    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Thanks for the info, this answers some of the questions I've had watching the race. I watched parts of the race over the last few years, and never really got excited about it until this year. I find it pretty intriguing, but I'm not really sure why or what I'm supposed to be watching for. One of the things that confuses me is all of the support cars. I can understand the motorcycles with the press, I helped out a minitriathalon one year by riding a course marshal around on my motorcycle and remember them telling us to stay out of the way of the riders. But the team cars can't help but get in the way and slow things down sometimes, shouldn't there be some kind of restriction on them so they can't influence the race by slowing down another teams riders?

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaxgtr View Post
    I think putting radios in the ear of the rider did a lot to take away from the escape. It rare that one succeeds these days, which is why I am looking forward to the 2 non-radio days this year.
    Don't get yuor hopes up to high. It may well turn out that the peleton will just be more inclined to pull breaks back sooner.

  24. #24
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stonecrd View Post
    1. Headwind makes it much harder to close the gap once formed, also the break group was large so the peloton did not get any real advantage in numbers in chasing.
    This really isn't true. As Howzit explained, it was a crosswind that resulted in the split and the lead group staying away, not a headwind. In a headwind, a group of 150 riders can chase down a group of 25 riders, all elese being equal, if they choose to.

    In a crosswind you ride an echelon because the draft is not directly behind the rider in front but to the side. Because the road is only so wide, there is a limit to the size of the echelon (also teams will put a GateKeeper in the back, who's job it is to limit admission to the echelon.) Once you have more riders than will fit in the echelon, those riders aren't increasing the speed of the group, and there only real option is forming another echelon.

    Thus a crosswind creates a situation where a comparitively small group (the size of echelon that fits across the road) is the most efficient means of going down the road and that group can stay away even in the face of superior numbers chasing.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

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    Wonderful information filling in the critical gaps in analysis. Thanks for the Noob for asking and Howzit (even though he hates Lance) and the others for chiming in.

    Gratitude from Vancouver,

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