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  1. #1
    Senior Member totalnewbie's Avatar
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    help me understand the tactics of playing cat and mouse

    Seeing this between Rui Costa and Rodriguez prompts me to ask the question after years of ignorance. with only several hundred meters to go at the World championship, Rodriguez was ahead, Rui Costa was hugging his wheel. Rodriguez slowed down to maybe 20kph or so, Costa followed suit. Rodriguez kept looking over his shoulder, waiting for Costa to jump. Once Costa jumped, Rodriguez reacted and both of them tried to out sprint each other.

    Saw this tactics in Olympics track racing as well and didn't understand why are people waiting for one another to react first? The racers must know how much gas they have with only meters to go, why doesn't one simply dial to 400w, sorry no, 4000w and bolt, regardless of what the other person is doing? If the other guy can match the speed, he can. If he can't he simply can't. No? I thought drafting may be a factor here. Is it because Rodriguez does not want Costa to draft behind him and therefore why these cat and mouse games are at such low speed?

    What puzzles me is that I don't see marathoners employing the same tactics, and I certainly don't see F1 races, for which drafting is also a big thing, employing similar tactics. Vettel doesn't bring his car down to 50kph and shoulder checks what alonso would do behind him.

    Can someone please enlighten me in layman's terms why this tactics applies to bike racing (and seemingly only bike racing to my knowledge)?

  2. #2
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    The racers must know how much gas they have
    They do. And in cycling, drafting saves "gas". If you're riding at 25mph, in your draft I can be putting out the same power ("gas") that I would at say, 19mph. I'm saving "gas" while you're using it. So in those last 4-5 seconds of a race, I can then come out of your draft and pour my saved "gas" into my engine while you're running out. In cycling, it usually only takes 100--200m to overtake someone in a sprint, or even less.

    Marathoners don't move as fast (12-14mph?) as cyclists, so they don't save as much gas through drafting (but they do save some). And they do use similar tactics of not leading out the sprint, not being on the front, etc... You can really see it play out when there's a pack finish, usually in shorter races. But, most of the time, in longer races such as marathons, they have a very large, solo lead and won't run out of "gas" before their pursuers catch them.

    There is plenty of drafting in auto-racing. But, given the size & power of their engines, and optimized aerodynamics, they can launch their sprint from much farther away (1-mile? 2? 3? 4?) than cyclists.

    And in all your examples, cycling, running, and Formula-1, most of the saving of "gas"--i.e.: drafting--occurs during the first 99/100th's of the race.

    In the Worlds, Rodriquez was trying to save his "gas" by slowing down. The faster he went in the approach to the line, the more "gas" he would use and the more "gas" Costa would save. He knew he probably had bad position (front) going into the sprint, so this was the only thing he could do to save "gas" so he would stand a chance in the resulting sprint.

    In some sprints, the leading rider actually uses less "gas" than those following due to the efficiency of his/her engine (see Cancellara as compared to me, for example). They can ramp up the speed to a level where the other riders can't even follow (engine doesn't rev as high like Cavendish, or they did too much work and spent too much "gas" earlier in the race, etc...).

    Visit The C-Blog : the blog about cycling.

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    Basically, next time you're on a group ride, if you're sitting 2nd in the pace line, try accelerating out from behind the lead rider to hit the front and see what happens to your speed. The guy in 2nd has the advantage every time.

    It's exaggerated in a bike race because the cyclist has enough speed for drafting to make a significant difference (unlike the marathon runner) and the road is wide enough that a cyclist can't maintain a legitimate racing line and still block someone coming around him on a sprint (as happens in close f1 finishes).

  4. #4
    Senior Member MinnMan's Avatar
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    Following what Leinster just said, and with all due respect, can I ask if you've done much group riding? The difference between powering away from somebody, starting from the front, and powering past somebody, starting from behind, is tremendous. It isn't simply that drafting saves energy at the same velocity - it also allows you to build momentum so that you can speed past with much less effort than it takes to pull away from the front. If you know that difference and add to it the exhaustion that comes from 270 km of racing, you should have a pretty good idea of what Rodriguez was thinking.
    Last edited by MinnMan; 10-01-13 at 08:59 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member totalnewbie's Avatar
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    I understand the drafting benefit of the 2nd guy. maybe I did not explain myself clear enough. I am not asking how come Costa could catch him or why Costa was hugging Rod's wheel. What I am asking is: understanding he is at a disadvantage, why did rodriguez think what he did would maximize his chance of winning? Let's play this out:

    rod was tired, he understood costa was taking advantage of drafting behind him, saving energy and getting ready to pounce on him.

    at that moment, he could choose:

    1. pedal as hard as he could, hoping that costa was more out of gas than him even with the drafting advantage, even though there might be only 10% of success.
    2. Slow down and save energy, hoping Costa would just surrender. dream on, of course that would never happen. 0% of success
    3. Slow down and save some energy for himself, waiting for costa to attack and then counterattack. but by doing that he must knew that he was also saving energy for costa. so isn't it a wash? He must knew that once Costa attacked, it would be very hard for him to make up for the jump start. Isn't it almost certain that he would lose? say, 2% of success?

    obviously he still had some energy left or else he would not be able to counterattack at all. So why save that energy for the counterattack? Why not give it all out and bet on that 10% in #1 above? Why give the initiative to Costa and put himself in a reactive mode? He must be thinking that by delaying his own counterattack, there must be an advantage and the balance would tip his favor. What was THAT advantage?
    Last edited by totalnewbie; 10-01-13 at 09:28 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Wesley36's Avatar
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    Option #1 , at the pro level, has a vanishingly small chance of success. Not 10%, not even 1%, probably not 0.1%. If you see it in your lifetime, it will be the one and only time. It requires the rider in front to be much much much stronger than the rider behind - not a little, a lot. Like, a mediocre amateur racer against a top shelf pro racer. As in, a GC contender would be highly unlikely to be able to pull that trick on the flamme rouge (ie the slowest rider to not get cut from the race).

    Secondly, instead of theorizing, go to youtube and start watching track racing to see how sprinting tactics work.

    Or more to the point, for road racing, check out Paris-Roubaix 2013 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tUFwms7f4wg go to 4:00 to see Cancellera play cat).

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    Costa had been strong enough to catch up to Rodriguez from behind. So Purito knew that Rodriguez was the stronger. Yes, there's an element of timing the jump, and if Rodriguez had managed to accelerate when, say, Costa was in the middle of shifting down, then he might have got away.

    Funnily enough, I just read last night in the 7-Eleven book how Jeff Pierce won on the Champs-Elysees from a similar situation; he saw that Steve Bauer was catching him close to the line, so eased off, let Bauer burn himself out catching up, and then just at the moment Bauer made contact, accelerated away again. It's a tactic Roriguez could well have used on Sunday.

    Certainly Purito needs to have a look at his tactics in that situation, because he's lost 2 big one-dayers this year in the same way (the Worlds, and to Dan Martin in Liege-Bastogne-Liege).

  8. #8
    Heretic Caretaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leinster View Post
    Costa had been strong enough to catch up to Rodriguez from behind. So Purito knew that Rodriguez was the stronger. Yes, there's an element of timing the jump, and if Rodriguez had managed to accelerate when, say, Costa was in the middle of shifting down, then he might have got away.

    Funnily enough, I just read last night in the 7-Eleven book how Jeff Pierce won on the Champs-Elysees from a similar situation; he saw that Steve Bauer was catching him close to the line, so eased off, let Bauer burn himself out catching up, and then just at the moment Bauer made contact, accelerated away again. It's a tactic Roriguez could well have used on Sunday.

    Certainly Purito needs to have a look at his tactics in that situation, because he's lost 2 big one-dayers this year in the same way (the Worlds, and to Dan Martin in Liege-Bastogne-Liege).
    Purito rarely wins in a straight sprint. His strength is his explosive acceleration on climbs. Typically he tries to distance the opposition on the final climb and win alone. When that tactic doesn't work he has to settle for a podium place, sprint tactics or no sprint tactics.
    History is the future

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jed19's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caretaker View Post
    Purito rarely wins in a straight sprint. His strength is his explosive acceleration on climbs. Typically he tries to distance the opposition on the final climb and win alone. When that tactic doesn't work he has to settle for a podium place, sprint tactics or no sprint tactics.
    This.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Number400's Avatar
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    Cat and mouse is good for upsetting the other rider's rhythm.

    I was in a road race with a fool who hit the rear brake coming out of the last turn before the finish line. His slight slowing was his attempt to make me chop the throttle and to blow my drive down the straight to the finish line. It was effective but I had a better motor anyway on my TZ250 :-)
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  11. #11
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    i think purito's tactics got him a lot closer at the line than most expected...purito vs. costa on a sprint, rui costa will win...add to it that purito had attacked and counter attacked and then soloed so much of the last lap while costa was sitting behind nibali and valverde, i was surprised purito made it a contest on the sprint...

    his tactic was to slow down dramatically and start chatting to throw rui costa's focus off his game, and hopefully get costa to jump as early as possible...costa jumped early enough for rodriguez to latch onto his wheel and get quite a bit of acceleration behind costa...i thought he could've stayed behind costa a bit longer, but then again, i wasn't there!

    the interesting question was why nibali did not immediately start soft pedalling once he caught purito w/ about 3km to go...

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    Quote Originally Posted by eduardo76 View Post
    the interesting question was why nibali did not immediately start soft pedalling once he caught purito w/ about 3km to go...
    Because Valverde and Costa (pro teammates, and one of Purito's national teammates) were coming up behind. Whatever way you cut that (and no matter who doesn't like who else), in that group of 4 he was the odd man out.

    Arguably the 2 strongest men in the race were Nibbles and Purito, but they both got their tactics wrong in the final kms and so finished 4th and 2nd.

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    leinster, i know, but once nibali caught purito and they were all 4 together, why wouldn't he soft pedal to either rest, or to bait anyone else into going to the front and then he could just jump to their wheel...instead he kept pulling for another km, and when purito countered attacked the last time, he had nothing left...i like rui costa, but his biggest results were largely because riders under-estimated him (which i think was a big part of his victory on sunday) ...and you are right, nibali and purito were the strongest men, but purito not only got screwed by tactics, he had to chase back after that crash...he was a monster on sunday!

  14. #14
    Senior Member mr_pedro's Avatar
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    By going slowly he is reducing the advantage that Costa has from being behind. So they both are rested for the sprint. In the moments before the sprint you don't want to tire yourself out while letting the guy behind you rest in your draft.

    With cycling how you are able to perform at any point depends on what you did in the moments before, how rested you are. With a F1 car this is not the case (if we ignore tire wear or engine failure), as a matter of fact you could say that a F1 driver is always sprinting, he is always on the limit because the car allows him to. Also it is much more difficult to pass in a car because of the width of the track and the "short" straights.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by eduardo76 View Post
    leinster, i know, but once nibali caught purito and they were all 4 together, why wouldn't he soft pedal to either rest, or to bait anyone else into going to the front and then he could just jump to their wheel...instead he kept pulling for another km, and when purito countered attacked the last time, he had nothing left...i like rui costa, but his biggest results were largely because riders under-estimated him (which i think was a big part of his victory on sunday) ...and you are right, nibali and purito were the strongest men, but purito not only got screwed by tactics, he had to chase back after that crash...he was a monster on sunday!
    I didn't say he got those tactics right. I think once the 4 were together he absolutely shouldn't have been in the wind at all.

    I like Costa too. I think he's a young rider we're going to see more of. I think his 2 Tour stage wins this year came in large part from him being so far down overall that he had the freedom to attack with others, but he took full advantage. By comparison, you look at Rodriguez's career and for all his strength in the high mountains, he has an awful lot of 2nd and 3rd places.

  16. #16
    Senior Member totalnewbie's Avatar
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    on a related note, here is an article on some of the tactics at the finish:

    http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/...-worlds_304787

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    Quote Originally Posted by totalnewbie View Post
    on a related note, here is an article on some of the tactics at the finish:

    http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/...-worlds_304787
    That's an excellent summation of the whole thing. I especially think it's right to say that Costa is unjustly getting a very hard time for riding the sensible race he had to ride. In his shoes, I wouldn't have done anything different. Can't 100% say that about any of the other 3.

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