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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Gentlefolk;

Confirming my newbie status, I admit I am confused by team racing. Granted, my only exposure was watching Lance during a Tour de France, but here is what I got out of it.

The American team existed to support Armstrong, and were not per se racing for themselves. So the American winner was already ordained.

But, I don't see how all this gets sorted out. What do the other racers actually do? I understand the idea of drafting, but I gather there must be other activity in play. Do all teams then have designated winners for whom other riders on the team are support?

I don't grasp what these support riders do.

Thanks for any clarifications!

Don
 

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A support rider, or domestique, will drop back from the peloton and get spare water bottles for the rest of the team, then ride back and distribute them.

They'll also drop back when the leader or one of the other top riders from the team puncture, then pace them back to the peloton.

If one of the favored riders for a particular race is off the front (OTF) in a break, the rest will move to the front of the peloton to control the pace, and to jump on the wheel of anyone that tries to bridge the gap.

On a climb, they will also move to the front and set a blistering pace to attempt to blow the peloton apart, and (hopefully) any of the opposing top riders, making it harder for them on a climb, which will give their favored climber a better chance at a win, or a big gain in time on the GC.

On a flatter race, they will also set up their sprinter for the best possible chance to win by leading him out with 3 or 4 (or more) increasing the pace until the sprint.

What else, guys?
 

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What does GC stand for?

How is the leader determined? For example last year TDF Astana had Lance and Contador both former winners and top level riders. How did Contador get the nod over Lance or vice versa, what about the rest of the guys? It's obvious there's a predetermined leader, but what about the rest of the team members who may want a shot at winning an event?

Also a newb to cycling, thanks in advance for your comments.
 

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gc is general classification

or, the cumulative time standings of the riders in a stage race.
 

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GC means General Classification. That's what "place" the rider is in on a stage race.

As for last years Astana squad, both Lance and Contador were the favored riders for the TdF. Neither was riding in support of the other, and it was going to be the mountain stages that determined who the top rider of the squad was. Once it was clear that Contador had the better legs, then Lance should have ridden in support. But he didn't. This has happened before when there were more than one "top" guy on a squad. Egos can, and do, collide...

As for a predetermined "leader", that will change from race to race. Some riders specialize in one day events, like the Spring Classics. Others specialize in the Grand Tours. Usually, there will be one rider as the designated "leader" for that particular race, and all others ride in support of him. However, if he's not got the legs, or if he's off of his form, then another rider may "step in". Let's take this years Tour of Flanders & the Quick Step squad, for example. Everyone was riding in support of Tom Boonen, but if he were to be off form, or crash out, then Stijn Divolder would have probably been "field promoted" to be the new leader.

Make sense?

As for all the others, they are hired on to be support riders. That's their job. They are not hired on to win races, but to help the TEAM win the race. That's why cycling is a team sport; but so much goes on off camera, that it looks like it's an individual sport.

There is no doubt that cycling is the hardest sport in the world (IMHO). There are no "time outs"; no going to the sidelines or dugout waiting for your turn to do something. You're out there, working, ALL the time. It's awesome.
 

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Teams also will fill their roster with riders with different talents that will be applicable/useful in a specific race. Big teams will have many riders (20/30/40+) to chose from when deciding who will ride a particular race. Riders are chosen based on their current form, and talents as they apply to the race course/dynamics.
The tour of california for example, Michael Rogers(Columbia) was their GC man while Cav was the sprinter. They brought along their support riders for each of these men(climbers and lead out men).
 

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frpax said:
If one of the favored riders for a particular race is off the front (OTF) in a break, the rest will move to the front of the peloton to control the pace, and to jump on the wheel of anyone that tries to bridge the gap.
why would they want to be on the wheel to bridge the gap? I know they won't work with the guy trying to bridge at all. That just doesn't make much sense to me.

Chad
 

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Nimitz said:
why would they want to be on the wheel to bridge the gap? I know they won't work with the guy trying to bridge at all. That just doesn't make much sense to me.

Chad
Their job on the initial break is to hold back/slow down the field. If a chaser attempts to bridge to their guy (OTF) they will follow the chasers wheel. They will not assist the chase but will be their to further help their OTF team mate if the bridge is successful.
 

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Nimitz said:
why would they want to be on the wheel to bridge the gap? I know they won't work with the guy trying to bridge at all. That just doesn't make much sense to me.

Chad
it's partly psychological if you look behind you and see a rider that won't share the load to get up to the other riders it kills your momentum. If you do pull that person up and close the gap, then you have just helped your competitor by now giving him another teammate to help him out and pace him. The more teamates you have the better position you are in.
 

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skizzle86 said:
but what about the rest of the team members who may want a shot at winning an event?
.
The other team members who would like a shot are out of luck if the team dicision is for a GC win for their best overall rider. They may still have opportunity to take a stage win as they will be encouraged to go with/attempt breakaways.
Most team members are brought to a race for a specific purpose. Climbers are needed to be especially strong in decisive mtn stages and are usually saved (by taking it easy and usually losing time) during less important strategic days. A team member that is waaaay down in the overall standings for a week during a grand tour and thought to be no better than baggage may suddenly appear amazingly strong during an important mountain stage.

Makes it fun to watch when you know what is going on.
 

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agm2 said:
it's partly psychological if you look behind you and see a rider that won't share the load to get up to the other riders it kills your momentum. If you do pull that person up and close the gap, then you have just helped your competitor by now giving him another teammate to help him out and pace him. The more teamates you have the better position you are in.
yeah didn't think basically he is towing up his rival's teammate and then when he does bridge...THEN what lol other guy is going to attack him :eek:

Chad
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
OK, I am officially amazed and baffled and fascinated. I had NO idea of the complexity. I thught it was a bunch of guys all riding around in a scrum until the commercials aired, then everyone gave up and let someone win.

This will take a few more re-reads, but all the mssgs. here are fantastic. I appreciate the time and thought that has gone into them all.

While I will have to work on the strategy - this is still a little confusing -- how does one advance in the sport? If you are hired on to be a support rider, how do you advance to being a leader? It sounds as if it is part meritocracy, and part something else.

You pay your dues as a support rider, but then how do you break out on your own? Are there "minor leagues" for riders in which one rises through the ranks until you come to the attention of whomeever it is you need to come to the attention of?

What if someone on the team says: "Lance, not today..this is MINE!". He is kicked out the door?
 

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Cadent said:
OK, I am officially amazed and baffled and fascinated. I had NO idea of the complexity. I thught it was a bunch of guys all riding around in a scrum until the commercials aired, then everyone gave up and let someone win.

This will take a few more re-reads, but all the mssgs. here are fantastic. I appreciate the time and thought that has gone into them all.

While I will have to work on the strategy - this is still a little confusing -- how does one advance in the sport? If you are hired on to be a support rider, how do you advance to being a leader? It sounds as if it is part meritocracy, and part something else.

You pay your dues as a support rider, but then how do you break out on your own? Are there "minor leagues" for riders in which one rises through the ranks until you come to the attention of whomeever it is you need to come to the attention of?

What if someone on the team says: "Lance, not today..this is MINE!". He is kicked out the door?
the best similarity I can compare it to is basketball...you have your superstars, kobe, MJ, dwayne wade, etc. the other guys SUPPORT them and try to get the ball to them to win.

the other support guys will race and do win smaller races, like someone else said the classics. Fabian Cancellera is a time trial specialist and classic powerhouse (this year especially) but he is no real tour hope mainly because of his climbing.

Hincapie...probably one of the best domestique's int he peleton period, but its a selfless job most of the time.

off the topic of this but mainly when you see someone in the break its a lesser team that has no GC hopes and trying to just get attention for their sponsors and on the off chance that the break DOES succeed (they do sometimes) then they don't have to go against the leadout trains and sprinters of the peleton and can possibly grab themselves a stage win.

like you said...LOTS of strategy involved.

Chad
 

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Cadent,

I'm learning here too, although I feel I've picked up a lot of stuff in the last few years. But don't worry about having it all figured out right away. Take what you're learning now, and enjoy the TdF. You'll pick up a LOT more once you take into account what you're learning here, and you'll recognize a lot of terminology the announcers will be speaking of.

If you only read the newspapers, see the highlights on a regular newscast, you won't pick up the details like are being discussed here. That's why most (many?) Americans don't know anything about cycling.
 

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OK, lots of questions about covering the breaks...

So, you've got one of your guys OTF in a break and your team is riding at the front, trying to keep the pace slow, to give them a chance to stay away, right? Then some guy from another team shoots off the front, trying to bridge the gap, so that HE'D have a chance to win, OK? So YOU, as a domestique, will immediately jump on his rear wheel, and stay there... NOT helping him at all. One of two things will now occur:
1. He will run out of steam and drift back to the peloton, and you did a great job covering the break. Or,
2. He will tow your ass right up to the breakaway, and now the break has TWO members of your team, and the chances of a team win have just gone up tremendously.

Get it?

If you guys want to see some great cycling, go to www.cycling.tv and watch some of the replays of the race telecasts. Very knowledgeable commentators - not that Phil Ligget & Paul Sherwin are NOT knowledgeable... but I find the commentating much better than on Versus. Some of the race reports are only for subscribers, but if you're into cycling, then it's worth it (to me... that's why I subscribe!)

Any more questions? I'm actually very happy to share my limited knowledge with you noobs.

Also, at the "grass roots" level... that is, your local Cat 5 & 4 US Cycling sanctioned races, there is very little of these tactics going on. It's pretty much every man for himself. But it does help to be able to read a race and understand what's going on. Quick personal story:

Years ago, when I raced, I was on a local team and we did training races to prepare for certain sanctioned races, but these were also very valuable training tools. My team had several State Champions on it, and was one of the "teams to beat" at any of the sanctioned races.

So, one Sunday, we were doing one of our training races. And I was feeling like crap, but I was out there, training and also supporting my friend, who was on the same team as me. One of his big goals was to do well in one of these training races, and to kind of "make a mark" for himself... to show the Cat 2's on the team that he could deliver the stuff when needed. So here we are, riding in February (it's Arizona... no snow), and it's cold. I'm cold. I feel lousy. So I am just hanging on at the back of the peloton, trying to stay out of the wind to keep as warm as possible. "Just get me through this", I'm thinking to myself.

Then after a few miles, I started feeling good. REAL good, in fact. So, I'm standing up looking over the backs of everybody, looking to see where my friend is. And I see him up at the front, pace lining. But I also notice that a 3 man break had just gone OTF. I also noticed that one of the guys is a former State Time Trial Champ and I knew that they were gone, and nobody was going to catch them. There was no organization at the front of the peloton. So, I have an idea.

I slip around to the left side of the peloton, and make my way up to the front... unchallenged the whole way. I get up to where my friend is, and I ride up on his left and told him to jump on my wheel, that I'd tow him p to the break. Pretty much spend all of my new found energy to get him up there, so that he could have a respectable race. So I told him this and then took off in pursuit.

I get about halfway between the peloton and the break... total "no man's land" and that's when I noticed that I was alone. My friend did not join me. So. What to do? I pondered this for a bit. If I drift back and try again, then I figured that more than just my friend would join me. No good. So, I hatched the idea that I could disrupt the breakaway by not helping them at all. Just be a wheel sucker. Maybe that would be enough to cause the break to lose impetus and get absorbed by the peloton. Yeah... that was a good idea. Or so I thought.

So, I trudged on with all this in mind, and caught them. They were completely unaware that I was there for a few miles. Once they actually saw me, they were pretty surprised that someone, especially a lowly Cat 4 could catch them! So, when they figured I'd had enough recovery time, they expected me to take my turn at the front pace lining. I did, but only for a few seconds, then I'd drift back. I did this several times... After a few miles of this, they'd had enough, so they all gathered around me and told me that if I didn't help, they'd drop me. And they could, too. So, Plan B was now out the window, and I was in the break!

About a half mile from the pre-designated finish line, they started slowing down, and jockeying for position. I had no idea what I was doing at this point, so I was just totally winging it. By the time we started the sprint for the line, I was 3rd in line, out of the 4. So, I selected what gear I thought I'd need and then we all went for it. The guy in front of me had picked too low of a gear and he spun out. I caught the leadout man and he was now done, so he peeled off.

Then, right at the line, the State Champ JUST nipped me.

So, I took 2nd. And all because I read the race and knew what was going on. I also had the legs to catch the break, when nobody else did, but that wouldn't have done me any good if I wasn't able to read the race, and know that that break was gone unless someone acted quickly. Some times, you only have a second or two to react, or your race is over.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
LOTS to digest here, guys.. I am really enjoying this. Thanks so much for sharing your info.

Now, for a real noob question: I get the idea of drafting. One person punches a hole in the air and another person rides in that pocket. But, it appears this is also a tactic for slowing the "hole puncher" - you can ride in behind another person and draft him.

Why is it more tiring for the hole puncher to punch air for two than for just himself?

The most extreme example of drafting happened when I was on a hiway with my Honda CB360. I slipped into the draft of a semi and essentially turned my bike off at that point. The bummer came when I wanted to break the draft -- this odd feeling it wasn't all that smart to be THAT CLOSE to a semi at THAT SPEED.... so I hit the brakes and the wind buffeting prit-near tossed me into the next lane. Lesson learned. BUT, I never thought that the semi would be working harder to pull me along...

Thx again for this thread!

Don
 

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The most extreme example of drafting happened when I was on a hiway with my Honda CB360. I slipped into the draft of a semi and essentially turned my bike off at that point. The bummer came when I wanted to break the draft -- this odd feeling it wasn't all that smart to be THAT CLOSE to a semi at THAT SPEED.... so I hit the brakes and the wind buffeting prit-near tossed me into the next lane. Lesson learned. BUT, I never thought that the semi would be working harder to pull me along...
That's interesting Cadent. I have an uncle who, when he was college-age, travelled across the country on a motorbike. He said he drafted a semi for awhile, and burned the engine up b/c it was air-cooled, and he wasn't getting any air into the intakes.... I don't know if that's true, but it sounds plausible to me. Also, if there was a guy I trusted in life, it would be that guy.



And for FRPAX - WHAT A GREAT STORY. Way to go, man.
 
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