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Help! I'm all new and shiny...

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Help! I'm all new and shiny...

01 Apr 2012 01:42

Hi, lovers.
I've been lurking and reading these forums (fora? fori?) for a very long time now, but a few weeks ago I finally manned up and actually registered an account. Then I spent some more time lurking (you are all a rather intimidating lot!), but now I've bit the bullet and am making my FIRST EVER POST! Hooray.
Here's the deal:
I'm young-ish, and from a non-cycling country (Yay Canada!), and I fear I'm lacking a lot of the encyclopedic knowledge that seems to be a requirement for posting on these boards. I'd like to gain some of that knowledge, and am wondering what the best way to go about it is...I watch as much cycling as I can, and follow the race commentary that goes on in these threads, but I still feel a little lost when it comes to discussions of the finer points of strategy and tactics, especially since I live in the cycling wasteland of North America, and am therefore watching most races via a crappy feed on my crappier laptop, and usually in a language that I don't understand:o (though my French and Italian are getting better and better!). I feel like a dolt posting newbish questions in the official race threads (where I would surely be ridiculed into oblivion), but figured this area of the forum might be a more genteel spot to pose queries in, and might prove useful to other Shiny New People who stumble across it.
So, to that end, is anyone willing to combat the cycling community's reputation of being horribly elitist and pretentious and help a gal out by occasionally answering questions that might pop up and shedding some light on the more mysterious (to outsiders) aspects of bike racing and cycling culture in general? I can guarantee that many (most) of my questions will be idiotic, but I'd really appreciate any insight you could provide. I'll post here whenever something comes up that I don't understand/would like more info on, and you beautiful people can shower me with knowledge (and shame for being so ignorant).
Pretty please?

To start this off, I might as well go ahead with perhaps my most idiotic question, which I've been wondering about FOREVER:
Given that it's Cobble Time, please enlighten me as to what makes a given rider better suited to cobbled races than another rider, and why. Is it a strength/power thing? A bike-handling thing? Something else? Why are some guys specialists on cobbles? Just personal/rider preference?
:o

On a slightly tangential note, what would you consider "must reads" for someone trying to expand their knowledge of cycling history? What's your favourite bike book?

Thanks, everyone. You're all dolls.
User avatar ElleSquared
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01 Apr 2012 02:16

ElleSquared wrote:Hi, lovers.
I've been lurking and reading these forums (fora? fori?) for a very long time now, but a few weeks ago I finally manned up and actually registered an account. Then I spent some more time lurking (you are all a rather intimidating lot!), but now I've bit the bullet and am making my FIRST EVER POST! Hooray.
Here's the deal:
I'm new-ish to cycling: I've been riding recreationally for quite a few years, but only started following the pro tour just last season in any sort of serious way (I've been watching Le Tour every year with my Dad for years, but only a few years ago caught on to the idea that awesome bike races happen in months other than July :p), but am rapidly becoming criminally obsessed with this sport. However, because of my late start, I'm lacking a lot of the encyclopedic knowledge that seems to be a requirement for posting on these boards. I'd like to gain some of that knowledge, and am wondering what the best way to go about it is...I watch as much cycling as I can, and follow the race commentary that goes on in these threads, but I still feel a little lost when it comes to discussions of the finer points of strategy and tactics, especially since I live in the cycling wasteland of North America, and am therefore watching most races via a crappy feed on my crappier laptop, and usually in a language that I don't understand (though my French is getting better and better!). I feel like a dolt posting newbish questions in the official race threads (where I would surely be ridiculed into oblivion), but figured this area of the forum might be a more genteel spot to pose queries in, and might prove useful to other Shiny New People who stumble across it.
So, to that end, is anyone willing to combat the cycling community's reputation of being horribly elitist and pretentious and help a gal out by occasionally answering questions that might pop up and shedding some light on the more mysterious (to outsiders) aspects of bike racing and cycling culture in general? I can guarantee that many (most) of my questions will be idiotic, but I'd really appreciate any insight you could provide. I'll post here whenever something comes up that I don't understand/would like more info on, and you beautiful people can shower me with knowledge (and shame for being so ignorant).
Pretty please?

To start this off, I might as well go ahead with perhaps my most idiotic question:
Given that it's Cobble Time, please enlighten me as to what makes a given rider better suited to cobbled races than another rider, and why. Is it a strength/power thing? A bike-handling thing? Something else? Why are some guys specialists on cobbles? Just personal/rider preference?

On a slightly tangential note, what would you consider "must reads" for someone trying to expand their knowledge of cycling history? What's your favourite bike book?

Thanks, everyone. You're all dolls.


A pretty cool first post. Or coolish, if I may steal your language lingo :D

Just tell everyone that you love the Tour, but don't know anything about this Giro and you will fit right in. Oh, and that you are a major fangirl of Andy Schleck :D

Well, Airstream could do with some support.

I don't know much about this sport, and I don't physically cycle, but have never found these boards very indimitadating. Most posters are more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge about cycling with newbies such as yourself.

I am a newbie to the cobbles myself, but they seem to suit the heavier riders. Guys who might weigh 10-15 kgs more than the riders who excel in the high mountains at the Giro and the medium-high mountains of the TDF. But it isn't just a weight thing. Like Gilbert is more of a hilly classics guy, while Boonen is more of a cobbled classics guy. Or something like that.

Cobble Time: A top notch phrase :D

To expand your cycling knowledge it's probably best just to lurk further on these boards. Don't read Lance Armstrongs book as it's not about the bike.
In top grade professional cycling (and in life) it is virtually impossible to be a major winner whilst being 100% clean (or honest). Most GC GT riders are simply doing what they love whilst playing the game.

I'm a huge Kloden fan (or a Klodist) - despite the fact that he rode for Telekom/T-Mobile, Astana and Radioshack :)

Contador at Fuente De - I salute you!

Germany 7 Brazil 1 :D
User avatar gregrowlerson
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01 Apr 2012 02:37

Cobbles are, a bit like a TT, more to do with absolute power over the long distance than power-to-weight ratio, like climbing.

Because the cobbles are so uneven, they make the rolling resistance (how much the road slows the bike down, as opposed to the air resistance) much higher, which makes the speed much lower, which reduces the benefits associated with drafting.

Another important factor is having the balls to put your body through a lot of pain from the road.

EDIT: for a look at the murky side of the sport, and one of my favourite cyclists, Matt Rendell's "The Death of Marco Pantani" is a good read.
User avatar Caruut
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01 Apr 2012 03:00

Welcome Elle^2. My French is dang near non-existent. So chapeau to you.

For riding cobbles, here are some informative stuff/tips from the pros:
http://www.active.com/cycling/Articles/How-the-Pros-Do-It-Riding-the-Cobbles.htm
http://www.cyclingtips.com.au/2010/05/how-to-ride-cobbles/
User avatar on3m@n@rmy
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01 Apr 2012 09:15

Who's your favourite rider?

Also, welcome :cool:
"The second place is not good."
The great Alberto Contador :p
User avatar LaFlorecita
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02 Apr 2012 04:32

tires are the things on your bike that make contact with the road.
User avatar Boeing
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02 Apr 2012 20:05

ElleSquared wrote:Given that it's Cobble Time, please enlighten me as to what makes a given rider better suited to cobbled races than another rider, and why.


Always remember that cycling is a team sport. Boonen's crushing the 2012 classics happened because he's got multiple teammates near or at the front managing things for him while he conserves waiting to strike. The camera really doesn't show the teams working in the field but they *really* are.

In the one-day events, the strongest guy doesn't always win. Cancellara, probably the strongest guy in the peloton is left to fend for himself at the front and earns his podium spot on raw strength, but rarely the win. I like the British EuroSport feed when I can get it. As a Yankee, they at least discuss the team calculations more than Phil and Paul.

Riding cobbles requires practice and unbounded confidence to ride well. Most of those riders raced cobbles as amateurs or very good at racing cyclocross (Boom, Chainel) If you stop pedaling, you slow waaaay down. So, if you can keep the power up and don't touch the brakes you can get through the cobbles okay. But, then they've got the narrow, sometimes twisty roads to deal with too!

Useful reading: http://www.amazon.com/Racing-Tactics-Cyclists-Thomas-Prehn/dp/1931382301

Must read: http://www.amazon.com/Rough-Ride-Behind-Wheel-Cyclist/dp/B007BWBA6I/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333396882&sr=1-1

Understand that the business end of the sport is ugly. (Doping, buying wins, UCI/IOC corruption) I think it's still possible to enjoy the sport.
User avatar DirtyWorks
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02 Apr 2012 22:31

What a great first post, ElleSquared. Welcome.

As a warm up for the sunday's race I'd recommend this legendary documentary if you have the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4IDCkcnnHg

Edit; oh, and remember - stay out of the clinic. That's the best advice I can give you.
DominicDecoco
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02 Apr 2012 23:15

For the Ronde van Vlaanderen it's all about knowing the hills, knowing the route to perfection. Experience is a big factor. You also need to feel comfortable riding over the cobbles otherwise you waste too much energy.

The cobbled hills are short, but some are extremely steep and that's why it favors the heavier cyclists like Boonen, Pozzato and Cancellara. The big battle in the Ronde doesn't take place on the hills per se though, but rather before the hills. Everybody wants to be in the top 10 when the hills pop up. If you start the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont in 30th position it's game over, no matter how good your legs are. Crashes usually take place in the middle or the back of the peloton, so that's another reason to be up front most times.

The final 13km of Flanders are false flat/flat ON big wide roads with little protection on the sides. That means the wind is a very big factor here. A headwind favors sprinters because people who try a solo attack will fall back automatically unless they're freakishly strong. Wind in the back would obviously favor a non-sprinter who needs to attack. This year there was a headwind in the final 8km of the race which was in favor of Boonen.

The Ronde is a very nervous race and that causes crashes. The lighter you are, the weaker you are against the wind. The wind usually plays a role in the Flemish classics. Most GT contenders are afraid of going to the Ronde because they don't want to break something and they know they wouldn't stand a chance anyway.

And as always... Lady Fortuna has her say in who wins and loses. ;)
Ryo Hazuki wrote:horrible. boonen just the same guy as years before and this course is too hard for him. that's why he rode like a coward there were at least 3 guys stronger than boonen today and none of them won: sagan, ballan, pozzato


The Hitch wrote:Goss will woop boonens candy a[color="Black"]ss[/color] in a sprint he cares about, any day of the week
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02 Apr 2012 23:38

The Hitch: Winner 2013 Vuelta cq game. Winner, Velorooms prediction game 2012, 2013. 2nd all time cq rankings.
The Father of Clean Cycling, Christophe Bassons wrote:When I look at cycling today, I get the impression that history is repeating itself: riders who are supposed to be rouleurs are climbing passes at the front of the race, and those who are supposed to be climbers are riding time trials at more than 50 kilometres per hour.

The story is beginning again, just as it did 14 years ago


journalist with integrity.
User avatar The Hitch
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05 Apr 2012 18:50

Wowzers. :eek: You cyclingnews peeps really know how to come through!
Thanks so much for these excellent responses. Incredibly helpful and informative. I watched "A Sunday in Hell" last night (thanks ever so much for that link, DominicDecoco), and am now more pumped up than ever for Sunday! I plan on spending Saturday afternoon seeking out the ****tiest, most decrepit roads I can find, and riding them as hard as I can to get an idea of what the guys are going to go through in Roubaix. Then I will drink lots of beer. :D

The info on understanding cobbles was great, and seems to make sense to me. Thanks, DirtyWorks, Caruut, ElPistelero. And Hitch, those videos are fantastic. Thanks. :cool:

New (stupid) question (actually many questions, but all sort of connected):
How does the selection process for specific races work within teams? I mean, obviously if you're OPQS and blessed with a guy like Boonen who historically dominates the cobbled Classics, he's going to lead the team for those races and everyone else will suck it up and work for him....but what happens when you have several guys with potential to win a given race? Who decides that Boonen is going to be leader for PR and not Chavanel or Terpstra? Do the riders themselves have input, or is the hierarchy handed down from the DS? What about dudes like Ryder Hesjdal (who I have a soft spot for, since we share a home town :D ), who have tremendous potential to do well, but are on super-strong teams, and therefore spend most of their time hauling *** for someone else, or are sent to lead 2nd-tier squads at less important races? Do riders ever choose to sign with a less talented/stacked team in order to have a better chance at being team leader? Do rider contracts for the "stars" contain clauses which specify that they get the opportunity to lead x number of races??
In short, tell me how the domestiques handle being domestiques. What hope do they have of ever becoming stars? What compels them to sacrifice their bodies for someone else's glory?
I'm new.
Be gentle with me.
User avatar ElleSquared
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05 Apr 2012 18:52

So... who's your favourite rider?
"The second place is not good."
The great Alberto Contador :p
User avatar LaFlorecita
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05 Apr 2012 19:08

How much domestiques can handle being domestiques varies from rider to rider. Some riders will go to smaller teams thatmay not be able to get invites to races like the Tour de France so that they can be team captains. Others, like Andreas Kloeden, don't seem to like being in a leadership role and prefer being a domestique. As a domestique, you don't have as much pressure riding down on you. I personally really like helping other riders win, and as a result, I have very few victories to my name.
User avatar Fowsto Cope-E
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05 Apr 2012 19:08

LaFlorecita wrote:So... who's your favourite rider?

Not Contador. ;)
I'm new.
Be gentle with me.
User avatar ElleSquared
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05 Apr 2012 19:31

ElleSquared wrote:Not Contador. ;)


Yeah but who is?
"The second place is not good."
The great Alberto Contador :p
User avatar LaFlorecita
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05 Apr 2012 19:54

ElleSquared wrote:Not Contador. ;)


Vino, dude, Vino ;)
User avatar Vino attacks everyone
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17 Apr 2012 00:13

I only want to tell you one thing, don't worry if sometimes people on this forum talk about riders or races you don't know anything about, I follow cycling quite a lot, watch races, read magazines and still sometimes I don't know what they are on about. Some of the guys here are complete geeks (meant in a nice way) when it comes to cycling.
Welcome and have fun.
By the way watch the Giro in may, it's worth it, many times is better than the tour!
User avatar lukinox
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06 May 2012 05:41

Hi again, muffins. I've been neglecting my resolution to become an active forum member, and for that I apologize. I promise I'll do better! :o

New dumb question time: I'm all geared up for the Giro, and am trying to find some way to be excited about tomorrow's stage (which looks flat and boring as rice), and I've seen peeps in other threads yammering on about "crosswinds" being something that might animate the stage a little......so, CyclingNews experts, talk to me about crosswinds. How do they shape races? What do people mean (apart from the obvious) when they say that crosswinds will be a factor? How do teams use crosswinds as a part of their tactics??
I'm new.
Be gentle with me.
User avatar ElleSquared
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06 May 2012 08:12

ElleSquared wrote:Hi again, muffins. I've been neglecting my resolution to become an active forum member, and for that I apologize. I promise I'll do better! :o

New dumb question time: I'm all geared up for the Giro, and am trying to find some way to be excited about tomorrow's stage (which looks flat and boring as rice), and I've seen peeps in other threads yammering on about "crosswinds" being something that might animate the stage a little......so, CyclingNews experts, talk to me about crosswinds. How do they shape races? What do people mean (apart from the obvious) when they say that crosswinds will be a factor? How do teams use crosswinds as a part of their tactics??


Riders take shelter from the riders in front which allows them to conserve energy. In most races this just looks like a big mass of riders cruising along (the peleton), but in certain situations where the there are crosswinds, the riders will need to form echelons, or smaller groups alighned across the road. Because the road is not wide enough for everyone to get shelter from the side wind, any riders caught outside of the echelon will be riding in the wind alone. Usually a team will form an echelon at the front that contains maybe 20 riders. While everyone is trying to work out what is going on, the race will split up until the riders behind form their own echelon. You might get a situation where there are 3 or 4 seperate groups working.

The wind favours the stronger classics type of ridrs who are used to this sort of thing and so can be very dangerous for a slightly build climber who gets caught behind. Teams will often seek to exploit this if they have a good roster of Belgies and Dutch classics riders and will attack when the race hits a crosswind, forming an echelon at front and creating panic and carnage at the back. the other teams migh anticipate this happening and so the stage becomes a bit like a classic with everyone trying to ride at the front and maintaining a high speed right from the start. It is usually a pretty exciting stage but does require some significant sections of strong crosswind.

A good rule of thumb in cycling is that you will not get dropped on the flat in a tailwind or headwind, but crosswinds are where you really need to bring your a game. Getting caught in the wind outside of the echelon is called being "in the gutter". In the flatlands of Europe and in particular Belgium/Holand, people grow up racing Kermesses which are circuit races around a town that are maybe 80-120km long. With a field of 40-50, and no hills, these races require riders to understand riding in the wind and these riders are experts in knowing when and how to form an echelon. You dont see it so much in the big races as the fields are so big, but every couple of years there is stage in a grand tour which has crosswinds and you see echelons forming.

Hope that helps!!:o
User avatar fatsprintking
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06 May 2012 09:53

ElleSquared wrote:New (stupid) question (actually many questions, but all sort of connected):
How does the selection process for specific races work within teams? I mean, obviously if you're OPQS and blessed with a guy like Boonen who historically dominates the cobbled Classics, he's going to lead the team for those races and everyone else will suck it up and work for him....but what happens when you have several guys with potential to win a given race? Who decides that Boonen is going to be leader for PR and not Chavanel or Terpstra? Do the riders themselves have input, or is the hierarchy handed down from the DS? What about dudes like Ryder Hesjdal (who I have a soft spot for, since we share a home town :D ), who have tremendous potential to do well, but are on super-strong teams, and therefore spend most of their time hauling *** for someone else, or are sent to lead 2nd-tier squads at less important races? Do riders ever choose to sign with a less talented/stacked team in order to have a better chance at being team leader? Do rider contracts for the "stars" contain clauses which specify that they get the opportunity to lead x number of races??
In short, tell me how the domestiques handle being domestiques. What hope do they have of ever becoming stars? What compels them to sacrifice their bodies for someone else's glory?


Often when a team has several riders capable of winning a particular race, they will have one leader and one or two "protected riders". In OPQS Boonen would be the leader and Chavanel for example a protected rider. Those don't have to do tasks as riding in the wind or fetching bottles so they can conserve their energy and be present towards the end of the race, either to help the leader or figure as a back-up plan if the situation presents itself. Then there are teams like Radioshack who have 3 leaders for the Tour de France for example, but so far it hasn't worked out so well for them. So I think often there is an official hierarchy but it is not set in stone, it can change during the race if the leader is not feeling well for example.

Some riders do move to other teams to switch from domestique to leader role, but I wouldn't necessarily call them smaller teams. Greipel for example used to ride with Cavendish and often got sent to smaller races and couldn't do the Tour de France. Then he moved to Lotto where he is now the number 1 sprinter but it's not really a smaller team. Same with Renshaw who used to be Cavendish's lead-out man and then moved to Rabobank to be a leader. Now there are strong rumours that Fuglsang will switch back to Saxo Bank because it is less stacked as you say, of course he could have had his chance at RadioShack but fell victim to bad luck. It is my understanding that he demanded Giro leadership when re-negotiating his contract at the beginning of the season, so that might be an example of someone having a "clause" for a specific race in his contract. Other than that I don't think it's very common. I believe star riders more or less chose their races but of course there are also counter-examples such as the Schlecks in their current position. But it is all about leverage: if they had gotten prestigious wins, they could make claims about which races they want and don't want to race, but since they failed now Bruyneel calls the shots.

As for domestiques they are also often picked by the leaders. Cavendish always rides with Eisel, Basso with Szmyd, Schlecks (used to) always with O'Grady, Contador with Navarro & co. Those are often relatively "unsung heroes" but are indispensable in their own way and crucial to the team. I assume the best ones such as Eisel & co. must make a very nice salary, especially if your leader wins you get your fair share of the prize money. Plus you don't have as much pressure as someone mentioned above. What hopes have they of becoming stars? I think most of them don't particularly aspire to being stars but of course when the situation presents itself they grab it, and those wins are IMO the most beautiful, such as O'Grady in Paris-Roubaix, Zaugg in Lombardia and so on. Not everyone can win but they can be part of a winning team and that also counts for something ($$$)
piccoli equivoci senza importanza.

Visit my blog on spanish history: http://www.histoires-espagnoles.blogspot.fr
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