2016 Tour de France, Stage 3: Granville → Angers (224km)

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OK, I am a newbie and a July bicycling poster and all (though I have read posts here for a long time) ... glad to get that out of the way.

What bothered me most about this leg of the TdF was this: Fonseca made the break-away and then the peloton settled in to a day of soft-pedaling. But why should the peloton soft-pedaling affect what Fonseca did? If you watched the times they showed Fonseca at the front, you would see he was soft-pedaling too! That is not the way break-aways go! They mostly pedal to their max all the way until the end or they are caught by the peloton.

I think somebody behind the outward race scenes made him slow his break-away down. If he had pedaled to what he was capable of, he would have reached the end way before the peloton did. To me, this smacks of someone holding him back and fixing the race for the soft-pedaling sprinters. Thank gawd for Voeckler upping the pace, but then even when he caught Fonseca, the pace of the race settle back down to a slower version, but not as slow as before.

I don't tune in to the TdF, or any other pro bicycle race for that matter, to see them soft-pedal all day. Sagan was talking yesterday that some of the bicyclist there lacked respect. To me, the lackluster held-back racing of today was a display of disrespect to the tradition of the TdF and pro races in general.
 
Apparently he slowed down in the hope that if the distance became short enough then more people might join him.
Of course that only made the peloton slow down even more, so the distance would remain large enought that nobody would get any ideas...
 
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RedheadDane said:
Apparently he slowed down in the hope that if the distance became short enough then more people might join him.
Of course that only made the peloton slow down even more, so the distance would remain large enought that nobody would get any ideas...
In that instance you (I) would expect him to speed up at times too, to see if he was gaining distance. I don't ever remember that. Once he gained his initial distance, he was tied to the peloton and I believe someone was giving him orders not to gain any more on them.

There are reasons in a mountain stage for a team to hold back their break-away guys after they get far ahead -- but what reason can there be for a team to send out and then hold him back on a final bunch-sprint stage like this one? It wasn't his team orders/strategy that was holding him back.
 
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Nacho said:
What bothered me most about this leg of the TdF was this: Fonseca made the break-away and then the peloton settled in to a day of soft-pedaling. But why should the peloton soft-pedaling affect what Fonseca did? If you watched the times they showed Fonseca at the front, you would see he was soft-pedaling too! That is not the way break-aways go! They mostly pedal to their max all the way until the end or they are caught by the peloton.
Firstly, no need to apologise for being new. Everyone was new once. And it's a good question.

Think of it as cat and mouse. The peloton don't think "I want to catch him as early as possible", they think "I want to catch him before the end". Also the peloton isn't one guy or even one team, it's many teams against each other all trying to do the least work. So if he slows up the peloton think "what's the panic, he's cooked" and the guys at the front, who know they have to work for their sprinter later on, go "ok, let's not go too nuts and waste ourselves, we'll catch him very soon anyway". Everyone has radios, so they know the effect of their efforts straight away.

Tony Martin's famous Vuelta stage a couple of years ago had a lot of this - he played dead several times to buy himself more time.
 
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vedrafjord said:
Nacho said:
What bothered me most about this leg of the TdF was this: Fonseca made the break-away and then the peloton settled in to a day of soft-pedaling. But why should the peloton soft-pedaling affect what Fonseca did? If you watched the times they showed Fonseca at the front, you would see he was soft-pedaling too! That is not the way break-aways go! They mostly pedal to their max all the way until the end or they are caught by the peloton.
Firstly, no need to apologise for being new. Everyone was new once. And it's a good question.

Think of it as cat and mouse. The peloton don't think "I want to catch him as early as possible", they think "I want to catch him before the end". Also the peloton isn't one guy or even one team, it's many teams against each other all trying to do the least work. So if he slows up the peloton think "what's the panic, he's cooked" and the guys at the front, who know they have to work for their sprinter later on, go "ok, let's not go too nuts and waste ourselves, we'll catch him very soon anyway". Everyone has radios, so they know the effect of their efforts straight away.

Tony Martin's famous Vuelta stage a couple of years ago had a lot of this - he played dead several times to buy himself more time.
It wasn't so much the peloton's actions I was writing about. It was the break-away's (Fonseca) actions. I think he either had no intention of doing a real break-away, or he was being held back.

It might be that he was just out there to get TV/recognition time (he was from the area, I understand, plus a lot of break-aways are really just for that purpose). But I think he was held back. By who I don't know. That is counter to what I think of riders doing a break away on flat segments like this -- I think of them having a free reign to go the distance and get the win. He no more had a free reign to win than I would have had! He was held back, and was made to match the speed of the peloton, once he got free, for a couple of hours.

I didn't get to see the stage you are talking about with Tony Martin, as they don't televise the Vuelta where I live -- but that sounds like he was try to stay away from the peloton. I got the idea today that Fonseca was not being let to stay away, though he (or any number of riders) could have stayed away all the way (my impression).
 
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@Nacho Welcome :)
Today was always going to end in a sprint, regardless who was in the break. That it was just one rider and such a long stage allowed the slow pace. Fairly unusual to happen this early in a GT, especially Tour, but the weather (zero wind), route (long & flat) and the big crash yesterday maybe all played a part in it too
 
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peloton said:
@Nacho Welcome :)
Today was always going to end in a sprint, regardless who was in the break. That it was just one rider and such a long stage allowed the slow pace. Fairly unusual to happen this early in a GT, especially Tour, but the weather (zero wind), route (long & flat) and the big crash yesterday maybe all played a part in it too
Thank yall for helping. And that is probably the part I'm missing, in that no matter what Fonseca did -- if he did try real hard or if he was, as I thought, held up -- it was "always going to end in a sprint".
 
He was in a nearly impossible situation, Nacho. It is not possible for one rider on a flat road to match the speed of a Tour de France peloton over 220 km. That is true even if the rider is a world class time trial specialist, a Tony Martin or a Tom Dumoulin, and is even more obviously true of an unremarkable rider on a small Pro Continental (second division) team. If the group makes any kind of effort they will reel him in very quickly, simply because they can take it in turns to move out of the slipstream and into the wind and he can't. He's stuck in the wind permanently.

If he was to ride as hard as he can and started to pull out a longer and longer gap, that would prompt the peloton to try harder. He would be making more and more effort, burning himself up, while the increased effort would have little impact on the peloton because riders at the front are a renewable and replaceable resource. On the other hand, if he avoids just pulling out the gap as far as he can, he may be more likely to be underestimated. Or he may, if he is still close enough, see other riders try to get across the gap to him, thus forming a stronger break.

The short version is that he can't win by just riding as hard as he can, because there is too great an inequality between the speed he can sustain on his own over a huge distance and the speed the group can sustain. He has at least a small chance of a win by seeming unthreatening and hoarding his energy for a last desperate burst, should an overconfident peloton assume that he's dead.
 

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