Can someone explain to me how the "train tactic" actually works

Jun 15, 2012
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I've kind of never understood this and I've been watching cycling for 10 plus years now. I am assuming this tactic came to be during the postal days and now is being used by sky. But how does it work? I once assumed the objective was two fold:

A) It prevents opportunistic attacks. The pace is so high that nobody can get off the front

B) It shaves down the group until you have your GC guys standing alone at the top

The problem I have is with B objective. The "train" should pull up any rider that's on the wheel of wiggins and whoever has the wheel of the next in line. If you assume that you have 4-5 elite climbers then a train should have no effect on those guys so long as they are in tow. It's going to be just as hard on Wiggins as it is on the 4th position guy. I can see objective A and how that works. I don't get B at all. Can someone shed some light
 
Jun 25, 2012
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PosterBill said:
I've kind of never understood this and I've been watching cycling for 10 plus years now. I am assuming this tactic came to be during the postal days and now is being used by sky. But how does it work? I once assumed the objective was two fold:

A) It prevents opportunistic attacks. The pace is so high that nobody can get off the front

B) It shaves down the group until you have your GC guys standing alone at the top

The problem I have is with B objective. The "train" should pull up any rider that's on the wheel of wiggins and whoever has the wheel of the next in line. If you assume that you have 4-5 elite climbers then a train should have no effect on those guys so long as they are in tow. It's going to be just as hard on Wiggins as it is on the 4th position guy. I can see objective A and how that works. I don't get B at all. Can someone shed some light
They discuss this in the clinic.. mostly because its only been USP it worked for, alot of other teams have actually tried but failed (they ****ed up more than doing good)^^

I can't explain how it works, since it makes no sense to me that mediocre riders drop star MR's just by pacing in a train.
 
Aug 18, 2009
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PosterBill said:
I've kind of never understood this and I've been watching cycling for 10 plus years now. I am assuming this tactic came to be during the postal days and now is being used by sky. But how does it work? I once assumed the objective was two fold:

A) It prevents opportunistic attacks. The pace is so high that nobody can get off the front

B) It shaves down the group until you have your GC guys standing alone at the top

The problem I have is with B objective. The "train" should pull up any rider that's on the wheel of wiggins and whoever has the wheel of the next in line. If you assume that you have 4-5 elite climbers then a train should have no effect on those guys so long as they are in tow. It's going to be just as hard on Wiggins as it is on the 4th position guy. I can see objective A and how that works. I don't get B at all. Can someone shed some light
Had to think about this, but I suppose the pace in B is higher than that in A. If you're increasing the pace towards scenario B, it's because your GC man is one of the strongest and wants to maximise the selection/the damage to the others. If he's not one of the strongest you should knock the pace back to the highest pace he can handle (scenario A), otherwise you'll be working for his rivals, which can happen.

It's Liquigas' modus operandi, but I got the impression (didn't see video) that it was redundant because Basso wasn't good enough in that race.
 
Jun 15, 2012
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After initially reading your post I thought: Wiggins an elite climber???

But then it got me thinking that he might just be the top guy climber which says a lot about the state of current cycling for better or worse. I would imagine you would not see a train with a descent climbing Schleck or Contador (if those guys can be duplicating past success is unknown). Thanks for the reply
 
PosterBill said:
I've kind of never understood this and I've been watching cycling for 10 plus years now. I am assuming this tactic came to be during the postal days and now is being used by sky. But how does it work? I once assumed the objective was two fold:

A) It prevents opportunistic attacks. The pace is so high that nobody can get off the front

B) It shaves down the group until you have your GC guys standing alone at the top

The problem I have is with B objective. The "train" should pull up any rider that's on the wheel of wiggins and whoever has the wheel of the next in line. If you assume that you have 4-5 elite climbers then a train should have no effect on those guys so long as they are in tow. It's going to be just as hard on Wiggins as it is on the 4th position guy. I can see objective A and how that works. I don't get B at all. Can someone shed some light
Well, to go with the Sky example, Wiggins really is a tempo climber, climbing like he does ITTs, at a determined power output. As long as his domestiques are riding at the front at exactly that pace, he will be very efficient. As soon as riders start attacking, pace goes up and down and one needs explosions of power to keep up, Wiggins will be on less familiar terrain (at least, he's never showed this ability in the same way). So part A is really instrumental in getting Wiggins in a good position. B is probably only a side effect. Reading the comments of Wiggins, whether he was being honest or not, they were surprised there were so little riders with them after such a short time. It shows B wasn't really an objective, they just wanted to perfect part A, so Wiggins could get up the mountain as quickly and efficiently as possible. B was just a side-effect, as they are planning to beat other riders in the TT, not in the mountains.

That's my humble view.

Dr.Sahl said:
They discuss this in the clinic.. mostly because its only been USP it worked for, alot of other teams have actually tried but failed (they ****ed up more than doing good)^^

I can't explain how it works, since it makes no sense to me that mediocre riders drop star MR's just by pacing in a train.
The big difference between a train and contenders of other teams is that members of the train can push for 1 or 2 km and then drop, without having to worry about anything other than the cut-off time. Other contenders will maximize their own efforts and times, so they might get dropped, but will overtake the dropped parts of the train (normally, Sky forgot that part in last stage).
 
Jul 2, 2011
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I see the logic in your question...if a train benefits it's team member in position 4 woudn't positions 5,6,7...also benefit? I think it has more to do with neutralizing attacks but instead of speed being the deterrent (as you correctly state in part A) it's more tactics and strength in numbers.

If I'm Cadel in today's final climb (stage 7 2012 tdf) and I attack, Wiggins can burn one of his teammates to lead him back to catch me. Wiggins uses less energy because his teammate is on the front. Then if I attack again another teammate can catch me. So even if I'm stronger than Wiggins I may have to outpace 2 or 3 teammates who don't have to conserve energy for the remaindeer of the stage...they drag Wiggins to me then they can drop off.

Also, if my rival's train has somebody who's not too far down from me on GC and he attacks I might be obliged to chase him and drag my rival along with me.

In the mean time, if no attacks come you let the train drive a high pace and drop the guys who are having a bad day. Early in the race GC is determined less by who's gaining time and more by who's losing it.
 
May 11, 2009
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Dr.Sahl said:
...........I can't explain how it works, since it makes no sense to me that mediocre riders drop star MR's just by pacing in a train.
The further back in a train you are the more frequent acceleration and deceleration (braking) are required thus absorbing energy. I find riding in the first three or four places less tiring than riding further back.
 
Jun 28, 2012
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Also, Wiggins could always say "look, Mick [Rogers], you're driving the train too fast, about to drop me, slow down." If Cadel Evans asked Rogers to do that, he'd get laughed at, or dropped.
 
Mar 11, 2009
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A strong pace does a couple of things...

It wears down everyone except the very best GC contenders. And eliminates anyone having a bad day. If you are the best GC guy and have a strong team it's a simple way to eliminate the competition.

It prevents multiple attacks by multle riders that a favorite may have to keep chasing down. chasing down attacks (accelerating) takes more energy than steady high pace.

This makes sense to me - but I may be missing something.

T
 
Jul 19, 2010
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PosterBill said:
B) It shaves down the group until you have your GC guys standing alone at the top

The problem I have is with B objective. The "train" should pull up any rider that's on the wheel of wiggins and whoever has the wheel of the next in line. If you assume that you have 4-5 elite climbers then a train should have no effect on those guys so long as they are in tow. It's going to be just as hard on Wiggins as it is on the 4th position guy. I can see objective A and how that works. I don't get B at all. Can someone shed some light
I also had a hard time understanding how it works in the mountains, but the more I rode in these "trains" on climbs myself, the more I understood the purpose of it. So this is how I see it work:

In a cycling team, teammates spend a lot of time together riding and training on a daily basis. Each rider has a specific training program based on their role. The domestiques are trained precisely for the purpose of pacing their leaders up to a certain point. And the GC leaders are trained to conserve as much as possible during the pacing, then go all out at specific moments. When teammates spend so much time together, they know each other's riding style, pacing rhythm. In other words, they are familiar with each other's rear wheel and cadence. The speed of the pacing was set up so that the leader is conserving on a climb, and they are trained specifically to handle those pacing speeds. Very often, these pacing speeds are high to keep others from attacking, as in your point A.

When riders from other teams are latching on to the train, if they can handle the speed, they'll be tolled all the way to the end. HOWEVER, the purpose here is not to drop them purely on the speed, but play a psychological game. How? When you have 3, 4 domestiques riding in front, plus the GC leader, it's an intimidation to other riders who aren't used to riding with the pulling team. If they are under the impression that the pulling team is too strong and that they have no chance to win, they would crack mentally, and the body goes. That's why teams like Sky stay at the front for so long. The longer you are at the front showing strength, the longer you can intimidate others.
 
Mar 12, 2009
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PosterBill said:
I've kind of never understood this and I've been watching cycling for 10 plus years now. I am assuming this tactic came to be during the postal days and now is being used by sky. But how does it work? I once assumed the objective was two fold:

A) It prevents opportunistic attacks. The pace is so high that nobody can get off the front

B) It shaves down the group until you have your GC guys standing alone at the top

The problem I have is with B objective. The "train" should pull up any rider that's on the wheel of wiggins and whoever has the wheel of the next in line. If you assume that you have 4-5 elite climbers then a train should have no effect on those guys so long as they are in tow. It's going to be just as hard on Wiggins as it is on the 4th position guy. I can see objective A and how that works. I don't get B at all. Can someone shed some light
You are assuming that the riders on Wiggins wheel are equally adapt at riding at a high tempo which isn't necessarily the case. By riding a high hard tempo you not only deter riders from attacking you can get the same riders to actually drop off no matter where in the train the follow. The same riders that thrive in the attacking style of lots of tempo shifts also tend to have trouble with a high steady tempo. In this Tour this tactic will probably work very well. Against attacking riders it will deter them from attacking and it will most likely drop them which is what we also saw. Against Evans and Nibali it won't work to drop them but it will deter especially Evans from attacking Wiggins so again it's a good tactic. All that remains is for Wiggins to stay ahead or even gain more time in the ITTs and the win should be a lock.
 
Jun 22, 2012
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ingsve said:
In this Tour this tactic will probably work very well. Against attacking riders it will deter them from attacking and it will most likely drop them which is what we also saw. Against Evans and Nibali it won't work to drop them but it will deter especially Evans from attacking Wiggins so again it's a good tactic. All that remains is for Wiggins to stay ahead or even gain more time in the ITTs and the win should be a lock.
I think we need to keep a bit of perspective about the strength of the Sky train.

So far the race has been ridiculously easy – only one Cat 1 climb, no HC or Cat 2 climbs, and just four Cat 3 and fifteen Cat 4 climbs.

Still to come we have a further six HC climbs, ten Cat 1 climbs, eight Cat 2 climbs, and seven Cat 3 and eight Cat 4 climbs. Cumulatively, all these climbs plus 2 long ITTs are going to take their toll on riders and domestiques.

Sky’s train was super-strong train yesterday (Stage 7), but a large reason for this is that the train hadn’t been required to do much work earlier in the stage (the rest of the stage was very easy, with only 12km of climbing) or earlier in the race.

Sky’s train might be able to go full speed like this again tomorrow on Stage 8 (with 7 categorised climbs and 35km of climbing), and Stage 10 (with only 3 categorised climbs and 30km of climbing), but what about later in the race, when the legs are tired and the stages become harder?

Will they be able to control Stage 11 (with 2HC, one Cat 1 and one Cat 2 climbs, totalling 71km of climbing)? Or Stage 16 (with two HC and two Cat 1 climbs, totalling 57km of climbing)?

What about Stage 17 (with one HC, two Cat 1 and 2 other climbs, totalling another 49km of climbing)?

I personally cannot see the Sky train controlling every mountain stage from here to Paris, at least not in the same super-strong way they controlled stage 7. I especially cannot see them controlling back to back hard stages, like stages 10 & 11, or stages 16 and 17.

Yes, this tour is not as hard as previous tours. But it is still hard, certainly harder then this year’s Dauphine, Romandie, Paris-Nice or any of the other 1 week tours the Sky train has dominated this year.

Will it be hard enough to de-rail the Sky train, and give guys like Evans, Nibali, Menchov etc the chance for the win? Only time will tell.
 
I would say in my humble opinion that today we saw a very impressive leadout train that was designed for Wigans to be led up to the finish line without any GC contenders getting attacks in. They prepared well for and I think were well suited to the terrain today.

What you are talking about (it sounds this way to me) is a very different thing which is the bus. When all the sprinters and packfill drop back on a hard day and they form a slow going group to finish the stage, and sometimes the strongest team in a GT can form a bus that sets a manageable tempo for climbs that will reel in the break or keep the gaps manageable but not drop any of the good climbers.
 
Jun 25, 2012
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avanti said:
The further back in a train you are the more frequent acceleration and deceleration (braking) are required thus absorbing energy. I find riding in the first three or four places less tiring than riding further back.
Ofc, but that was not really what I was commenting :D
 
May 14, 2010
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AND there is often a Clinic aspect, too, which is why it typified the Blue Train of some years back. Of course, this isn't the Clinic, but imagine you and your team, for whatever reason, have a higher sustained wattage than any other team. It doesn't have to be a lot higher - 2 or 3 percent will probably do. Now put all your team on the front and have them drill it, one by one, with each of your domestiques dropping off when exhausted. By the time you, the GC guy, are the only one of your team left, you find yourself with little or no competition. This is exactly how it worked for Armstrong. In fact, the Blue Train would often even drill it on the flat, so that by the time the peloton arrived at the climb, most of the riders were already hanging on for dear life.
 
May 19, 2011
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PosterBill said:
I've kind of never understood this and I've been watching cycling for 10 plus years now. I am assuming this tactic came to be during the postal days and now is being used by sky. But how does it work? I once assumed the objective was two fold:

A) It prevents opportunistic attacks. The pace is so high that nobody can get off the front

B) It shaves down the group until you have your GC guys standing alone at the top

The problem I have is with B objective. The "train" should pull up any rider that's on the wheel of wiggins and whoever has the wheel of the next in line. If you assume that you have 4-5 elite climbers then a train should have no effect on those guys so long as they are in tow. It's going to be just as hard on Wiggins as it is on the 4th position guy. I can see objective A and how that works. I don't get B at all. Can someone shed some light
my understanding it is all about how long you can ride at Watt output threshold. Like previous post said Wiggins prefer steady tempo at a constant watt output, if A can ride 500W at 5 min, B can ride 500w at 6 min, C can ride 500W at 7min and ABC are in a team A will ride in front of B C, after 5 mins A peeling off, B will ride in front C to give any draft possible. It is all about how long you can rode a constant output, luckily for SKY this kind riding style is also preferred by Nibali and Evans.
 
Mar 13, 2009
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Works like this.

Wiggins can hold X w/kg up a climb.
For Wiggins to get up a climb as fast as possible, he should always be behind someone pushing X w/kg.
Rider leading has to push X+Y w/kg up a climb.

This means the leadout riders must be capable of sitting in the train holding X w/kg (same as wiggins) and then when it is their turn pushing X+Y w/kg. Which of course they can do, but not for long hence they pull off and soft pedal to the top.

Riders will be tailed off as they can hold less than X w/kg. Riders may also be tailed off if they don't think they can hold on to the top and hence should limit their losses.
Some riders Nibali/Evans can hold X w/kg and even if they can hold a little more, the train will still work by getting Wiggins to the top as fast as possible hence limiting his losses.

Make sense? For reference on a 7-8% climb X is usually around 6 for a long climb, Y is maybe .2-.3, the steeper it is the less advantage hence Y gets smaller and vice versa with shallower climbs.

EDIT: As noted above, being closer to the front keeps the tempo level, hence there is that advantage.
also note that this does not imply that Richie Porte for example could hold X for as long as Wiggins could, even though for a long time he holds X+Y.
 
It's a combination of A & B. Traditional climbers usually have more difficulty with a high pace. It shuts down their legs so they can't attack and are prone to get dropped instead when trying to follow such pace. A traditional climber dances away, temporizes, then dances away again etc... They don't benefit at all from the train like tempo climbers do. So the concept would not make sense for the team of for instance Rodriguez, Pantani, Pozzovivo... Those tempo climbers need to get rid of these other climbers, because in a direct face off, they would not per se beat them. This way, the best tempo climber prevails.
 
Nov 2, 2009
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Bizarre that not a single one of the attacking type riders fired a shot. You would need two or three of them to derail the train but they all just tried to hang on instead.
 
Jul 4, 2009
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avanti said:
The further back in a train you are the more frequent acceleration and deceleration (braking) are required thus absorbing energy. I find riding in the first three or four places less tiring than riding further back.
...I think you may have hit the nail on the head....so here is a strategy that keeps the leading riders on a steady tempo but induces strength sapping tempo changes onto everyone else...and absolutely essential if the rider the train is protecting is not a natural climber but a tempo climber....so you keep your guy in a comfort zone and everybody else suffers...

...and here I will go out on a limb and say that tempo climbers should usually make better TTer's ( Indurain, Ullrich, Armstrong,Evans )...so the two elements generally required to win the Tour can be squeezed into one package...though there is one pretty notable exception such as Bert who is an explosive climber and ace TTer...

Cheers

blutto
 
swuzzlebubble said:
Bizarre that not a single one of the attacking type riders fired a shot. You would need two or three of them to derail the train but they all just tried to hang on instead.
I explained that in my post. The pace is too high, their legs are shutting down. These guys usually attack out of the saddle for a couple of hundred meters, but then they have to sit down. At that moment, they are going slower than the train. Then they need to get out of the saddle again etc... They will take only little time at great cost and it will not derail the train. The only thing that could derail the train, is if somebody that is a direct threat (Evans & Nibali) is strong enough to get away with a decent gap, and the guys in the train are not good enough to get him back. But if you look at how Froome pulls the train the last 2k, and still outsprints Evans...
 
Jun 22, 2011
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So, on this note could someone explain to me where the mistakes are in trains which seem to be (at least to me as a novice) set up in the right manner but achieve nothing.

As I watched it - and correct me if I've read it incorrectly - but Liquigas in the Giro seemed to try the train on about 4 of 5 different stages, one rider of theirs after another driving up the mountain at great pace, shedding plenty of riders out the back, until just Silvester Szmyd & Basso were left. Szmyd would peel off exhausted leaving Basso in front and Rodriguez, Hesjedal & Scarponi would then just ride off past him each day.

Even the Schleck teams often seemed to have O'Grady & Voight doing the same and Contador, Evans were then able to capitalise.

In those cases, where are they going wrong?
 

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