cycling for dummies

Aug 24, 2009
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it was only this last tour de france that i fell in love with cycling. before that, all i knew was what i read in newspapers, which wasn't much since cycling isn't that popular where i live - i knew most of the big names and i knew the results of most important races. but, to be honest, i didn't know anything about tactics. hell, i didn't even know there was that much tactics, i thought they were just racing each other and thats it, much like swimming or athletics. but then, as i said, this last summer i watched tour de france, and i guess it wasn't spectacular, but i really like it all, mostly thanks to eurosport commentators who were, in my opinion very interesting and knew very much [well, i guess that's relative, from my point of view they did know a lot].
so, to get to the point finally, i still don't understand everything. i've been reading this forum and loving it, it helps a lot, but i still have some, totally newbie qustions.
for example, you say that some team is working very a lot for its leader - how do you know it? i know it sounds stupid, really, but there you go :)
i understand how are they working when they are in the lead, as vinokourov and other guys from astana were this weekend, but other than that, how much work there is and how do you see it?
ok, now i have written this post that is way too long [i hope someone will read :) ] and i forgot what else i wanted to ask. damn.
i guess i will update later.
but anyway, if there is anything that you think newbie should know, and you have time to write it - it would be more than welcome. and imagine you are explaining it to a 6 years old :D

sorry if the post is too long or whatever.
it's great and interesting forum here
 
Welcome to the forum!

There are a lot of tactical heads here--but I'm not one. Mostly, I understand teammates as providing that engine-at-the-front support to control a race that you mentioned, a shepherding role to help keep their captain well placed in the bunch, and a material support role (fetching bottles, food, sacrificing one of their own wheels if the captain flats, etc.).

So there's that. Tune in to the forum during a race to hear commentary on the tactics in progress. The members will also provide links to feeds so you'll be able to watch races that aren't broadcast in your area--although, with Eurosport, I don't imagine you have that problem.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Welcome to the forum, slim.

I think there are enough people on the forum with great cycling knowledge and who are happy to help you out. I believe many would agree that to understand cycling, you have to watch a lot of races. Like with any sport, the more you see it, the better you are at observing the qualities each athlete has, and in case of team sports, how tactics and team work contribute to overall results.

You have also come at the right time, the season is still young, and there are many races you can watch (live) on TV or via internet feeds. If you want to know more, check in once in a while to read the forum and get the latest. You'll see for example that the classics are a totally different discipline or experience than the stage races or grand tours.

To get back to your question and I am rephrasing "how do you know a team or certain individuals work for a team leader?"

I think it is difficult to answer that question without any context. Ie, the race (1-day race, stage race), the profile, the time of the year, the team leader's qualities, all of these elements determine who the race leader (if any at all), who is supposed to help and how.

Most often, 1-2 leaders on the team have to do the least througout the race, to conserve energy which would enable them to win the stage or the race.

That means team mates are picked and added to the roster who have specific qualities (climbers, rouleurs, sprinters, time trialists). To give some examples:

-Some will help set-up a sprint (form a train) and accelerate to top speed to launch their sprinters,
-others will pace the peloton and chase down escapees,
-some will set the pace on hills or major climbs for example to drop other contenders, or to protect the team leader (drafting),
-some will be on the team leader's side 24/7 to guide them trough the peloton and/or to let the leader draft
-many will have to fetch water bottles, so they'll have to drop off the back, get in between the cars, load up 8 bottles and then return to the peloton.

Tactically there are other options such as sending a strong team mate ahead, who can then be used to provide support to a leader in the final phase of the race. Having an extra (strong) team mate ahead, could give you an advantage over a team that doesn't have a helper. This extra man can chase, swap out a wheel in case of a puncture, get water/food etc. Tactically, outnumbering other teams in the last phase will also enable the team with multiple riders in the front, to attack repeatedly, forcing their competitors to waste efforts to chase him down. If they don't chase him down, one of them will be gone an take the stage.

As you can see, there are many ways someone can help the team or the team leader to secure a victory, or at least increase the team's chances to do so.

keep asking questions!
 
Bala Verde did an really good run down on alot of the different situations where the team is helping a leader. The one thing I would like to add pertains to your question about how to see when a team is helping their leader.

Most of the time it is very obvious that a team is helping someone. One rule is that noone sits in the wind at the head of the peloton unless they have a reason to be there. If no team has a specific reason to do any work then the unwritten rule is that it's the team of the race leader who should be up front holding the pace.

But then there is the other work that Bala Verde talked about like protecting the leader and grabbing water bottles for the team etc. These are things that we usually don't see simply because the cameras don't focus much on those things. Also we must remember that huge parts of each race are not televised. Alot of the work a team does for a leader happens in the first 150km of the race before the live coverage starts. The idea is that the leader for example should not spend any unnecessary energy at all so that there is energy left for the end of the race. When the televised portion starts then half the team has possibly already done their job for the day and they are never seen.
 
Oct 29, 2009
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To avoid reiterating what was already said, I just encourage you to ask more questions. Some of us have vastly different viewpoints and come from all over the world; I think you could learn a lot from many of the users in these forums. We talk about tactics, races, and different riders and/or teams. If you have a question about something, just chime in; somebody will be glad to answer. Welcome to the forum...

By the way, do you ride at all? No worries if not, I'm just curious.
 
Mar 13, 2009
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Good posts, one thing to note, to make sense of tactics is the effect drafting has. Riding behind close behind another rider means you use 70% of the power they do at the same pace, if you happen to be in a group the guy in the middle uses only 60%. This is why all of these tactics happen in cycling and not in athletics.
 
Jul 14, 2009
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The world wide web and cable TV have also changed racing completely. Guys go flying off the front and just bury it for miles.They race to get photos and video of themselves all over the place.Like silly rabbits. The amount of photography(still and video) dedicated to guys that never win and are no factor in the race outcome is overwhelming. Races that have good coverage on TV are raced differently than smaller races that have little press coverage. Previously working riders often had careers with no attention, now there is a whole world were a guy with no results can have 1000's follow his tweets or buy some product that he promotes. The amount of super stars is about the same but to look at the coverage you would think that the pack is populated by World Champs and TDF winners.
 
Aug 13, 2009
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One of the best ways to learn the tactics of the Pro game is watch the next few weeks of races. They are the best races of the year and can be super tactical.
 
Aug 24, 2009
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thanks a lot everyone :)
i will certainly watch whatever whatever race is on this weekend, and read the forum at the same time. and probably have more questions after that, right now nothing crosses my mind.

By the way, do you ride at all? No worries if not, I'm just curious
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yes i do. i mean, not much, every couple of days i do, if the weather is good [which it wasn't, until couple of days ago].

I learned a lot playing PCM!!
yeah, i have the game too, just didn't have the time to play it as much as i wanted :)
 
Aug 6, 2009
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karlboss said:
Good posts, one thing to note, to make sense of tactics is the effect drafting has. Riding behind close behind another rider means you use 70% of the power they do at the same pace, if you happen to be in a group the guy in the middle uses only 60%. This is why all of these tactics happen in cycling and not in athletics.
I Really think this is the key to understanding nearly everything about bike racing. In terms of working for someone that could mean bringing back a breakaway. If the leader had to do it himself he'd have to get out into the wind and exhaust himself, so his team does it for him.

Another example would be Breschels win in Dwaars Door Vlanderen. he broke away with 22 k to go and he could have been brought back if the pursuers had worked together. After all Breschel was alone and had to fight against the wind all by himself while his pursuers could have shared the work. The problem is that whoever worked hard to bring Breschel back would have been out in the wind and to exhausted to win against the other pursuers who had worked less hard.

Cancellara (Breschels Team mate) was particularly crucial here, because he obviously would do no work at all pursuing Breschel, but each time a serious threat to Breschel attacked he'd get on their wheel. Now that wouldn't prevent anyone from ignoring Cancellara and still catching Breschel, but if say Boonen had drafted Cancellara all the way up to Breschel then Cancellara would have been fresh and could easily have counter-attacked and dropped Boonen.
 
Cerberus said:
Another example would be Breschels win in Dwaars Door Vlanderen. he broke away with 22 k to go and he could have been brought back if the pursuers had worked together. After all Breschel was alone and had to fight against the wind all by himself while his pursuers could have shared the work. The problem is that whoever worked hard to bring Breschel back would have been out in the wind and to exhausted to win against the other pursuers who had worked less hard.
Yep, and this also helps explain how a group of sa 5-6 riders can stay away from a much larger group or the peloton itself. Sometimes people get hung up on which group is bigger but what really counts is how many riders are actually working and then of course how fresh at the legs of those guys.
 
Jul 22, 2009
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We don't get to see much of this, but there is alot of jostling within the peloton regarding who gets the superior positioning. Armstrong has benefitted from this most in tours past, but those days are gone. It will be particularly interesting to see who gains control of the peloton in this year's tour.

I particularly like to see what Riis is up to tactically. Love seeing Cancellera on an early breakaway during an epic mountain stage. Them boys have controlled much of the softening that goes on to set up the sclecks at the base of the climbs.
 
Oct 29, 2009
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slim charles said:
yes i do. i mean, not much, every couple of days i do, if the weather is good [which it wasn't, until couple of days ago].
Sounds familiar; that's how I got into it. It's good that you ride because if you get involved in a group, you learn a lot about tactics and the physics of cycling: how the draft works, etc. Eventually you'll recognize things as they happen in races. Hell, riding even gives you more of an appreciation of what the pros do.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Welcome Slim C ...

+1 on all the comments

(BUT a slim warning too) - there is a lot of biased opinions here too, please read them and at some point you will have to filter the real pearls of wisdom from the gunk that get posted too
 
Jul 17, 2009
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get fit. join a local club team and ride the weekly group rides. learning what it takes to stay with the pack and take a turn at the front is half of it IMHO
 

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