When did "protecting your podium spot" start?

rzombie1988

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Jul 19, 2009
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What was the general timeframe for when "protecting your podium spot" and "racing to not lose" become the norm? It feels like it really got popular around 2009ish and is definitely the norm today. However, watching 80s GT's, it clearly was not the case with people doing long attacks and taking risks to try and win. Are there any correlations with technological advances, doping controls and big contracts?
 
Jul 20, 2015
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Probably a similar time to when radios came in as it is so tough for riders to do real long range attacks/sneaking into a breakaway, as their rival will find out by radio and the team will just chase them down.

Would be interesting if the UCI banned radios and power meters in GT's, would be much harder to ride tempo then.

It's also the way of the modern world. Look at a lot of sports nowadays there aren't many attacking/aggressive teams/athletes, more likely to follow the saying "a good defence beats a good offense"
 
Time gaps were often a lot bigger in the 80s, plus the depth of the péloton was lesser; there weren't teams with a leader and eight superdomestiques in those days. Also as there was more time trial mileage in those days, the riders outside of the podium had to take more chances if they wanted to get there. The UCI points system that has been brought in has been another disaster because it favours high but anonymous placements over secondary jerseys or animation. Eric Boyer was calling this out years ago, pointing out that there were riders accumulating a few 4th and 5th places in sprints in races like Pologne and Eneco who were worth more WT points than David Moncoutié winning the KOM and the queen stage in both the Dauphiné and the Vuelta.

Now, protecting a podium spot I have less problem with, especially if the actual leader seems to be out of reach. It's the protection of meaningless GT positions that really annoys me. The example I always point to is stage 16 of the 2010 Tour, when Armstrong got into the break. After the climbs were over, Vaughters stuck Zabriskie and I believe Millar on the front of the bunch to go flat out, to pull the break back to under 7 minutes. Why? Because Chris Horner and Rubén Plaza were both in the break and were only about 7-8 minutes behind Ryder Hesjedal at that point. Ryder was in 10th place overall and climbing better than both of them in that race, and with a major MTF to follow the next day. Obviously that's an extreme example, but it shows the extent to which protecting your position has become important in these races. Rolland yelling at IAM earlier in the race springs to mind as well; riders like Pierre Rolland, who are secondary or tertiary GC riders willing to sacrifice a fringe top 10 for a shot at the podium, are being phased out in favour of a dozen Zubeldias.
 
Don't underestimate 10th place. Sponsors like it. It is a lot better for them to be able to say "We finished top 10 in the Tour" than "Well, eleventh...." Of course they would rather win or podium, but they probably also know that it is not possible.
 
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Libertine Seguros said:
Obviously that's an extreme example
An extreme example* would be De la Fuente getting into a break at the 2012 Vuelta to aim for a 2nd or 3rd place in the KOM classification.

*Of something superficially very different but which happened because of the same root causes.
 
Aug 16, 2011
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I'd assume this had become more prevalent with it getting easier to play the tactics game. More riders, race radios, greater depth to teams, certain teams being able to buy the best riders, etc.

Furthermore, when you have a guy like Froome, who pretty much takes complete charge of the race, it seems like beating him will be impossible. So riders and teams decide to just protect their podium spot at all costs instead of risking losing it by trying to beat him.
 
Jul 20, 2015
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Afrank said:
I'd assume this had become more prevalent with it getting easier to play the tactics game. More riders, race radios, greater depth to teams, certain teams being able to buy the best riders, etc.

Furthermore, when you have a guy like Froome, who pretty much takes complete charge of the race, it seems like beating him will be impossible. So riders and teams decide to just protect their podium spot at all costs instead of risking losing it by trying to beat him.
But why would riders decide with 4 mountain stages left that they can't beat him. I hate the saying in the old days but even as close as the 90's riders would have believed they can chase 3/4 minutes in 4 mountain stages nd several holy stages
 
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gazr99 said:
But why would riders decide with 4 mountain stages left that they can't beat him. I hate the saying in the old days but even as close as the 90's riders would have believed they can chase 3/4 minutes in 4 mountain stages nd several holy stages
Because there's less variety in stages now, there are more superteams, Froome has super strong riders he can expend as domestiques, and because there's no variation in the stages to come AND the hardest MTF is placed last, riders will not have faith they can take time they won't lose again.

Compare the 2009 Vuelta with the 2010 Vuelta. Both had a triple-header of big mountain stages back to back.

2009 had the biggest multiple-mountain stage first, the queen stage second, and a finish on a super-steep ramp 3rd. Because of the fear of the time that would be lost in the second and third of those, they soft-pedalled the first (next to no gaps), raced conservatively until late on in the second, and because it was a one-climb stage the gaps in the third were small. The break took all three.

2010 had the toughest MTF in the middle, the steepest MTF first and the queen stage last. Because the first MTF was so steep, time gaps were opened already, then even though it was a one-climb stage, the Covadonga MTF caused gaps to open. This meant that the time gaps were already there to mean attacks on the final one. In the end the Cotobello stage was tame from the favourites, but the design and pacing of the triple mountain stage was far superior resulting in better racing across all three stages.
 
Jul 20, 2015
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Re: Re:

Libertine Seguros said:
gazr99 said:
But why would riders decide with 4 mountain stages left that they can't beat him. I hate the saying in the old days but even as close as the 90's riders would have believed they can chase 3/4 minutes in 4 mountain stages nd several holy stages
Because there's less variety in stages now, there are more superteams, Froome has super strong riders he can expend as domestiques, and because there's no variation in the stages to come AND the hardest MTF is placed last, riders will not have faith they can take time they won't lose again.

Compare the 2009 Vuelta with the 2010 Vuelta. Both had a triple-header of big mountain stages back to back.

2009 had the biggest multiple-mountain stage first, the queen stage second, and a finish on a super-steep ramp 3rd. Because of the fear of the time that would be lost in the second and third of those, they soft-pedalled the first (next to no gaps), raced conservatively until late on in the second, and because it was a one-climb stage the gaps in the third were small. The break took all three.

2010 had the toughest MTF in the middle, the steepest MTF first and the queen stage last. Because the first MTF was so steep, time gaps were opened already, then even though it was a one-climb stage, the Covadonga MTF caused gaps to open. This meant that the time gaps were already there to mean attacks on the final one. In the end the Cotobello stage was tame from the favourites, but the design and pacing of the triple mountain stage was far superior resulting in better racing across all three stages.
Super teams aren't a brand new thing though. For example how strong was the La Vie Clare team in the mid-80's?

I take your point on how the race is planned, for the last few years the Vuelta has been my favourite race as you tend to see much more aggressive riding but this could be to do with it being the last chance to win for most GC riders

I stick by the idea sport generally focuses more on negative tactics than ever before and that radios & power meters should be banned. I think that should at least tempt some riders to be more aggressive
 
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hrotha said:
Libertine Seguros said:
Obviously that's an extreme example
An extreme example* would be De la Fuente getting into a break at the 2012 Vuelta to aim for a 2nd or 3rd place in the KOM classification.

*Of something superficially very different but which happened because of the same root causes.
Similarly Coquard in 2014 Tour kept going for intermediate sprints because he wanted to be second behind Peter Sagan.
 
One of the first examples I can think of a team directly protecting a podium place was CSC in the 2004 TdF. Basso was 2nd behind Armstrong towards the end of the second week when Ullrich started attacking everywhere, desperate to make up time. I remember Voigt even being pulled from the break to come and help Basso chase Ullrich down on one of the MTF stages because US Postal were struggling to make up the time.
 
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Libertine Seguros said:
Time gaps were often a lot bigger in the 80s, plus the depth of the péloton was lesser; there weren't teams with a leader and eight superdomestiques in those days. Also as there was more time trial mileage in those days, the riders outside of the podium had to take more chances if they wanted to get there. The UCI points system that has been brought in has been another disaster because it favours high but anonymous placements over secondary jerseys or animation. Eric Boyer was calling this out years ago, pointing out that there were riders accumulating a few 4th and 5th places in sprints in races like Pologne and Eneco who were worth more WT points than David Moncoutié winning the KOM and the queen stage in both the Dauphiné and the Vuelta.

Now, protecting a podium spot I have less problem with, especially if the actual leader seems to be out of reach. It's the protection of meaningless GT positions that really annoys me. The example I always point to is stage 16 of the 2010 Tour, when Armstrong got into the break. After the climbs were over, Vaughters stuck Zabriskie and I believe Millar on the front of the bunch to go flat out, to pull the break back to under 7 minutes. Why? Because Chris Horner and Rubén Plaza were both in the break and were only about 7-8 minutes behind Ryder Hesjedal at that point. Ryder was in 10th place overall and climbing better than both of them in that race, and with a major MTF to follow the next day. Obviously that's an extreme example, but it shows the extent to which protecting your position has become important in these races. Rolland yelling at IAM earlier in the race springs to mind as well; riders like Pierre Rolland, who are secondary or tertiary GC riders willing to sacrifice a fringe top 10 for a shot at the podium, are being phased out in favour of a dozen Zubeldias.
I remember that stage when Garmin chased down that break for that reason. I remember thinking how stupid it was.

The World Tour Points has a ton to do with it. Its one of the reasons you see guys trying to hold on to a 4th or 5th on a stage. I dont remember exactly, but isn't some basis of requirements of riders in the World RR Championships is having a certain number of riders to score points. SO if this is the case, and your one of those less represented countries, then just getting that 5th place out of an escape will net you a point and put you on the board. I could be wrong about this.

I think the point system is too skewed to a GC table. Take a look at Greipel, Sagan, and Matthias Frank. Griepel has earned a total of 70 points (3 stages wins and a 2nd). Sagan has earned 72 points (5 2nds, 2 3rds, 2 4ths, and a 5th on stages) I think that is fairly fair with each other in terms of worth, Griepel has the wins, but Sagan has the consistency of being up there. Matthias Frank though, will earn the 72 points right now as Sagan (70 for being 8th on GC and 2 for a 5th place stage finish). Keep in mind, that he doesn't have another stage result in the Top 15 (Not including TTT).

I know a Top 10 result for Matthias Frank and IAM cycling would be a great achievement for them, so I don't want to knock them on it. He just happen to be in the right position to use in this example.

IN fact, Everybody talks about how 1 TDF stage win is life altering for a cyclist, all the effort to get there. Well that 1 stage win in the TDF is worth the same value as a 14th place finish on GC, taken up by Pierre Rolland right now. WIll a 14th place be life altering for anyone? BTW, Samuel Sanchez is 13th, which is worth 80 pts I believe, and his highest finishes on stages is a 12th and a 20th.
 
rzombie1988 said:
What was the general timeframe for when "protecting your podium spot" and "racing to not lose" become the norm? It feels like it really got popular around 2009ish and is definitely the norm today. However, watching 80s GT's, it clearly was not the case with people doing long attacks and taking risks to try and win. Are there any correlations with technological advances, doping controls and big contracts?
You have to protect your position before you can improve it. ;)
 
rzombie1988 said:
What was the general timeframe for when "protecting your podium spot" and "racing to not lose" become the norm? It feels like it really got popular around 2009ish and is definitely the norm today. However, watching 80s GT's, it clearly was not the case with people doing long attacks and taking risks to try and win. Are there any correlations with technological advances, doping controls and big contracts?
Nice thread.

Most deinitely 2009ish. I can even pinpoint the moment; the climb. It was the Col Del La Colombiere.

Three years earlier, on the same climb, riders didn't even care about protecting the top spot on the podium :D
 
rzombie1988 said:
What was the general timeframe for when "protecting your podium spot" and "racing to not lose" become the norm? It feels like it really got popular around 2009ish and is definitely the norm today. However, watching 80s GT's, it clearly was not the case with people doing long attacks and taking risks to try and win. Are there any correlations with technological advances, doping controls and big contracts?
Yes, riders have been fighting to protect their podium places for decades. Felice Gimondi actually took pride in being best of the rest once Merckx's dominance became evident, knowing he would once-in-a-blue-moon be able to beat him. There's a nice Italian poster somewhere out there in the interweb thing from his runner-up finish to Merckx in 1972 that features him almost as prominently as Merckx and touts his second place. Considering guys like Fuente and Ocana were other contenders, it was an accomplishment. Hinault put the fear of God into Urs Zimmerman before one stage in 1986 to make sure he didn't drop to third on the podium. Kelly and Roche battled for that last podium spot in 1985.
 
Apr 3, 2011
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As Sir Jonathan of Vaughters said in his famous classic race radio one-liner: If it's sprint for second, it's sprint for second. (= do not chase and risk to eventually tow others to the line)
 
Jul 20, 2010
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Hi this is a good topic for discussion and one thats been on my mind for a long time. IMO I think the "attitude" towards securing a podium or in other words, a "Good" results as opposed to the best result is prevalent not only in cycling but pretty much in all sports and even in all walks of life nowadays. To me, this is the consequence of the ever increasing "Professionalism" of sports and the changing attitudes of the people participating in it to be more professional. For me the very definition of it, conjures an image of a corporate office work where you are rewarded for being quite good but also highly consistent day in and day out. No more are you rewarded for abandoning the process, going for a hail mary or for throwing the kitchen sink!!!

Well, what does this mean. To me Sagan's efforts to get a stage win is a great showcase of how a athlete should "go for it". Now as is obvious, he is going after it come hell or highwater, stage after stage, and putting in enough efforts at the same time not compromising the Green jersey. This is awesome to see. Now let's suppose (as example) a case arises where it comes down to the last 2 stages and Sagan's efforts to win a stage are fruitless but he is dangerously close to losing the Green, then IMO he should work on protecting the Green (Podium). In such an instance, fans will completely support him protecting his podium, knowing full well that he gave his all to get a stage win on the previous 19 stages. This is what's missing with Nairo and AV. Just poor attitude and mentality in my opinion.

People like Sagan, VN, AC (maybe even CF) are pretty rare in today's sports.

In Tennis for instance, nobody outside of the Top 3 have really made any serious attacks in the majors in the past 12 years. IMO for very much the same reason. The only person who comes to mind who threw the kitchen sink at it everytime he competed was Andy Roddick. He wasn't succesful but not for want of effort. The person before that?....Goran Ivanisevic. Regardless of where he was ranked or how his year was going, he would throw everything at getting that WImby win. And when he finally did, he was actually Unseeded player!!!

Anyways, ....long post.
 
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wwabbit said:
Started really noticing it when Contador was riding to protect Michael Roger's podium spot back in the last 2 stages of 2013 Criterium du Dauphine
Surely that's an example, but in Rogers case, I don't really think it was a problem at all. Unlike Nairo/Movistar, Rogers would never stand a chance of beating Froome. 3rd place for Rogers would already be an overachievement considering the great competition of that year's Dauphine.
Anyways, I agree that it's a relatively new phenomenon to ride for 2nd/3rd, although it was also seen during the Lance years with riders like Basso/Klöden content by sitting 2nd. Beloki was another kind though.
 
Like someone else said, its been around for a long time. I started noticing it more in 2000.
I also agree with others that UCI points are part of it, and sponsors wanting to say "on the podium" or " top ten".
Had Tejay not gotten sick, I guarantee you that teams orders were to protect 3rd, and only go for it if the perfect situation occurs.
 

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