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Help me understand the Tour!(4 posts)

Help me understand the Tour!Carleton
Jul 8, 2003 5:52 PM
I'm just gettin started in road biking. I'm an avid mountain biker, but I decided to ride road to get into shape. I decided to watch this year's tour de france, and I'm a little confused. I know some very basic stuff about road racing, and I understand that it's not necessary to win all the stages to win the tour, and that teamates focus on helping their "star" rider or something like that. I'm just confused on why Lance isn't in the lead right now, and why it doesn't seem to bother anyone. I understand that he doesnt need to win all the stages, but I don't think he has won any of them so far (correct me if I'm wrong). Shouldn't he be starting to go for the first place position? or does he wait till much later in the race to take the lead? Also, I understand that Lance is an incredible rider, the best in the world, right? But from watching the race, and listening to the commentators, it seems like the team does a lot of work to get Lance into the winning position, but doesnt get anything out of it individually. Is it a sacrifice for the good of the team sort of thing? Any hepful input to let me understand the race better would be great, thanks!
re: Help me understand the Tour!gbr3000
Jul 8, 2003 6:43 PM
Since you've been watching the tour, you must have noticed the 3 crashes in as many stages at the finish. Sprinting is very hard and requieres a lot of bike handling skill, something climbers arent really known for. At any rate, the biggest reason Lance isnt in the lead is mostly because, these stages are layed out in favor of the sprinters, you'll notice that as the tour goes on, he'll have plenty of time to make up whatever is lost now in the mountains. Also, many of the sprinters will be dropping back and losing time as well, helping Lance gain more of a lead. As for the teams helping their best rider, that is basically their job. The domestiques basic purpose is to protect Lance or whoever the team leader is. While they wont win the stage for him, they help a great deal in getting the team leader into a position to win. Its sometimes thankless job, but the domestiques play as important of a role in any tour victory as the winner himself does.
re: Help me understand the Tour!Velojon
Jul 8, 2003 11:21 PM
It's all about cumulative time. There have been TDF's won by riders who didn't win any stagas at all -- I believe this happened to Greg LeMond in 1990. Consistency in all stages, particularly the stages that see large time gaps between riders like time trials and mountain stages, is where it's at.
why bust your ass to win seconds on flat stagesrufus
Jul 9, 2003 9:28 AM
when you can take minutes in the time trials and the mountains?

the early stages of the tour are all about staying out of trouble and not losing too much time to your main competitors. someone like zabel or mcewen could get in a breakaway and finish fifteen minutes ahead of armstrong and he wouldn't care, because they would lose those fifteen minutes on the first mountain stage.

there's basically three types of riders: sprinters, like mcewen or petacchi who can win the flat stages, but lose huge chunks of time in the mountains. climbers, like virenque or etchebarria who can make time in the hills, but will usually lose chunks of time in the time trials. and the all-rounders, the guys like armstrong and ulrich who can both climb and time trial well enough that they can make time in both disciplines, or at least limit their losses to seconds, not minutes.

there are maybe ten or fifteen riders who have a chance to win the whole tour, and as long as armstrong doesn't lose much time to any of them, as long as they are pretty close together on overall time, then everything's going well. if virenque takes off on the first mountain stage and gains three or four minutes on armstrong, he won't worry too much, as long as ulrich, beloki, botero and the other guys who have a chance at winning the tour also lose that time to him. all armstong's main challengers are still close to him in overall time, and he knows that he can make up that time on virenque on another mountain stage, or in a time trial.

now if ulrich were to get away and gain four or five minutes, then that would be a problem. which is why armstrong will keep a close eye on ulrich, and the rest of the overall contenders, and try not to allow them to gain that time on him. which is why avoiding crashes at this time is the top priority. it could be disaster if armstrong were involved in a crash, and all his main challengers avoided it and finished three or four minutes ahead. it's why simoni's chances at winning the tour are almost over already. he's about three minutes behind armstrong because of his teams poor team time trial, and he won't be able to make up that time on armstrong in time trials, and not that likely that he could drop armstrong in the mountains. but that's what he'll have to do if he wants a shot at winning. so look for him to attack once they get to the mountains.