GC Riders Sprinting

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I’ve never understood why people ride to the end of the race and don’t sprint at the finish. Especially during a stage race day after day. By this, I mean riders that have an ability to sprint in a situation that suits them. I don’t think that Cadel and Wiggins need to mix it up with Cavendish and Co. at the end of a field sprint. I mean stages were small groups are coming in for places 1-10. I truly understand the whole idea of trying conserve energy in a Grand Tour, but come on, one sprint/jump after 6 hours, when you’ve already done a ton of jumping and covering moves, can’t take that much energy. The mental fun of sprinting has to offset the small physical exertion. And why not try to win a little money too. Each day there’s €8,000 for the stage winner, €4,000 for second place and a decreasing scale down to €200 for 20th place. (Here’s a link to the complete prize breakdown.) So, you get about $250 to roll across the line in 20th. Nothing special, but it’s something.

I rode the British Milk race on a pretty star studded team the first year. It was Andy Hampsten, Alexi Grewal, Chris Carmichael, Steve Speaks, Matt Eaton and myself. Andy went on to win the Giro, the Alpe d’Huez stage of the Tour and lots of other races. Matt won the race that year. Alexi won the Olympic games. We all know Chris Carmichael. Anyway, a lot of the stages finished in sprints. Not all field sprints, but some sprints of small groups of less than 15 or 20. I finished 2nd on a couple stages that year and finished in the top 10 lots of times.

It completely amazed me when we were sprinting, I couldn’t believe how perfectly positioned that Alexi was each and every sprint up until the last 300 meters and then he just pulled the plug. If I could have started the sprints where Alexi was, when I needed to sprint, I would have won a couple stages at least. And Alexi was fast. Not many people knew that, but I’d been riding with Alexi since we were young juniors. (Steve Bauer, who was super fast himself, obviously didn’t know how fast Alexi was when he pulled Alexi to the finish line in the 1984 Olympic games.) He was really quick, but goofy. Goofy enough that he would duke it out to fight for position on a tricky Milk Race finish and not sprint. I’ll never understand the mindset.

It is kind of refreshing seeing Cadel sprint at the end of some the stages during this year’s Tour. I know he’d like to get a couple seconds here and there, but I also know that Cadel really just likes to race bikes and it is pretty cool seeing him sprint for almost no reason other than getting a stage place and win a little $$$$. It’s not like Wiggins didn’t have to put out just about as much energy keeping him reined in. Seems like a good trade off to me. It is bike racing.

Cadel having a little fun at the end of the stage. Photo: Laurent Rebours Brisbane Times

Alexi surprising just about everyone watching the race, including Steve Bauer, to win the Olympic Games in LA. I can’t not put in such a great photo.

7 thoughts on “GC Riders Sprinting

  1. Bart

    Sprinting for money, while under control is one thing. Lower category riders sprinting for pride capped off with a bike throw is another. More so when said sprint/bike throw ends up in a crash that takes down the rest of the field.

  2. Noel

    I have a buddy who has finished in the top ten of just about every race he has ever done, but almost never sprints for the podium. He has a picture of himself sitting up watching first and second sprint for the win in a cyclocross race from about twenty-five feet back on his Facebook. He’s been doing it for nearly thirty years. He always has an excuse as to why he didn’t win.

  3. Drew

    Couldn’t agree more with this- it is fun to see and it does make sense.

    Bart- What? Isn’t the reason people race bikes to test themselves against one another? Isn’t doing it purely for ‘sport’ more righteous than for money? You don’t race your buddies to town signs purely for joy? Besides that, if they don’t do it then when will they learn? I’m a newer road racer and a Cat 3 who was in a sprint this past weekend that was worth $350 cash (there were omnium points etc involved)… I was in perfect position got bumped by a rider trying to switch trains/surges and wound up with nothing… sure wish we had all gotten more practice in previous 3s, 4s and 5s races. I’m hoping it’s a learning experience that helps me when I’m fast enough that it “should” matter (by your reasoning).

  4. Jim Buckley

    As to Bart’s comment – I do see his point. While waiting for my race to start, I witnessed the field sprint during TOAD of a Masters 3/4 race. A crash occurred just after the line and I think one of the riders was hurt pretty bad. These guys were sprinting for maybe 20th place – no cash involved – and really no reason for it to have happened.

  5. Lee Spencer Wallace

    So if there is no chance for money then you should just really put on the brakes, pull over to the side of the road and stop the race where you are by that logic.

    It wasn’t the sprint that caused the crash I bet, but rather guys not knowing how to sprint in the bunch.

  6. devin

    I thought that it was Good to Cadel jump like that,, Showing team Posh that he was not going to roll over and die.. His team does not seem as strong but his will is.. Take the radio’s out and we may see more moves.. What would have happened yesterday if Team Sky did not Froome to slow down.


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