Tour Course Reconnaissance

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I’m watching NBC Sports and they just did a segment on the course reconnaissance by the Giant Shimano team. I found this somewhat ridiculous. Two guys in a car are driving around with their windows rolled up and are marking dangers on the map. Plus, they are trying to figure out where the wind is coming from, to relay it to the riders. This is crazy.

Let me tell you, if you’re a good enough rider to be racing the Tour de France, you should be able to figure out where the wind is from. There isn’t anything wrong with a team director telling their riders that there is a turn coming up, but riders need to be aware of where the wind is at all time.

Earlier, they did an interview with Tejay Van Garderen, and most of the questioning was about how he was handling the stress of the race and if he was feeling a little more settled in now. Let me tell you, having a radio in your ear with a team director telling you every crack in the road, every round about and where to be when adds a ton of stress.

I remember riding the Redlands Classic a long time ago and John Lieswyn was talking into his mic. He was saying something like, “Guys, be careful on this corner up ahead. There was sand in it last year.” I rode up to one of his team mates and asked him how he could stand the constant dribble during the race. He just pulled his ear piece out and said something like, this is how he normally has it.

Obviously, the Tour de France has gotten more and more dangerous recently. There are lots of reasons that this has happened. But, the riders and the teams themselves have to take a ton of the blame. The current riding style of the teams has made the race amazingly stressful, thus way more dangerous. Team directors mandating that at least half of their team ride at the front of the field, “protecting” their GC leader has caused most of the problems that are happening.

There is only enough room on the road for an X amount of riders. Not X + 1. And the current riding tactic nearly all of the teams is there wouldn’t be enough room if they were riding each stage on an interstate highway.

On these flat days, there have been tons and tons of crashing. Some of it is because the roads have been wet. But mostly it is because of way too many riders trying to hold the same position. Riders fighting for position when, historically, it hasn’t been important. The team directors have come up with this insane idea that having a all your riders at the front, it is safer. Obviously, that isn’t true, since team GC guys like Tejay have already fallen more than once already. The stressful race from the second you clip in at the start of the stage, day after day, for 3 weeks, has gotten us to this point, of where day after day, nearly everyone is at risk of crashing. It is just stupid.

The GC rider’s team fighting the sprinter’s teams for position. Right now, Sky is fighting Cannondale for the front. Sky, fighting for Ritchie Porte, now that Froome is gone. Wow, why? Cannondale is willing to pull to the finish, but they have to “fight” for the front with teams that have no intention of racing for the stage win.

This isn’t even addressing riders fighting for their team mates wheels. These guys riding in formation in the middle of the field is just absolutely stupid. It just doesn’t work at all. Jonathan Vaughters was being interviewed yesterday and he was saying something like his guys were doing a great job of riding together in the peleton, so it should be expected that they fall together. And the upside to that is what?

When I flew out to Colorado last year to observe the Garmin’s testing of Danielson and Vande Velde, all those guys could talk about was how afraid they were of crashing in two weeks at the Tour. Anywhere, at any time. Obviously, their concerns were real, since last year wasn’t much safer than this year.

I’m not sure how this all occurred. But, it isn’t working. Having CG riders, like Froome, crash out of the race on flat stages before the mountains, is not good for the sport. Too many guys not racing because they’re hurt. It just shows that this tactic isn’t working.

This is a photo from yesterday's stage, when they got into the side wind.  How many individual riders need to be pulling at the front of a bike race?  Obviously more than you'd think.

This is a photo from yesterday’s stage, when they got into the side wind. How many individual riders need to be pulling at the front of a bike race? Obviously more than you’d think.

21 thoughts on “Tour Course Reconnaissance

  1. Jacob

    Literally as I am reading this, I watch TJ go down while jockeying for position at the front of the peloton, on a straight road. Unreal.

  2. channel_zero

    Look at it another way, if a team knows that a cross wind is coming up after the next turn, that’s a huge tactical advantage. That’s not advocating rider radios, but just the way it is.

    Should team radios be forbidden? Yes. Absolutely.

    Before another post claiming there is some safety benefit, Steve’s post explains well how they increase safety. My only compromise would be to have a one-way broadcast of race radio to riders. There’s your safety.

    Not surprised TJ has fallen, again. Apparently the guy needs to spend lots more time on basic skills and staying at the front.

  3. VCScribe

    Did Tejay actually answer any questions? He’s been pretty closed-mouth so far. Probably strategically well-advised. Bad TV, though.

  4. Ron

    I agree with Steve, something has to give when every team is told to surround their leader and get to the front. Why do some of these guys not feel confident enough to go with the flow? Not enough racing days? There will always be risk takers, but if the head of the race weren’t so clogged up there would be more room to move around.

  5. lemon badger

    The landscape has changed.

    Drugs reduced the variance of abilities – hard to forget the old postal leadouts from bottom to near top of the climbs.

    A certain rider had a great story, bring more popularity and resulting money. The money went to developing huge team infrastructure targeted at one race. And the team tactic is to keep your rider in position not to lose the race.

    Team radio makes it all easier to coordinate the team to ride so nothing “bad” happens. All run from the directors car. Why not just race robots.

    I only bother to watch Flanders and Roubaix, where the terrain blows apart the teams for the most part, and the individuals have to ride for the win. The tours are super boring. Radio is not going away. Drugs, well… I think I’d rather see 30 four man teams that might make it a riders race again.

  6. todd Buckley

    Mike Creed said the crap about Steve, not Frankie. Then he goes on to say it is ok to dive inside on a corner if he calls it out. Who is Mike Creed anyway. Even I beat him in a race and I am nobody.

  7. chris

    Yesterday Jens Voight said essentially the same thing in a short interview as what Tilford’s been discussing here. Try again.

  8. Mike Rodose

    Mike Creed is a sanctimonius prick. 2nd-tier abilities with top-tier mouth.

    Entitled, jealous, victim.

    Oh. And he’s Skeletor.

    So there.

  9. bizarro tilford

    You sound jealous, bet you’d have a nut cut off for a fingernail of Creed’s race resume

  10. Mike Rodose


    Tilford is well qualified to comment. His insight, from years of professional racing in Europe and the USA, is keen and spans decades.

    You sir, are no Tilford. You are a Bobber. And you ride like shit. Like a Bobber.

  11. le heckleur

    nasty crash in the sprint again today….Gerrans involved again. coincidence? or what the fuck is he doing contesting the sprint (again)?

  12. Mike Rodose

    No and Yes. Not a coincidence, and yes, Gerrans has proven himself dangerous and unworthy in the final sprint.

    His arrogance, sprinting incompetence and ego make it a dangerous finale for all!

    Common denominator is Gerrans.

    Gerrans is to cycling what a Goon is to hockey.

  13. catwalberg

    Bob, when someone can do what most can’t, it makes it easy to characterize the skill as sketchy. Sorry. Some are better a bike handling than others. We don’t race to the lowest, common denominator.

  14. Tom

    I appreciate the various viewpoints re: the strategy of keeping an organized team at the front of the peloton from a competitive standpoint. But I wonder how much affect the marketing side factors in………yes I hate to even consider it. But when you consider the $$$$$ sponsors pour into supporting the teams is there pressure simply to keep their “brand” visible. And what position is most visible? How many more times is the team name mentioned to a national and sometimes world wide audience when riding in clear view at the front of the peloton? Yes, the win is nice, but sponsors know that every second of the race is an opportunity for exposure. I hate to think that marketing may influence “best strategy and tactics”, but it may be a factor. Team Directors are under pressure both to perform and market the brand/team name. And I’m not saying do away with sponsorships- they have obviously obviously been important to the sport and certainly helped raise interest and participation in the states. Just my thought on a rainy Saturday morning.

  15. Calvin Jones

    It would be interesting if cycling had better data on competitive racing. With all the data capture from cranks, pedals, etc, we don’t know how many crashes occur or their causes. The US DOT is gathering data for the bicyclist in the USA, but this does not (I believe) include incidents in racing. Baseball might be the best in gathering data, much probably useless, but we seem to be off the back, as it were. Anecdotal stories are fun but hardly the basis of rule or policy changes, but that is all we have. USAC and NICA both require “incident forms” but these are primarily for CYA and insurance issues. Along this same vein, I would like to see, like MBL & NFL, the tracking of race officials as the calls they make. Open up that smokey room UCI, clear the air.

    Team radios: Coaches want to coach, and can you blame them? Still, I found this victory photo funny, sans ear radio.

  16. Dog

    That was the touch of a butt, not an arm. It is totally common to make person-to-person contact such as this within the peloton. I’ve had my ass patted lots of time (and liked it!) as someone begins to move alongside me. I’ve touched my share of asses as well. But our sport’s new generation of loners (who often refuse to do club / group rides) seem to freak out when someone so much as looks at them funny. Learn to handle your bike and learn that possibly “getting touched” is a part of the sport. Races are different than group rides, and situations regularly develop where (even if not by choice) you’ll be overlapping wheels.

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