End of the Race Tactics ???

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I’ve been trying to watch, at least watch the end, some of the early season road racing going on recently.  The racing seems pretty good, but when it gets down to the end of some of the races, it’s like the whole race tactics go out the window.

Take yesterdays finish at the E3.  The break is formed on a hard cobble climb, the Oude Kwaremont, and Peter Sagan climbs up to Geraint Thomas and Zdenek Stybar.  That is all she wrote.  BMC was chasing, but Greg Van Avermaet, their team leader, forgot how to corner, fell, then that was over.

Anyway, you can tell Sagan isn’t pedalling round.  He looks labored and seems to be the weakest of the 3.  A little over 4 km to go, Thomas jumps from the back and that was it.  One and out.

I was trying to figure out why Peter Sagan would keep pulling, never sitting out a rotation, when he was completely done and knew he didn’t have even one jump in his legs?  He knew it, Thomas knew it, and probably even Stybar knew it.

Was he hoping that those two wouldn’t attack him if he kept pulling?  That would have been silly.  Everyone knew he was the fastest sprinter.  Did he keep pulling because he was racing for 3rd and wanted to get closer to the finish before the attacks (attack) happened?  That didn’t work.

Was he pulling because he realized the race was being streamed live and he wanted to keep his sponsors jersey on the camera?  That makes sense, sort of.  That is the only thing I could come up with.

If I’m in a break, and am racing to win, when I realize I’m getting weak, or the other guys in the break are better, I try to figure out a way to still win.  I don’t keep rotating through with the others, like everything is great.

One rule you have to have in bike racing, especially when you’re in a break, you never pull so hard that you don’t always have a jump in you.  You have to assume that will always occur and that you just look dumb, and should feel silly, if you get popped with one attack.  And that is exactly what happened to Sagan.

The same thing happened towards the finish of the Dwars door Vlaanderen last week.  Michal Kwiatkowski and Cannondale-Garmin’s Dylan Van Baarle were with two riders from the Belgian Pro Continental team, Topsport Vlaanderen.  Once again, one jump, no reaction, then excuses in the press.  Kwiatkowski blamed Van Baarle, but if you watch the finish, neither of them jumped when attacked.

This wasn’t a case of pulling for TV, this was a case of, either being naive about finishes of bike races, or just lazy.  Two guys on one team, with a guy sitting on, and one jump at a km to go and it’s over.

I can somewhat understand why Domencio Pozzovivo won stage 3 in Catalunya.  It was another case of one attack and done.    He’d been sitting on for a long time and attacked with 2 km to go.  Cannondale/Garmin had two guys in the group of 7 or so, with Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky.  Guess they didn’t want to win the stage or put more time on some of the distanced GC guys. But, I guess they didn’t want to spend any energy chasing him down to try to win the stage.

Anyway, the end of the E3 race perplexes me the most.   Sagan should have been able to sense his situation and tried to adapt.  He should have parked himself on the wheel of Thomas and done everything in his ability to stay there.  But, no, he kept rotating, only to get shelled instantly, to eventually finish 30th, losing 1:15 in the that 2.5 miles.  Guess he really was tired.






16 thoughts on “End of the Race Tactics ???

  1. Charlie

    “This wasn’t a case of pulling for TV, this was a case of, either being naive about finishes of bike races, or just lazy.” Or greedy. Maybe there was an agreement. Any way you look at it, it’s either stupid or corrupt. Anyone who has ever raced on any level and gained any tactical nous at all can look at these finishes and come to the conclusion that something just doesn’t add up.

  2. scott

    dwars finish was fascinating, insomuch as it shows even world champions can make really dumb decisions – Kwiatkowski must have realized how it would play out, and clearly seemed the strongest guy in the break. I assumed he would have made an effort with 2k to go, in hopes of getting rid of at least one of the topsport guys. I’m not sure if they were using radios, but we’d see a lot more of these blunders if they were disconnected, which would be great.

  3. channel_zero

    Yeah, I don’t know. Apparently Thomas’ plan at MSR was to bury himself as a test. Maybe Sagan is doing something similar? There’s no obvious explanation.

    Dwars Door was great. IMO, there were assumptions the second-tier team would fall apart. Topsport went 1-2 on team tactics. What a great finish.

  4. euro

    I think something is seriously wrong with Sagan. Either mentally or physically. I will be shocked if he wins another race this entire season.

  5. Hamish

    I think Sagan is riding scared. Scared of Oleg. Silly riding in E3. Also when he was off the front in MSR. Not smart in that particular situation. Oleg I think is in his head too much. Too embarrassed to admit his mistake in not eating enough in E3. Fumbling for food at 7k to go. Too late. Game over.

  6. jp

    PS looks bulky now too may not be in very good shape, not sure how great he is looking on his bike either, perhaps he felt he should continue to contribute even though he was not feeling it, like in terms of not wanting to make enemies and be accused of sitting on, I never saw any shame in that, if that is the best way to make it and still have a decent result at the end, then that’s what you should do. I think he will win again, there is a lot more racing to go.

  7. El Jabón

    Sagan rode well. The other two knew they had a race-winning gap and could’ve distanced Sagan. Sagan hung on to get third. The “bad racing” is just logical. The pack let the break get away so why would they rush to make up 40 seconds. Completely logical.

  8. James

    What Hamish said. We have no idea what is happening being the scene of that team’s mess. I think PS was just desperate to get a gap opened up to hold on to 3rd.

  9. Steve Tilford Post author

    El Jabón – Did you see a different race? Sagan did finish with a 3 in his results, you just have to add a 0 after it to get to the place he finished in the E3.

  10. El Jabón

    Ha! Thanks for the correction. Realized that I watched this stream live from all that distance away. Cool beans.

  11. mike crum

    “BMC was chasing, but Greg Van Avermaet, their team leader, forgot how to corner, fell, then that was over.”
    what a fucked up comment on your part!!!!! you never fell have you steve? bet GVA rides time trials..

  12. Larry T.

    It’s tempting to shake a fist at the sky and yell “These young whippersnappers don’t know how to race because the DS is always yelling at them through the earpiece!” but ya gotta wonder. I’m wondering if Sagan is showing the effects of no longer having the trainer Paolo Slongo. Bobby Julich is running his show now at the Stinkoff soap opera. I hope Sagan, Pistolero and the rest have their salaries secured in some way in case the whole thing goes belly-up. Same with Astana.

  13. Touriste-Routier

    Wouldn’t you say that Dwars door was rather text book? I don’t think it is safe to assume that neither Kwiatkowski nor Van Baarle didn’t have a jump left in them. TSV did exactly what they should have done; they had superiority in numbers and played their cards well; the opposite of what we have saw in in Het Nieuwsblad, where EQS got it all wrong .

    Kwiatkowski knew he was marked as the favorite, and tried bluffing Van Baarle into taking up the chase, only Van Baarle didn’t. If either of them did jump, and if the gap was closed, the text book would have seen Theuns counter-attack. Maybe they had 1 jump left, and not 2, maybe they were both cooked…

    It is often said in order to win, you need to risk losing, and it doesn’t always work out in your favor. That is exactly what happened to Kwiatkowski; you roll the dice, you take your chances. I think he has the added pressure of the rainbow jersey, and he is still a very young rider. Did he blow it? Maybe. But my gut says he knew he wouldn’t win if he did the chasing, so he played the card he had, which didn’t work either.


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