Friday, September 25, 2009

Grand Tour Racing...

So, what else bothers me about the recent Vuelta? And Tour, for that matter? The team tactics, that's what.

Now cycling at the pro level has always been a team sport. You don't win a grand tour simply because you are the strongest rider. After all, these days there are at least a half dozen guys who start a grand tour with the legs to win it. The guy who has the strongest team, with the DS (direttore sportivo - coach) who reads the race best and decides what to do each km of each stage, who is 'protected' on rough or windy days wins. Fine then.


You see, the way teams are interpreting the races is slowly ruining pro cycling. It is becoming increasingly boring. Especially at the Tour (and to some degree, this also happened at the Vuelta this year) teams will put all of their eggs in one basket and risk everything on silly gambles. A case in point - a team has a decent (note, decent, not world class!) sprinter. They are up against a Cavendish or Griepel or Petacchi. There is a long flat stage where a break might have a chance to stay away.

The DS chooses to not risk having one of the strong riders attack. Along with another 1~2 desperate teams, the team hammers all day at the front to make sure no breaks stay away. And then the champion sprinter from another team wins the stage. Why not risk it and get one of your guys in the break? The end result is a race where nothing much happens for the first 150 km, followed by 50~75 km of motorcycle like speeds. And the usual winner.

I see, and am increasingly concerned, by the same kind of attitude amongst the general classification riders (translation - the guys going for the win). No one will attack the guy with the yellow jersey. Everyone is simply riding to protect their second, third or fifth place in GC. Logical? No!

For whatever reason, the Giro d'Italia has been less affected by this, and everyone I speak to who follows cycling agrees with me that the recent Giros have been far more exciting to watch than other grand tours. The design of the race has been good, not presenting the usual two weeks of boring flat/hilly stages before the mountains, mixing things up with short nervous days followed by decent mountain stages very early in the Giro. But also because teams are unable or unwilling to shut down the race. And there are a lot of 'suicide' attacks which keep the race interesting, maybe just to get some air time for sponsors, but it still keeps things interesting.

So how do we get back into the true spirit of grand tour races? Any thoughts?


  1. I agree with you...the Giro remains my favorite of the Grand Tours because it is still exciting. I am partial to the country where it is raced, though -- big fan of Italy, not so much of France or Spain.

  2. I dont have a valid answer to give but I do know US television better get off thier butts and televise me some more bike racin! We get the Tour, and the Tour of Misouri and thats pretty much it. Shameful.

  3. Thanks Ghostrider, I feel the same way, but then again, I am a bit biased!

    100poundsago, download races through torrents, you can find everthing... as long as you don't mind watching the races with Italian/French/Dutch commentary!