Tour de France race radio tactics
International Cycling Union (UCI) President, Pat McQuaid, would like to see the removal of race radio’s in pro cycling. Directeur Sportif of the Saxo Bank team, Bjarne Riis’ tactical use of the radio during stage 15 just might have helped McQuaid’s cause.
The break of stage 15 of the Tour de France had formed. Within it were five riders – but none from Saxo Bank.
Nikki Sorensen, in an attempt to salvage something from this Tour for Saxo Bank, attempted to bridge the gap. The five man break knew he was there but clearly made the decision to keep the pace high, they felt five was enough.
Why dilute your chance of winning any further?
It was then that the cool move came from Riis. He ordered his remaining riders in the peloton to get on the front and start bringing the break back. If they weren’t going to ‘play ball’ and let Nikki bridge, he was going to close them down.
The reaction of the directeur sportif’s of the five teams represented in the break was precisely as Bjarne hoped. They got on their race radio’s and ordered their riders back the pace off and allow Sorensen to join up, lest the whole break be closed down.
For Bjarne, job done. All it took was his boys on the front for 5km and some clever use of the radio.
He also proved once again that even in spite of not having a General Classification rider presently racing for him (Bertie’s holiday ends on the sixth of August) he is still one of the shrewdest directeur’s in the Pro Tour.
All of this occurred after we got an insight into what often happens within the peloton before a break is formed. It basically consists of riders blasting off the front continually until there’s a combination the team of the leading general classification rider (in this case Team Sky) is happy with.
It seemed to cause some uproar on the Twitter-verse and other electronic cycling mediums. Which for the casual observer I can understand it all looked quite negative by Sky. However from someone who was fortunate enough to have raced against Pro’s and teams at this level, I can assure you it’s actually the norm.
Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bernie Eisel’s attempts to stop any more attacks stemmed from the fact they were happy with the composition of the break happening up the road.
More riders blasting off the front would just mean them having to police the moves. They were getting tired by this point of the Tour and definitely didn’t want another hard day on the front.
There is less than a week remaining in the Tour, and some teams are getting desperate for a result.
So while they would have normally accepted the call of “piano” in the first two weeks, stakes are now higher. Sponsors want their name out there, and directeur’s want to ensure they do the right thing for those who pay the bills as well as for their riders.
It becomes quite a balancing act between a lot of competing interests, which we were fortunate enough to briefly see an example of in stage 15.
Finally, how do you win four stages at the Tour de France in your career? Well you could do worse than looking at how Pierrick Fedrigo played the final 10km as a perfect example.
Samuel Dumoulin was the fastest sprinter in the bunch, none of the others wanted to take him to the line. Hence the attacks started with 10km to race. After one failed attempt to get away, Fedrigo counter attacked Devenyns’ move and suddenly had space. Everyone was too busy ensuring Samuel was the one to close wheels, and wary of Voeckler.
Christian Vande Velde was quickly on to it, forming a two man move that if Pierrick did not have his generous nose nailed to his stem would have had him rubbing his hands together Monty Burns style.
The sprint was a formality. After all, Fedrigo took the strongest time trialer/slowest sprinter in the break with him to the line. If it had been Dumoulin to bridge, there’s little chance he would have pushed on with the move.
However, cycling is chess on wheels and Fedrigo proved today that he had all the right moves.
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