From team to tactics: It takes more than pedal power to win the Tour

Climbing legs

To win the Tour you have to be a top-class climber – there is no way around it. The last time a non-climber won the Tour was Spaniard Miguel Indurain in 1995, but even then he was certainly not a weak climber. Indurain’s competition was not the greatest and the time-trial specialist had more than 100km of individual races against the clock to take huge chunks of time out of his rivals, which he then easily defended in the mountains.

These days, though, the time trials are much shorter – 54km this year, less than a third of the 1995 total including the team time trial. And with four summit finishes, seven hors catégory mountains, 14 first-category ones and an uphill time trial to boot, anyone not considered a climber simply could not compete.

Team strength

Cycling is an individual sport based around teamwork. No matter how good a cyclist is, if he doesn’t have a strong team, he won’t be able to win the Tour. Team-mates are there to protect a rider from the elements, from hazards and even to hand him water bottles and food.

They can also take away some of the burden in setting tempo, chasing down attacks, showing the line on a tricky descent and even providing a boost to morale. In short, if you don’t have a strong team to help you out in the toughest moments, then you will be alone, exposed and vulnerable.

Tactical nous

There are many pitfalls along the way to a Tour victory; in fact, it is typically said that riders can lose the Tour on any stage but not win it. And to avoid losing the Tour, a rider needs tactical acumen. That means being able to read the race around him, knowing when to attack, when to defend, when to use his team-mates and where to position himself in the peloton.


Last year, Nairo Quintana was caught out on the second stage when crosswinds split the peloton. He lost 1min 27sec to Chris Froome that day and eventually lost by only 1min 12sec overall. Knowing when to ensure you’re in the right place at the right time can be crucial in such a brutal race where every mistake can be fatal to your overall hopes.

Time-trialling ability

There may be less and less time-trial kilometres compared with years gone by but, nonetheless, riders need to be good against the clock. When Indurain used to win the Tour he would put several minutes into his rivals in each time trial and that was enough to give him overall victory. The time trial is a moment when you cannot rely on anyone else, there are no team-mates to help. If you’re having a bad day, you’re entirely on your own and you can quickly lose a lot of time.

Confidence

Although there are many more opportunities to lose the Tour than win it, you cannot claim victory by simply waiting for the rest to fall by the wayside. The Tour champion needs to have the self-belief to strike out for home when he feels strong.

One reason Froome has been so successful these past few years is his belief that he can drop anyone on any climb. When he decides to attack he goes full gas and doesn’t look behind. And more often than not, he breaks his opponents mentally as well as physically.

If Quintana developed the same kind of self-assurance, he may well be able to compete with Froome. But so far, in finishing second to the Englishman in 2013 and 2015, he’s taken too long on each occasion to launch his counterattack, and by then Froome already had the yellow jersey as good as locked up.

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Related stories

Uphill battle but Tehran aims to become bike-friendly

A new bike-sharing initiative in the Iranian capital is trying to ameliorate the city’s traffic and pollution problem

Covid-19 red cards major events

Sporting events, from football and tennis to rugby and cycling, on this year’s calendar are in doubt

JOBURG CYCLISTS … CALL TO ACTION

We will meet the MEC Transport Joburg to hand over a document about the advantages of non- motorised transport and the safety of cyclists

The most bizarre cheats in sporting history

Doping bridge players? Cyclist gangs? Some competitors will go to any lengths to win

Billionaire buys Team Sky

The head of a multinational chemicals group has ridden to the rescue of the cycling group

Pedal power with the people

Cycling to work is healthy, cuts carbon emissions and is for everyone, rich or poor
Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of...

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Al-Shabab’s terror in Mozambique

Amid reports of brutal, indiscriminate slaughter, civilians bear the brunt as villages are abandoned and the number of refugees nears half a million

South Africa’s cities opt for clean energy

Efforts to reduce carbon emissions will hinge on the transport sector
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…