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August 24, 2007 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Tour de France: what was the deal with the guys hanging on the support vehicles while interacting with them? I mean, I can see the advantages and by and large these vehicles were at the back of the pack, but it seems like you'd be getting -some- advantage...
posted by Ogre Lawless to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total)
They do get an advantage, and can be penalized for it. Leipheimer received a 10-second penalty this past tour.
posted by exogenous at 9:41 AM on August 24, 2007

There are limits to the time and occasions allowed for riding by and hanging onto the support vehicles (i.e. injuries, etc.).
posted by misha at 10:14 AM on August 24, 2007

Surely it's to minimise the likelihood of the vehicle either pulling away and leaving them behind, or the rider smacking into the back?
posted by Happy Dave at 10:34 AM on August 24, 2007

What misha said, though the limits aren't set in stone, and the rule is applied at the discretion of the race director and marshals. Riders nearer the bottom of the classification who, say, crash into a dog, will usually get a blind eye turned when getting back to the peloton. The same applies for getting a slipstream from team cars or other race vehicles.
posted by holgate at 10:40 AM on August 24, 2007

It's basically up to the race marshals to decide if a rider is getting too much of an advantage, and if they decide that a rider is getting too much of a boost then the marshals will penalize the rider accordingly. iirc, it's considered okay for the rider to hang on to the support vehicle for a couple of minutes as long as the vehicle is moving at a constant velocity and is not passing any riders or other support vehicles.

you'll also see riders who have had a flat or a mechanical and have been dropped behind whatever peloton/grupetto/break they were in catch a draft behind the support vehicle to help them catch back up. again, it's up to the race marshals to decide if the maneuver is kosher or not. leipheimer was penalized because the mechanic hanging out of the accelerating support vehicle was pretty obviously pushing him back into the group.
posted by the painkiller at 10:41 AM on August 24, 2007

I saw one rider being pushed along as a car occupant adjusted his seat. Even the commentators sais that the "adjusting" was going on far too long, and could result in a penatly if an official had seen it. In another instance, a fan ran out and pushed a rider as he struggled up a hill. Again, the commentator mentioned the rider could be penalized.

Like any sport, many competitors will get away with all they can, and don't consider it "cheating" unless they get caught.
posted by The Deej at 10:52 AM on August 24, 2007

i love the 'sticky bottle'

when a rider gets a fresh water bottle from the team car and holds onto it for a second or two while the guy in the team car accelerates thereby giving him a little boost. 'hey, i was just grabbing a fresh bottle!'
posted by garethspor at 11:34 AM on August 24, 2007

The Leipheimer thing was ridiculously blatant. The mechanic had hold of his saddle for a good 10-15 seconds and the driver basically slammed his foot on the accelerator to get him back into the pack.

But I guess Leipheimer would rather take a 10 second penalty and get easily back into the bunch than spend a frantic 5 km fighting alone just before a big climb.

By the way, the chief commissaire is the guy responsible for keeping an eye on that sort of thing. He sits in the red Skoda right at the front of the cavalcade and controls what the cars do and what order they drive in. The eam cars can also get penalised for things like careless driving, and can be made to drive at the very rear of the cavalcade. Obviously, that has a big effect on the team, because the domestiques have a tougher job fetching the drinks.

There was another controversial incident in this year's Tour when Vinokourov crashed and hurt his knees. Six or seven of his team-mates dropped back to pace him up to the peloton, and usually they would do it fairly easily by hopping behind all of the cars and getting a free slipstream.

But on this occasion, the commissaire imposed a "barrage" on all of the cars, meaning all of the cars were forced to stop and let Vino pass unassisted. The result was Vino had no help from the cars and couldn't get back in to the peloton. He lost something like 1 minute on what was a fairly easy day.
posted by afx237vi at 2:19 PM on August 24, 2007

The domestiques -- the guys on the team who drop back to pick up food and water for the team leaders -- get much more leeway than the team leaders. Lepi getting dinged is one example, in another, Lance bunny hopped a wall to avoid a crash, rode through the dirt, and then hopped back. He was citied by the road marshal for leaving the course, but after the stage, was cleared on the basis of "having earned no advantage" -- indeed, he rode a longer path, over grass, than if he'd stayed on the course.

This year, the TdF organizers said they would be policing this much more than they had in the past, because it'd gone from boosting a water carrier a bit to major free rides to dropped team leaders.
posted by eriko at 4:35 PM on August 24, 2007

Lance bunny hopped a wall to avoid a crash

You mean when Beloki crashed out in TdF '03? Yes, Armstrong's impromptu cyclocrossing was interesting, but please...he did NOT bunnyhop a wall. And his detour through the grass was definitely a SHORTER path, if not as smooth. There's footage of the incident all over the internets if you'd like to refresh your memory.
posted by randomstriker at 5:31 PM on August 24, 2007

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