Deconstructing the Tour de France
July 3, 2004 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Tour de France: How does it really work? It's a team sport, clearly, but you see Lance Armstrong getting all the credit for his victories. How do the teams factor in?
posted by xmutex to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
This was on fark today, I just glossed over it but judging by the headlines it's just what you're looking for, plus some extra tour-related tidbits for free.
posted by fvw at 2:07 PM on July 3, 2004

If Lance wins, the USPS team wins. Lance is the strongest rider in the USPS team, so it will be in the other USPS team members' interests to support him as much as possible. They can support him in any number of ways, including pace-making during the boring bits (i.e. 90%), slipstreaming/dragging him along so he saves energy for the finish, riding as a group and pulling him along to catch any other rivals who may have broken away ahead, even giving him food, water, or their bike if he wipes out and busts up his bike. And probably lots of other stuff.
posted by carter at 2:27 PM on July 3, 2004

If Lance wins, the USPS team wins.

But not literally. Teams are tracked for best time as well. IIRC, the Posties have not won the team prize when Lance wins the yellow jersey -- it would be an unlikely feat as pushing Lance to the front involves some sacrifice on the part of les domestiques. (Today's Washington Post has a good article about the Tour.)
posted by Dick Paris at 2:38 PM on July 3, 2004

Lance's team's job is to ensure Lance wins. That's what they're there for: cannon fodder. Same as any other team races.
posted by majick at 2:51 PM on July 3, 2004

Cycling in the Tour is a professional activity. The contracts and bonuses of the team members will be directly related to how well Lance Armstrong performs. The team leaders reputedly also divide their winnings amongst the team. The real money for someone like Lance Armstrong comes from the sponsorship and advertising deals - the prize money for winning the Tour is spare change in comparison.

In return, the team domestiques protect the leader from crashes and the risk of crashes in the peloton, collect and carry food and drink from the team vehicles while racing, break the wind to reduce the effort for the leader on long flat stages, chase down any breakaway rides by opponents on long stages, use blocking tactics to slow the peloton or ride with him as long as they can if their guy is in a breakaway, pace the leader back to the pack in the event of a mechanical problem or crash, sacrifice their own equipment to the leader after a crash if the team cars aren't nearby, and generally bust a gut to do whatever else it might take to keep their man in the race.
posted by normy at 3:16 PM on July 3, 2004 [1 favorite]

I stand somewhat corrected ;) Also, if you make good as a domestique/cannon fodder, there's always a chance you can become a cannon yourself in the long run ...
posted by carter at 5:28 PM on July 3, 2004

It's also interesting that cycling is the only sport that I know of where you collaborate with your competition. When you see two guys from different teams in a breakaway, they're working together. Perhaps one has a chance for a stage win--which is a big deal--and the other just wants to have a few minutes of glory (the permutations are endless). And because of this, there is (or there is reputed to be) a lot of horsetrading in the peloton. I remember some years ago Pantani (RIP) and Indurain breaking away in a mountain stage. The two of them stayed together, and, despite the fact that Indurain was a much stronger sprinter, he let Pantani win the stage. He probably did this because it was the gentlemanly thing to do, after Pantani's heroic effort in the mountains.
posted by adamrice at 6:40 PM on July 3, 2004

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