Importance of Lance's Team in the Mountains

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by WINGNUTT, Jul 17, 2004.

  1. WINGNUTT

    WINGNUTT New Member

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    Obviously Lance's supporting cast on US Postal plays a critical role when speeds are high because of aerodynamics. Once the races head into the mountains, however, and speeds drop way down, the draft is not nearly as important. In today's stage (13) OLN made a big deal about Azevedo "leading Lance to Victory" when he stayed in front of Lance between approx 9km to 5km to go. Watching the race, however, it looked like they were going so slow that there couldn't possibly have been any aerodynamic benefit from riding behind Azevedo. OLN said he was "pacing" Lance, but I'm sure Lance can pace himself. Can anyone explain what benefit Azevedo provided to Lance in the last 10km of today's race??
     
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  2. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    You're right about the draft effect being much less in the mountains. But between no help and a little bit of help, a Tour leader will always want a little. To get a little help is extraordinarily difficult in the mountains because very few can keep up. So the team ends up spending a great deal for a very small contribution, but this small contribution might mean the difference between victory and defeat.

    The draft effect is small, but it does exist.

    Sometimes I wonder whether a team wants to recruit a great climber simply to avoid having him as an opponent on another team.
     
  3. WINGNUTT

    WINGNUTT New Member

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    I had a feeling that was it - would you agree, then, that Lance probably would have finished within a few seconds of his time even if Azevedo wasn't there at all? It was interesting that Lance rode behind Azevedo until Azevedo burned out, yet once Lance and Basso broke away, Lance didn't want to let Basso lead (until the last 1km) - maybe he thought Basso was going to disrupt his pace.
     
  4. mocka58

    mocka58 New Member

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    One of the big things in having these climbers is that they can keep the pace high on the mountains. This discourages attacks on Armstrong and puts any of the challengers who are feeling weak into difficulty, then the boss finishes it off in the final km's.
     
  5. Mex

    Mex New Member

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    Isn't it also important that he always have at least 1 teammate with him at all times? If he has a bike problem, he can at least switch bikes, or grab a tire if needed (flats).
     
  6. Powerful Pete

    Powerful Pete New Member

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    I would think that 'drafting' advantage is minimal.

    A team-mate is always useful, as other posters have said, to:

    1) maintain a strong pace to discourage attacks by others;
    2) maintain a steady pace when you are in trouble (see Guerini with Jan yesterday);
    3) maintain a steady pace for the ' break ' e basta;
    4) provide a bike in a sticky situation; and, on occasion;
    5) use him to attack another rider (assuming, for example, that Acevedo was able to hang with Lance and Ivan yesterday, have Lance and Acevedo attack, with Basso having to chase both down).

    Forza Basso! :D
     
  7. musette

    musette New Member

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    LA believes there are more than psychological advantages. Read Every Second Counts.
     
  8. musette

    musette New Member

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    I don't know how drafting works in the mountains (with respect to conservation of the leader's efforts) relative to the flats. I believe the drafting is significant in the mountains. However, there are certain other benefits to having mountain domestiques, which include (non-exhaustive list):

    (1) Lifting Pace so that Competitors Will Peel Off.

    "On the final climb of the day, the job of setting pace falls to the team's climbing specialists....These men will line up in front of Lance and set as high a pace as they can manage. One by one, they give everything they have and then peel off, spent and unable to keep up as their teammates continue toward the summit. The idea is to push the pace so high that Lance's rivals have trouble keeping up. Their efforts wear down the competition while Lance waits for the right moment to launch a devastating attack."

    This is the paradigmatic manner in which USPS mountain goats are used up. See recent Stage 12/13. LA talks about the boost from each teammate as significant in his book.

    (2) Discourage attacks from competitors.

    If a competitor does not have as many mountain domestiques with him as the applicable leader does, the competitor may feel less confident about attacking. The leader's domestiques could presumably chase down the competitors, although this does not happen much to LA.

    (3) "Sitting on the wheel" of competitors to reduce slightly the competitors' progress up the mountain. Or having the domestique block the competitor if the competitor has made it all the way up the mountain with the leader and the domestique and is trying to see if he can beat the leader for the stage win and the extra time bonus (possibilities for LA/Heras with respect to Beloki).

    Every little bit helps.

    (4) If domestique is sufficiently high in the overall GC (or are known as very good climbers, such that they could gain quite a bit of time even on a solo breakaway), allows greater strategic options to team's DS.

    For example, domestique can go on a long breakway to distract the peloton and avoid attacks on a weakened leader, because the peloton is trying to catch the domestique. This was the way Beltran and Rubiera were used in 2003 when LA was having certain problems.

    (5) Encouraging a leader when he is in trouble, keeping him focused. This is also unlikely to be necessary for LA.

    Mayo's teammates helped persuade him to continue and not abandon recently.

    (6) Providing water and food or going back for it, if the leader "bonks". LA had no teammates on Mount Ventoux when he bonked.

    (7) Source of bike parts in the event the team car/mechanic is not immediately on hand.
     
  9. musette

    musette New Member

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    LA discusses the role of domestiques in the mountains:

    "Drafting is less effective on uphills ("although it still helps," says Armstrong), but the presence of a teammate is emotionally reassuring to a leader and discouraging to opponents. "I see a guy alone, that's an opportunity for me," says Armstrong." .... In the mountains support riders defend the yellow jersey by establishing a painful tempo that discourages dangerous pursuing riders from attacking."

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/siadventure/3/lance/
     
  10. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    The trick is to find riders who can not only set the tempo in the mountains but who can also time trial very well so that they can be of use in the numerous flat stages. To find riders like this who will remain loyal is tough because they are rare enough to perhaps have GC aspirations themselves.

    To find one with excellence in all three disciplines--mountains, time trialling, and sprinting--is even more difficult. Probably the only rider who really had all three was Eddy Merckx. Good luck hiring him as a domestique. :D
     
  11. musette

    musette New Member

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    USPS has the additional recruiting benefit of being able to offer such mountain domestiques who can TTT a combination of (1) prestige and very high publicity (who had focused on Azevedo before he got on USPS, leaving aside that he is person beside Beloki in the latter's fall last year), causing especially younger domestiques to know they will have earnings potentials in the future, (2) the promise of assisting their leader win unprecedented number of TdFs (aka "making history"), (3) a leader who is responsibe and disciplined (i.e., if you deliver and the rest of the team delivers, the leader is very likely to deliver), (4) the knowledge that the sponsors are not financially feeble (whether USPS or Discovery Channel) and (5) the potential for greater salary, especially when you include the various prize monies that are divided among the domestiques and their bonus (now contractual) when LA wins the TdF.

    Benjamin Noval was not known before he joined USPS. Look at him now -- he is already a prominent member of the peloton, just by reason of being on USPS.
     
  12. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    It seems that the winning ways of George Steinbrenner's New York Yankees may be trickling over into the cycling world in the form of USPS/Discovery. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
     
  13. musette

    musette New Member

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    Looking at how many of this year's team leaders in the TdF were former USPS domestiques will make clear to any domestique-to-be for USPS that it is not a dead-end job, for those who eventually want to become team leaders themselves. Other teams notice you when you are on USPS.

    Roberto Heras, Liberty Seguros
    Levi Leipheimer (co-leader with Rassmussen, sp, on Rabobank)
    Tyler Hamilton, Phonak

    That's 3 out of 20 teams excluding USPS, or 15% of the TdF non-USPS teams.

    Victor Hugo Pena comments on being LA's domestique (obviously, not in this year's Tour):

    ""It is an apprenticeship—you have to learn the business," Hugo Peña said. "If you get respect, work well, and are good, you move up." Armstrong himself worked as a domestique when he was starting out. He told me that he finds the system reassuring. Bruyneel, who was a successful professional, and won two stages in the Tour, agreed. "What does a man gain from riding for himself and coming in fiftieth?" he said. "If you see your job as helping your team win, you will get more out of that than simply riding and losing. It's fun to be part of a winning team." And it is also profitable."
     
  14. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    It seems that they ride their best, at least this year anyway, while they are still riding with USPS. When they go elsewhere as team leaders, they falter.

    The man who really has utterly amazed me is Hincapie this Tour. He's a great asset for the team USPS. That's not to downplay the others. They are all needed, but George is doing better in the mountains than I expected him to do. It's amazing.

    They are truly a well oiled machine, blasting away in the Pyrenees and dropping the booster rockets one by one until finally it's Lance's single engine which finishes off the job. Superb! Clearly, they have been training well. After all, a relay team may be composed of the best athletes in the world, but it perfects its time when it learns to execute in similar harmony. It seems that USPS has taken it to a fine art.
     
  15. WINGNUTT

    WINGNUTT New Member

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    Yeah, talk about being able to utterly control a race. Quite amazing the amount of control USPS had over the race start to finish - it was obviously a perfectly executed plan that had been rehearsed several times on those exact roads. When Lance zipped up his jersey and just rode around Basso, all I could think about was how well he had the race under control - that finish was setup over a period of months.
     
  16. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    As I rode up that 12% grade this evening into a mild headwind, I realized that we just don't have the whole picture here.

    What exactly were the winds on Stages 12 and 13? If it was windy, the team made a lot more difference than if it was not. If the wind was a headwind, the advantage was exceptional. If it was a sidewind, it was significant. If it was a tailwind, the team perhaps should have spread out a little.

    With a good climbing team, you are assured that you have the advantage under any conditions.

    Does anyone know what the conditions were?

    I know it was raining at least on the bottom of stage 12 heading to La Mongie. I didn't focus on winds.
     
  17. WINGNUTT

    WINGNUTT New Member

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    The OLN announcers on Stage 13 said that the wind was much stronger that day than it was on Stage 12. They didn't say where the wind was coming from, but by the way they said it, I don't think they were talking about a tail wind.
     
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