Force GC Contenders to Compete on the Flat Stages
Last Post 08/04/2013 04:50 PM by Brendan Frye. 22 Replies.
Author Messages


08/01/2013 04:05 PM
OK I'm a newbie and perhaps don't know all that goes on in a Grand Tour. One thing I do know that outside of the peleton being split this year due to the winds there really is no competition by GC Contenders on the flat stages. It seems as if it is a few mountain stages and the 2 ITT that count. I understand that energy has to be conserved and yes the flats are for the sprinters. After all the Green Jersey sponsor probably has a lot of money invested in the sprint finishes. How about this most times in the top 15 between each ITT gets a time bonus going into each time trial. A top 15 would not jeopardize the sprint finishes. A return of some time bonuses along the road on selected flat stages Finally some real time bonuses for the riders going over each summitt of a mountain stage along with final time bonus of a mountaintop finish. Would this work or am I totally wrong in my assessment. They are simply ideas to break the current formula.


08/01/2013 04:21 PM
My take is, it's a 3 week race. You want them to race competitively every day and do it without doping (I assume)?

Sporting events in general are not full gas for the entire duration of the event. There is building excitement. You get underway. There are ups and downs during the competition. Hopefully some climax. Finally a follow-up or breakdown and realization of what just took place. Aside from the fact that the physics of the sport (power to weight, etc) separates the riders into natural categories, the sport doesn't really need this to remain interesting.

The sport could and does benefit when there is more risk-taking but in recent years, the GC riders do all they can to avoid risk. They train and know their limits and try to push performance right up to the limit and hope their competition does not have the capability to exceed that.


08/01/2013 04:56 PM
All true but what I'm saying is that 3 or 4 stages out of a 21 stage race should not provide the winner. I love cycling but what I'm proposing is a way to break the formula of no risk taking that you mention. I could see a rider like Quintana taking a chance if some of these incentives were in place. Froome could respond if he wanted to or calculate that the time gained in bonuses would not affect him overall.


08/01/2013 05:32 PM
A top 15 in a sprint finish still puts you at a significant risk of getting hurt. 19 teams at least half have a sprinter in the mix, plus lead-out riders. To be top 15 puts a GC contender in a whole mess of very fast moving bodies that they are not used to dealing with. I doubt they would feel good about that.
Keith Richards


08/01/2013 08:50 PM
Another thing. It is The Tour De France (tm). It reminds me of the soccer World Cup. Both are so important that not losing equals trying to win. Boring events is what you get.

That is why everyone loves the one-day classics, el Giro and la Vuelta. If you love soccer, you know there is so much epic league/tournament soccer that it is not even worth going into.
----- It is his word versus ours. We like our word. We like where we stand and we like our credibility."--Lance Armstrong.


08/01/2013 10:10 PM
How about for one year, making it such that a sprinter can win it all either by adding time bonuses and/or not having many mtn stages? How about replacing them with hard stages like a Spring classic? Make it more for the all around rider.


08/01/2013 10:54 PM
Like your idea. Since the sponsors and TV love the mountain stages it probably won't happen. Reminds me of the stage a few years ago with the cobbles. That was a tough day and very entertaining. Sort of like having a mini Paris Roubaix.
Orange Crush


08/01/2013 11:51 PM
The time bonus idea won't make the racing that more exciting except maybe the last couple kms.

What Keith pointed out, the TdF is the big enchilada, not to be lost, hence lots of stalemate. Biggest event on calendar equals the biggest bore fest.

Part of it has to do with terrain. Look at the Giro, not too many boring stages typically, its cause topography in Italy makes for few easy stages. France and Spain have a lot more "flat" terrain. Vuelta for the longest time had lots of really boring stages too on wide roads with little technical challenge, but last year they mixed it up and even the non mountain stages were constant up and down, plus they found the smaller roads. Outcome, one of the most exciting Vueltas in memory. Shortening stages helps too.


08/02/2013 02:24 AM
Another aspect of the Grand Touirs, especially Le Tour is that they are usually not "won" but "lost". He who does not make mistakes or have a bad day wins. This year, no one put in the prep Froome/Sky did. BMC picked the wrong rider to feature. Quintana went too early twice (and I believe lost some time riding for his leader early). Valverde (granted a rider who almost always has a bad day) made a fatal mistake; to wait for a bike change instead of taking his teammate's bike.

Yeah, it looks like Froome won big. But a closer look suggests a lot of riders made key mistakes and handed the race to him. And those mistake were made early. Most of the contenders were out of the running before they got to the Alps.

What you are proposing, Atross, adds more random factors that will take out key contenders. GC contenders will have to contest sprints so instead of 7 trains, there will now be 15. More crashes and key GCers will be in them. Yes, the best bike handlers and those with the best karma will rise to the top. But, the odds would have been good that one of Quintana, Contador or Froome would have gone down hard in this year's Tour if your proposal had been in place. Is that what we want?

Your proposal would add a lot of excitement. But Grand Tours aren't one day races. They are more like chess matches and yacht racing. There is far more happening than we see in one stage. If you don't see that yet, stick around. The more you watch and the more you know, the more interesting they get.



08/02/2013 07:41 AM
If one focuses exclusively on the GC most grand tours are boring but the races-withing-the race can be exciting: Stage wins, headbangers long breakaways, KOM*, points and never overlook last place. Personally I wish they'd bring back the black jersey and officially recognize it.

*Time for a rules change: Award the points to the fastest up the climbs, not the guys in an early break that gobble up the points, with chip timing it would be easy to calculate. Same with the sprints-- couple years ago someone (Was it Cav?) won a nutty amount of stages but didn't win the jersey.


08/02/2013 08:19 AM
that year with Cav i think he won lots of stages but got relegated on one stage for bad sprinting behaviour, thus losing a critical amount of green jersey points.


08/02/2013 08:54 AM
All flat stages! Just like NASCAR! If it ain't rubbing it ain't racing. Blood sells!


08/02/2013 09:05 AM
make every stage a one day classic!
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
Yo Mike


08/02/2013 09:13 AM
Add a cyclocross stage. Or 2.


08/02/2013 09:38 AM
Track races too!


08/02/2013 11:42 AM
The biggest annual sporting event in the world. Millions of spectators come to watch the race as it is and a newbie has ideas on how to improve it? One of the normal things about stage races is it is watching paint dry, at least for the GC battle. The GC contenders spend a lot of time protecting their energy reserves and measure every effort. I suppose some of these things might make for entertaining days in the Tour but I don't see the appeal to add more RED BULL spectacle to road racing. It certainly can have the energy of a circus and to see the fans in the mountains it is but sorry for the most part I don't see much chance that the organizer is contemplating any of these ideas and no you are not the first to ask.
Perhaps what is missing will come for you or maybe you will pay less attention to it and stick to the classics? For some the tour was just about the most exciting race all year. drying paint and all.


08/02/2013 12:18 PM
Well none of the current GC contenders can sprint so it would be unlikely any of them would get a point or time bonus to guys like Kittel et al. By the same token, Kittel is kilometers back on mountain stages. The current formula works. Time bonuses do make it a different race though. I don't know if I like them or not though.


08/02/2013 01:00 PM
I think you have to acknowledge that there are actually at least four separate races going on in a grand tour. The general classification is only one of those, and each race has a completely separate strategy. Were I to contend for the GC, I would follow the strategy that has been employed already.

The question posed at the start of the thread actually applies to the green (points) jersey which is all about consistent racing. The fact that the GC garners the most attention is irrelevant.


08/02/2013 03:02 PM
Mr GJanney's point is smack on the nail's head. A stage race is several different races wrapped into one concurrent event. This means that its field is divided into several different specialisms. That, I think, is the main reason why stage racing underachieves in terms of complexity of tactics.

On any given day of a stage race only a small percentage of that field is either qualified (by talent and expertise) to contest the result or even particularly interested in it. It would be like bringing rappers, violinists, and folkies into a concert hall and expecting them to create a masterpiece. What you're probably going to get, if you're lucky, is a spectacle.



08/02/2013 04:28 PM
If you think the GC guys aren't racing on flat days, I invite you to try to hang in and not lose any time whilst dodging traffic furniture, domestiques, and crashes at 35 mph day after day. GC contenders may not win the Tour on flat stages but they sure as hell could lose it in a fraction of a second of inattention.


08/02/2013 07:57 PM
Shoot, how about a BMX stage? Appeal to the X-game crowd. Lining up in Moto 4: Froome, Cavendish, Voight and Voekler!


08/04/2013 02:53 PM
If you look at the full results for a flat stage, you will see that more often than not, the GC contenders are well placed in the top 30 - 40 riders. They stay near the front but don't contest for the win to avoid being caught out on a last second split and lose a few seconds


08/04/2013 04:50 PM
BikeCzar and Steelbikerider, you're both describing what some of us would call, erm, 'not racing'. We naysayers are hardly suggesting that the GC celebrities are merely loafing about while awaiting the mountains and the individual tests. But hanging on to avoid losing time or being near the front to be well-placed is — in a tactical sense — completely subordinate to the dynamics of that sort of stage.

Not that I believe that the GC guys should be doing something else. If the GC is about the GC, then that's simply a different objective. What some of us are grumbling about, if anything, is that day by day the racing is of a lower order.

On flat and rolling days in a multi-day tour, even the racing that IS racing tends to be desperately unsophisticated, and usually not as hard. I promise you there's a big, big difference, for example, between the experience of being in a break in stage-race and being in a break in a one-day. The most elementary aspect of this difference is that in one-days, most of the guys in the move will have been ordered to 'work so hard that you cannot possibly finish'.

Contrarily, I can recall a stage of Paris-Nice, in the period when mobile phones were becoming prevalent, in which as an assistant DS I had to ask our two guys in the day's sanctioned breakaway to leave their phones in their pockets. They had been conversing with their girlfriends. In one lad's case, two different girlfriends.

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