Great Racing

by John Eustice

Peloton Project

Yesterday’s race through the heart of cycling-mad Brittany was everything one could possibly want to watch in a bicycle race. Huge crowds all along the racecourse, cross-wind battles with favorites such as Quintana, Landa (Movistar leaders), Dan Martin (UAE), Steven Kruijswijk and Promiz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) caught out in the powerful Quick-Step attack – the camera shots of Roglic, who’d lost a real chunk of time, and his flat-out team chasing, were mixed with the steamrolling QS riders on the front made for superb television. And it kept going from there with Tom Dumoulin’s mechanical and flagrant motor-pacing back to save his race, Jacob Fuglsang’s crash and the Astana Team Time Trial to bring him back, the in-fighting between the members of the breakaway in front, and the wonderful defense of his Polkadot climbers jersey by Trek-Segafredo’s Tom Skujins, all served to honor the hundreds of thousands of fans who came out to cheer the Tour.

The finish was dramatic as well with the scrappy – if ever a term applied to a racer it’s to him – Dan Martin showing his stuff, the unveiling of Geraint Thomas’s real ambitions as he, for once, started racing for personal interests, the loss of time by Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde’s show of almost insolent strength at the end, and the failure of Julian Alaphillipe to finish off the incredible display of teamwork that his team had done to get him in Yellow.

Quick-Step GC leader Bob Jungels lost a bit of time as well, 0:12, not catastrophic but a sign, perhaps not of his form, as Froome’s loss certainly was, but perhaps as a result of the Quick-Step approach that I outlined yesterday.

A study done at the University of Technology in Eindhoven examined the effects of wind resistance in and around the flow of the peloton. Accepted wisdom states that a rider hidden in the field puts out 50% to 70% of the efforts compared to the riders in front ploughing through the wind. In fact, the results are much more important than that, with riders in front putting out what we’ll call 100% and the riders in the very back of the field only putting out…5%. Crazy difference. The study went into the various levels of effort depending on positioning. While nothing can exactly duplicate the effects on a real-life peloton, a thumbnail estimate allows me to propose this theoretical scenario: Jungels, who is often seen in 4th or 5th position in the QS line, is putting out somewhere between 40% and 60% of the massive power generated by Tim Declercq (btw – I can watch him all day, what a beast of burden that man is) while Valverde, always, always tucked in the perfect near-the-front-but-not-that-close position, is putting out something like 12% of that effort. Our American hero, Lawson Craddock, riding shotgun with his broken body, is in the perfect position for healing, putting out that above-mentioned 5%. Of course hills, crosswinds, and corners all complicate the stated figures, but it seems to me that Quick-Step might be wearing their young hopeful out using dated positional tactics.

John EusticeJohn Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.