Friday, July 08, 2011

Peleton skills 101: ride in the middle or the edge? The back or the front? Leipheimer surfs the guardrail

It's the little details that I like, post-race. What actually happened to Levi? Well he was back too far and on the edge, trying to take his opportunities to move forward. Now if you pick your moment this can be fine - but get it wrong and you pay.

If you are a TdF newbie or have simply never ridden in a large peleton then it's possibly not clear how difficult all of this can be. Deep inside the peleton is warmer, faster and easier - it sucks you along. But it's nervous spot, too. You can't move left or right and there's always someone in front and behind. Getting out of the middle to do anything, be it attack, counter or take 'a natural' involves a lot of work. And if one guy falls, you all go down. So you want teammates around you or 'safe hands' at least and you want to be up the front so you can avoid dramas. Now whilst you may want to be up the front all of the time so does everyone else, and a pecking order develops with special skills employed to enable you to out-compete the others. Sometimes you simply follow a known front-runner and hang on grimly. Other times your team mates take you forward. Or you just give in and make the best of it.

If you are a known rider it may be easier, or harder, depending upon who you need to pass. Risks are taken, and riding on the edge may be the only way to get ahead. And if you are making your way forward just when the peleton gets squeezed by a narrowing road then you have few choices. You ride the grass, accelerate into a gap or drop back - if you can. And if you simply get caught out then you cross your fingers and hope for the best. It may mean a bunny-hop over a gutter or some cross-country work, or a fall. Levi took the fall this time.   

Leipheimer Loses Time In Crash |
"You just try to shoot through some gaps and one time, it closed up on me, and I was pinned against the guardrail. I kind of surfed the guardrail for 20 metres. Thankfully that slowed me down.

"Eventually the guardrail ended, and then I fell onto the ground. It didn't do anything. I scraped my elbow a little bit. Compared to yesterday's crashes, that's nothing."