The horse is dead, long live the horse

April 14, 2011

It seems to me the Paris-Roubaix tactics horse shows extremely weak signs of life, but I keep getting questions and I don’t want to be so rude not to answer them. Therefore, one last round (and most of the questions have some novelty to them). So, Dominic asked:

Let’s say there are no race radios and the same situation would have happened with JVS at the front, Thor and Fabian in the second or third group with 40 km to go. Fabian would have probably attack and Thor would have followed because he couldn’t be 100% sure that is teamate was really at the front. He would have attacked with Fabian and that would have been the best thing to do because strategy would be less important without earbuds. At least, harder to put in place. What would have happen then? The best rider would have won. Fabian or Thor, nobody knows!

First of all, Thor WOULD know that JVS is in the front, in fact Garmin-Cervelo has ridden every classic as if there are no radios. Just study the tapes, you will see that they are always close to each other when it matters. It makes a ton of sense if there is a mechanical (as Boonen can attest to) and for tactical reasons. So in that sense, the tactics are the same. JVS would ride in the front saying he doesn’t have to work because Thor is behind, and Thor would not have to work because JVS is in the front. Racing has been like this since long before radios, this is not some new tactical invention. Then Jpmikkelsen asks:

I did not understand why Sep Vanmarcke had to help Fabian at some point. Why did you guys do that?

Jonathan Vaughters answered that to Podiumcafe: “We wanted the gap to be tight (40secs) so the others in the break were forced to work hard. And… so that Fabs [would] think he could get across towing Thor. A big gap (2mins), the break starts to look at each other, and [Fabian Cancellara] gives up.”

It all comes down to that Hennie Kuiper quote (you know, the guy who raced before there were radios), about finishing everybody else’s plate before you start your own. And the thing is, for the people who claim that Cancellara was the strongest and that Thor should have helped him, I still haven’t heard a single tactical scenario where helping Cancellara leads to Thor winning.

What do YOU think?

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