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Tour Lowdown St.5: Tactics, Teamwork and Cav
I have a joke for you. There’s a Guadeloupen, a Japanese fella, a Belgian and a Kazakh in a break at the 2013 Tour de France.

What a wonderful example of the ever-growing diversity of the professional peloton. Okay, I’ll stick to the day job…


Is Valium on the banned substances list? ‘Cos I’m gonna need some if this Tour keeps delivering such brilliant racing. What a finish! Cavendish claimed a remarkable 24th stage in total and his first in this 100th edition with a firecracker surge to the line in a manner that finally seemed so inevitable, but what incredible work from his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team.

With Lotto-Belisol looking in control with just two kilometers to go and heading down the right of the road, it was with a resounding air of disdain that Cav’s boys took it to the left, knowing in the marrow of their bones that they were faster.

Imperiously, cheekily and with a serious measure of ‘check this out, Lotto’ they grabbed that finish by the throat and literally blew Greipel’s boys out of the picture.

Brilliant. I’ve already used that adjective once and I will use it a third time just for good measure – absolutely brilliant cycling.

Watching it on Eurosport I was listening to the commentator still going on about how the four escapees still had a chance with 65km to go. At this point the break had a 7 minute advantage and it looked barely possible.


But the time gaps thereafter were begging to differ, if anyone was taking notice them.

At 40km the gap was 5 minutes.

At 32km, 3.30.

At 26.5km to go it was 3 minutes. Still he whooped and hollered when the break started to attack itself, ‘They’re riding very strongly here!’ They’d have had to be riding Arabian stallions to have even a whisker of a chance, so enraged was the chasing pack.

Then it was 2:30 with just 23.9 km to go. So that was a huge chunk of 30 seconds within less than 3km. And the commentator continued to wonder aloud if they just might make it. No chance. 3m later, another 30 gone, down to 2 minutes.

16km and they had just 1:30, and - never mind the last nail in the coffin, the gladioli were already in the soil and the relatives were down the local pub knocking back whiskies - it was just 45 seconds with 13km to the looming line.

One of the main reasons that the pack had such impetus was down to the Orica-GreenEdge boys, who were barreling down the road at the front of the pack from a long way out.

Why? Not sure exactly. Yes they have Matt Goss in the team and Impey showed how strong he is the other day, but did they really think these guys could take on Cav, Greipel and Sagan?

Buoyed by their successes of the previous two days, they rode well but the risk they were taking was a big one. Why not just let the break sit there? Arashiro was best placed at over 3 minutes down but with the gap at 2.40 on the road, they still pushed on. They’d have been better off letting the sprinters’ teams take up the slack and just makes sure Gerrans got a safe ride to the line.

Having a man in Yellow is a great honor, but it means, in the modern era, that teams feel obliged to work their backsides off. For the domestique this means stress and worry above even their usual daily concerns.

Yet teams haven’t always ridden in his manner, one that is these days quite ubiquitous. La Vie Claire, the French team from the 80s, made it a rule when Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond were going for victory in 1985 and ’86 to never be on the front. Their tactic was to wait for any opportunity to send men up the road, thus making others work.

La Vie Claire's trainer, Paul Kochli was a master tactician and one of the main protagnists behind their - 'don't work on the front' policy.

It’s a tactic that needs strong riders and even stronger leaders with a taste for poker, but they proved it could work. However, we’ve never seen tactics like that since, perhaps simply because no one team has had the gumption to try it.

But whatever OGE or the break had tried today, there was no denying the fast men, who have experienced a lumpy start to this Tour. Cavendish, it has to be said, is not only a force of nature but a maker of history. And, once again, he proved that whenever he gets a sniff it really is history.

And that win takes Cav's Tour tally to 24 - and he's still only 28 years old.

Will he become the winningest rider of Tour stages since records began, and usurp the great men ahead of him? Andre Leducq is just one away, Bernie Hinault is on 28, and the great Mr. Merckx sits at the top of the hill with 34.

If you bet against him, you’re a braver man than I.

Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs - road race and ITT - as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog,


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