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The beauty of tactics: Deciding when to wear yellow

Thor Hushovd of Crédit Agricole overcame great odds on Monday to become a somewhat unlikely leader of the 2004 Tour de France. On Tuesday, he will wear the yellow leader’s jersey because of his fast prologue time trial and the time bonuses he has collected for finishing third and second in stages 1 and 2. One of the things you have to love about the Tour is that it requires you to overcome great odds and unforeseen obstacles. Hushovd and his teammates knew that if he could finish in the top three on Monday, he would take over the race lead. They obviously were working for that during the

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By Thomas Prehn

Thor Hushovd of Crédit Agricole overcame great odds on Monday to become a somewhat unlikely leader of the 2004 Tour de France. On Tuesday, he will wear the yellow leader’s jersey because of his fast prologue time trial and the time bonuses he has collected for finishing third and second in stages 1 and 2.

One of the things you have to love about the Tour is that it requires you to overcome great odds and unforeseen obstacles. Hushovd and his teammates knew that if he could finish in the top three on Monday, he would take over the race lead. They obviously were working for that during the race. But no one can plan for the inevitable crashes out on the course — and Hushovd’s bike was damaged in an accident less than 20km from the finish. The big Norwegian found himself on a spare bike that was not perfectly set up for him and chasing to get back onto the group. Not only did he and his teammates have to work hard to get him back into the pack, they had to bring him up to the front of the pack for the sprint.

The payoff: Crédit Agricole will have the leader’s jersey for stage 3. It is a matter of great prestige, and brings tremendous publicity for both rider and team, along with tremendous responsibility. This is the part of the race where only seconds separate the entire field, and Credít Agricole must now defend Hushovd’s jersey.

This is one of the reasons why not everyone wants to get into the yellow jersey — at least, not right away. In the prologue time trial I am not sure that Lance Armstrong actually gave it 100 percent when he rounded that last corner. With his U.S. Postal Service manager giving him time splits, he knew he was close to the winning mark. But for Lance, this race will not be won by seconds, and there was no need to put his teammates in the position of defending the leader’s jersey so early in the three-week Tour.

Stage racing isn’t about giving it 100 percent all the time. No one has the strength for that. It is about riding smart. Intentional or not, it was a smart move for Lance to finish the time trial a couple seconds behind the winner.


Thomas Prehn is a former USPRO champion and author of the recentlyreleased “RacingTactics for Cyclists,” now available through VeloPress. If you have questions about tactics employed during a particularstage of the Tour de France, send a note to WebLetters@InsideInc.comWe will try to answer a selection of questions on a regular basis duringthe Tour.