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The beauty of tactics – Flecha’s brave gamble

There are thousands of tactical opportunities that present themselves over the course of a single stage at the Tour. Most of them never result in any major advantage and for the most part we simply forget about them. Every once in a while, though, someone takes advantage of a turn of events and almost changes the outcome of a stage. For that, I have to commend the Fassa Bortolo rider Jaun Antonio Flecha for his great attempt in the closing kilometers of stage six, the 196km race from Bonneval to Angers on Wednesday. Early in the stage, six riders moved to establish a lead and built it up

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By Thomas Prehn

There are thousands of tactical opportunities that present themselves over the course of a single stage at the Tour. Most of them never result in any major advantage and for the most part we simply forget about them.

Every once in a while, though, someone takes advantage of a turn of events and almost changes the outcome of a stage. For that, I have to commend the Fassa Bortolo rider Jaun Antonio Flecha for his great attempt in the closing kilometers of stage six, the 196km race from Bonneval to Angers on Wednesday.

Early in the stage, six riders moved to establish a lead and built it up to 4:30 with 65 kilometers to go before the peloton stated its pursuit. As the lead declined, so did the number of riders in the break. The peloton picked up one discarded rider and then another. If you were in the chase, things looked pretty good that this break was not going to last.

With 20 kilometers remaining and the time split down to just two minutes only four riders remained in the lead. Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Carlos Da Cruz (FDJeux), Marc Lotz (Rabobank), and Jimmy Engoulvent (Cofidis) were hanging on and fighting to make it to the finish. They were not conceding a thing.

While the peloton had plenty of strength to pull the group in, you never know if it will happen. There are many times where something will take place back in the main field, the chase will stop and the leaders will hold on. The lead riders figure they have nothing to loose since they are not about to have enough energy to contest the sprint if they are caught. Given the circumstances, it’s probably the escapees’ best-played card.

As the finish got closer the time gap kept falling. With just 7km to the finish the gap was down to 20 seconds but the road narrowed and the leaders still seemed committed to making it work.

At 5km, the effort finally appeared to be futile and the riders started to sit up… all of them except for Flecha. He attacked. It was a great move. Flecha jumped hard from the left side of the road and gave it all he could. He was racing towards the finish hoping that the pack behind would be satisfied with gobbling up his three compatriots for just long enough. All Flecha needed was for the pack not to notice for a few moments that there group they caught was missing one rider.

Think about the psychology of the pack, they have been chasing and chasing wanting to close the gap on the leaders and catch them before the finish. Now, they have just caught ‘the group”. There can be a moment or two of pause with 5 kilometers to go as they then prepare for the sprint. That is what Juan Antonio Flecha was hoping for. He wanted to sneak away from the group before they got caught and hopefully go unnoticed just long enough to get the stage win.

No such luck! He is caught by the charging pack with just 1 kilometer to go. Nonetheless, it was still a great tactical move, because some days pulling out all the stops actually pays off.


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 at the Giro d’Italia, send a note to WebLetters@InsideInc.comWe will try to answer a selection of questions on a regular basis duringthe Giro d’Italia.