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The beauty of tactics – Mayo’s new role

Iban Mayo’s crash in stage 3 of the Tour de France on Tuesday was unfortunate. It was one of those things that all riders dread and no rider can ever completely avoid. The Tour is a race of strength, endurance and a bit of luck…. Okay, quite a bit of luck. It is ironic that it was the very thing which the riders were working to avoid - being caught up in a crash as the pack went into the narrow cobblestone section at Wandignies – that caused the wreck. It is always a good tactic to be at the front of the group when you enter a narrow or dangerous section of a race course. That is

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By Thomas Prehn

Iban Mayo’s crash in stage 3 of the Tour de France on Tuesday was unfortunate.

It was one of those things that all riders dread and no rider can ever completely avoid. The Tour is a race of strength, endurance and a bit of luck…. Okay, quite a bit of luck.

It is ironic that it was the very thing which the riders were working to avoid – being caught up in a crash as the pack went into the narrow cobblestone section at Wandignies – that caused the wreck.

It is always a good tactic to be at the front of the group when you enter a narrow or dangerous section of a race course. That is exactly what happened today. Even though the incident happened on a wide, flat and straight section, it was the result of too many riders fighting to get to the front of the pack.

With a large group, all going for the same thing, disaster is bound to strike. Mayo was more than just unfortunate. Part of his problem is that he went down and had no teammates there to help him.

The first few seconds just after the crash are critical and involve more than just luck. Had Mayo’s teammates been watching out for their leader, he need not have lost four minutes and blown his chance to win the overall race. Had those teammates been either more aware or stronger, they could have closed the 20 to 30 seconds back up to the pack before it slipped away for good.

Here is the lesson today. If you have an incident, a crash, a flat or other mishap, getting back onto the group is not a casual matter. It has to be done extremely fast and without concern for conserving energy.

By the time the Euskaltel team started dropping back for their leader, the rest of the pack caught word that Mayo had fallen and started mobilizing at the front, pressing the pace.

So what else happens as a result of this turn of events? In some ways, Mayo has become an interesting player in the battle dictating the remainder of the Tour. Barring unforeseen developments, he is out of the race for the overall title. But he wants to work his way up the general classification and may still make the podium.

Mayo still has the strength in the hills to have a major impact. A crafty race leader from another team might just be able to let Mayo go up the road and apply pressure on riders just behind him in GC. For a cagey team director, Mayo can be a most effective tool, forcing opposing riders and teams to expend energy by fight among themselves.

Let’s keep an eye on the man in orange as the Tour gets tougher over the next couple of weeks. It could be interesting to see how other teams use him … and how he might be able to use other teams.


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.