How Breakaways Work – Inside Line

How Breakaways Work – Inside Line


There are two types of breakaways in stage races like the Tour de France: those that are doomed to fail and those that are likely to stay to the end and fight it out for a glorious victory. We can actually predict which one is
likely to happen on which stage. First though, what is a breakaway? Well a breakaway is when a rider or riders forges on ahead of the peloton, but it’s actually not quite as easy as it sounds. This is because a lot of guys want to
actually be in the breakaway but they can’t all be at any one time, so riders will chase each other down to
be in there which makes it quite a competitive place to be. Also, other teams can control who goes in
there, so that there’s no one in there that is a threat to their own interests. It is this fact that gives you an idea why
some breakaways are destined to fail. For example on flat stages the sprinters teams will want to control things so that the race comes back together for a
bunch sprint. Now this means that they’ll control the size of the breakaway group so that it’s no more than 4 or 5 riders, which means they can comfortably bring it back in time for the finish line. However hilly
days are going to be too tough for sprinters but yet not mountainous enough to be of any
consequence to the yellow jersey contenders are likely to be the days where the
breakaway is going to stick. Essentially, this is because no one is going to really be
bothered to chase them. What you’ll often find then on these days then is that the breakaway
group is much bigger, maybe over 20 riders or so. The yellow
jersey team will ensure that there are no riders in there that are a threat to the overall classification, but
beyond that, they’ll let them go. SRM, the power meter company, look at the
data from one rider from each stage, and it just so happens that on stage 16 they had the data of the winning rider from that day, Rui Costa of Movistar, and it’s a
fantastic insight into just exactly what it takes to win a stage from a breakaway
group. Firstly you can see that almost the hardest
part of Costa’s day was right at the beginning when the break was forming. When the gap over the peloton had been
established after about 40 minutes, his group of 20 or so riders settled into a
gentle rhythm and relaxed into a day of riding, sharing
the workload amongst themselves. The green line on the graph represents
his power and the red line is his heart rate, both are a measure of effort, and you can see then that in this middle section that he was riding very comfortably. When it got
to the finale however, thoughts turned to exactly how he could win the stage. He attacked at the foot of the last climb and you can see the effort this took. This is the hardest part of his day and he
sustained a huge effort to drop his breakaway companions and hold them off all the way to the
line. This formula can be applied on just about any breakaway day. Riders from
different teams form alliances which are then broken when they get close to the finish line.