Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why Look Back?

The question was posed after a viewing of the above video, "why do cyclist keep looking back when they race?"

How could I resist using a video of the highlights of my favorite racer to discuss this as it can be several reasons.

The video start with what I believe is the 2008 Milan-San Remo. A Euskatel rider attacks the group and at about the 10 second point looks back to see if a) he has a large enough gap to continue his effort? and b) is there anybody else with him? As he and the other Liquigas rider look back to see how big the gap is and if they caused any damage, Cancellara attacks and gains the winning break

At the 1:00 minute mark you see the Lampre rider on the front of the chasing group look back which is a signal to the guy behind him to move up and take a pull.

At the 1:30 mark Cancellara looks back to check his gap, looking back repeatedly after a gap has been established can be a sign of fatigue. He looks back repeatedly in this case to judge the gap and if he will need to sprint for the finish or if he can have a victory salute as he crosses the line.

Being Cancellara, of course he has a big enough gap for a victory salute.

The second highlight appears to be the 2006 Paris-Roubaix. An emphatic victory with no need to ever look back.

The third highlight is the closing meters of Stage 3 of the 2007 Tour de France in which you have a breakaway being caught and the riders are looking back as the sprinters teams set up for the sprint. This is an acknowledgement of being caught and sometimes looking for one last opportunity to counter or looking for a safe way to join the faster moving peleton.

At the 4:30 mark Cancellara attacks out of the defeated break and goes for an improbable victory foiling the sprinters. He takes one quick glance to confirm the gap to do a quick salute at the end.

Next highlight is Cancellara completing one of his many TT victories in which he will commonly average over 50 kph or 31 mph for close to an hour.

The following highlight I'm not sure which race it is but you see both Cancellara looking back to see if he has established a gap as he chases a Francais de Jeux rider who has a gap and then the Francais de Jeux rider frequently looking back as he fatigues and gets overtaken by Cancellara.

It concludes with Cancellara winning either a World Championship or Olympic TT.

To conclude, looking back after an attack typically is to gauge the success of the attack. Looking while leading a group can be a sign for the next rider to pull through. Looking back when a gap has established can be a sign of fatigue. Looking back right before a finish is to see if you can celebrate early.

1 comment:

  1. I just thought I should say that I am the one who provided the link and the inquiry. So for any of you for whom this has been a burning question, you have me to thank.

    So, next time I see a rider looking back, I have to figure out whether he is trying to have a tete a' tete with his teammates, wishing for this blasted race to be over, or checking to see if he gets to do that victory dance he has been practicing (whoops. that's football. sorry) The M.