Why tactics?

Thanks for joining me!

The head and the legs! One must have both in equal measure if one is to become a complete racer. — Tour de France founder and first director Henri Desgrange


There are two reasons why I am starting this blog. Initially, it stems from the desire to support and highlight the book I’ve written on this subject – published as Full Gas in the UK by Yellow Jersey, How the Race Was Won in North America by Velo Press, and Comment Remporter Une Course Cycliste in France by Marabout.

Rather than being a manual to how to race, Full Gas is an investigation into the often confusing and even indecipherable  world of tactics. Generally in teams sports, tactics are relatively easy to explain. However, when up to 25 teams are involved, working out the separate plans being employed can be impossible, even for those who are racing in the peloton and have a far better understanding than those of us looking in from the outside.

Drawing on interviews with the likes of Thomas De Gendt, Nicolas Portal, Tiffany Cromwell, Tejay van Garderen, Greg Henderson and many others, the book highlights the thinking behind every kind of tactical coup, including how to get into and win in a breakaway, how to lead out and finish off a sprint, and the strategic approach to winning a Grand Tour.

The second reason for the blog is having enjoyed writing about tactics so much, I want to continue my focus on this aspect of racing. When researching and compiling the book, I  was constantly reminded how tactics develop and change, but also how exploits that are often termed as, for instance, “marginal gains” are in fact little more than a rehash of tactical nous from years and even decades before.

One example of this would be how lead-outs for bunch sprints have changed. Almost ad hoc in most situations until the emergence of the Superconfex train that carried Jean-Paul van Poppel in its final carriage, they became far more organised when Mario Cipollini came onto the scene. While Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel both continued in Cipo’s tactical slipstream to a large extent, in more recent years bunch sprints have become more chaotic as teams have waited longer and longer before providing their sprinter with the lead-out most depend on. The nature of sprinting is sure to change again and, as this and other tactics evolve, I aim to investigate and analyse them, drawing on the experts both within and close to the men’s and women’s pro peloton.

I’ll sign off this first post by adding that if you’re reading this and would like to pick up on anything that’s been said or ask a question that I can put to a racer or directeur sportif then by all means get in touch.

For more details on Full Gas or to buy a copy of the book click here


  1. I’ve been wondering in what other sport the situation arises where head to head competitors will work together to beat the others!? For instance I am wondering whether Martin and Bardet will attack as a duo in the Pyrenees. Great blog and looking forward to buying the book.


    • I can’t think of many. I guess in some athletic events the competitors cooperate to distance rivals, but I don’t imagine these allegiances form and shatter as quickly and as often as they do in cycling. Lots of talk about alliances in the mountains – Dumoulin with Roglic, for instance – but the riders say they don’t know who they might work with until rivals attack/get dropped. Glad to hear the blog’s got an audience, hope you enjoy the book


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