Tactics 101: The Sneak Attack

Cancellara’s winning move yesterday took some guts, he was going clear a long way from the finish line, with a headwind too. But did he attack? Yes, but in a very clever way. He used the “sneak attack”.

I’ve not won many races in my time but when you want to attack, think twice. “Attack” is the wrong word, it conjures up images of force and violence when all you want to do is get 30 seconds on your rivals, not injure them.

Now you always have to go hard to achieve this but the manner can vary. For me, the ideal way is to slip away, to open up a gap before anyone can notice. This means you have energy in the bank to extend the gap, rather than simply to create it.

Just watch Cancellara’s masterclass attack above (or here). No guns blazing, not even out of the saddle, he just rolls off the front and slowly you see him increase the power. By the time the commentator says “oh la la la la, Balen we have a problem“*, the Swiss rouleur is maxxing the watts but in a controlled manner and he’s away. By avoiding the visible signs of an attack, such as stamping on the pedals whilst out of the saddle, he gave the impression he was just drifing to the front. Only by the time the others really knew what he was doing, it was too late.

Not that Cancellara’s move worked in isolation. It relied on Boonen losing concentration for a moment and knowing that the group was composed of individuals, rather than with a few teams represented to ensure a chase.

* Balen is where Boonen hails from, and the quote co-incided with the anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission.

1 thought on “Tactics 101: The Sneak Attack”

  1. The stupid thing is that Boonen should have been alert to this 'sneak' move. Tom got done on the Muur with exactly the same seated treatment, you'd think he'd vow not to let a ray of sunlight get between him and Cancellara?

    But Tom makes these mistakes. Maybe next time the QS team radio might have just had a five second loop of "follow Fabian, yes Tom, stay there" on repeat all day?

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