Chapatte’s Law

Robert Chapatte

Robert Chapatte was a professional cyclist for 11 years, riding the Tour de France nine times and finishing 16th in 1949. He was the first French cyclist ever to do a TV interview and perhaps this encounter with the media changed his career forever.

He went on to become a journalist and then a broadcaster. One day whilst live on air a technical fault meant his radio feed got combined with that of another station and he ended up doing the live commentary as a duo with a competitor. Somehow it worked. Apparently this was the first time two broadcasters commented a sports event together. In time he became an influential TV sports presenter in France.

Jens Voigt
2.24 with 49.7km: even Jens Voigt isn't above law

Magic formula
But his name lives on today because of the theory some call “Chapatte’s Law” or “Chapatte’s Theory”. This states that a rider or a breakaway with a minute’s lead with 10km to go should be able to hold on for the win and you can extrapolate this to two minutes for 20km, three minutes for 30km.

Clearly bike racing isn’t quite so linear. If it was, I wouldn’t watch. You can factor in the type of roads, the qualities of the riders in the lead, the wind direction and above all, the size of the group up ahead compared to the bunch. But in its simplest form Chapatte had it about right and if you watch the on screen captions ticking down both time and distance to the finish, the law has its uses.

4 thoughts on “Chapatte’s Law”

  1. I remember hearing this a few years ago and it’s always been a useful rule of thumb for me.

    I like the anecdote about dual commentary. I often get annoyed listening to TV football commentary, where the law seems to be, ‘two idiots drivelling nonsense is better than one’.
    Do we Robert to thank for this too?

  2. Anyone else noticed that David Harmon often claims that this is something Eurosport invented or first described?

    It’s only really useful when you have a single rider, maybe two, in good form, with a moderate headwind on flat straightish roads and a committed chasing bunch. Change any single factor and the rule is miles off.

  3. The 1′ per 10km rule is a cute way of helping average fans have a clue on flatter days.
    People that read this blog realize the silliness of such codswallop.
    I like his “law” though, even if it only gives a slight indicator of the break/peloton relationship.

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