The Gruppetto, as seen on

My latest piece for is now online to read. I wanted to take a look at the back end of the race because whilst we’re all thinking of the race up front, many are going full gas just to finish the stage. We think of the sprinters in the race as guys who struggle in the mountains but it’s all relative. The time cut-offs mean even those at the back are racing to get to the finish line.

Indeed as I put it, of the 7,000 amateurs who rode the Etape du Tour cyclosportive last week in the Alps, only four would have avoided the Tour de France’s cut off. Yet they started with fresh legs and enjoyed fine weather. Those sprinters sure can climb.

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18 thoughts on “The Gruppetto, as seen on”

  1. I dont disagree with this article but perhaps there are some small caveats. Sprinters at GTs are by and large excellent climbers by everyday standards. Power and weight maketh the climber. Weight is something you can control to some extent but power is genetics and training related. Amateurs do not train at the same loads as Pros. There might be some exceptions but amateurs usually have jobs and not the same access to time, technology and coaches. Its my firm belief that being fast on the bike is about accumulatimg, year to year, gradual improvements. amateurs usually do not have that long range commitment and it affects the power they produce. I find laughable amateurs pretending to be pro in their training etc. You need to train according to goals and according to the resources you have available. This adds up or should I say in the case of an amateur minuses down. Lastly amateur races are very different to GT races and certainly sportif races are far removed. To cover such distances and terrain quickly you need people working for you, a bunch working for mutual benefit, bike skills and support along the way. Sportif are messy and I wouldnt expect anyone to finish in the same time as the pros because they are actually at many disadvantages.

  2. In Dutch & Flemish the groupetto is called the bus. I remember Erik Zabel as a very capable busdriver during his Tours with Telekom. Riders used to look for him and hang on for the mountains to come. His collection of green jerseys is solid of his bus/grupetto skills. 🙂

  3. Thanks Inrng. that sort of backs up my point. Pros can compete with pros for said reasons and amateurs is just a different game. If you read Millar’s book he mentioned, with again the caveat that it was also re doping, that the sprinters in the pros would have won all the hilly races in the amateurs when he went to his first pro races after his amateur years.

  4. Nice bit. Back-in-the-day when I worked on tours following the Giro and Tour the staff used to joke about the clients who acted like “I coulda won the Giro if I’d only had the time” going on and on about how they have to work, don’t have time to train, etc. They were truly clueless but usually figured it out when the gruppetto came past while they were standing atop a climb they’d ridden earlier. TV just doesn’t show how fast these guys are going compared to average bike riders. That’s why THEY get paid and the rest of us pay (one way or another) to watch them perform. Stand on the side of a steep climb and look into the hollow eyes of these guys as they labor up the climb — in some ways it’s scary!

  5. This is something that would really benefit from a GPS positioning feed, then we could tell as the race progresses how far the Sprinters/grupetto’s are from the finishing line and with how much time to spare. In a year like this when the green jersey is at stake, that kind of information would add to the drama and make the general public realise just how much more is going on than just the first 10 finishers’ times..

  6. Nice comment Larry, it’s the same type of people who claim every pro uses doping all the time because no one can be that fast im their eyes. Kind of sad really, I can’t think of a professional sport where the heroes are so down to earth and they still have to put up with people like that.

  7. Thanks INRNG – that comparison with the l’etape really put itinto great perspective.

    As I lie on the couch in the middle of the night here in Australia watching the great race, I’ve often wondered how ‘fast’ the dropped riders were climbing. Its amazing to think that “the worst of the best” would still be streets ahead of the average punter on their bike.

    Great article… 🙂

  8. Look, I agree that almost all amateurs are so far down the shallower end of the cycling gene pool that time and effort are never going to get them to near a pro-level of fitness. However, keep in mind this:

    In the amateur events up these mountain stages, the benefit of riding with other pros is not there. So I imagine, the pace in the flatter sections itself is slower, which skews this time check analysis a little bit.

  9. as someone who was on their bike and gave the etape a good hard ride… as far as my mortal capabilties go. You should note that the the great greata great Steve rooks came in around 20th or so but anway that doesnt matter to me who took 6 plus hours…. i loved it and rode it hard nd it was my race. started adn finisded on he da, all that otherr ubbsoh can go shit. it was just anothoetther bike ride fr 100000 weekeend warriors. aplogies for shit hingsplelling , i am tipsy and cant b e arsed sepllechecking anything. PEACE !

  10. I’ll add that the Etape du Tour comparison was a simple one, the event is different from the Tour de France because there are no teams to set the pace, instead it is up to lone riders to do all the work and there are other differences. Nevertheless it did help make the point.

  11. OK, this will be embarassing but I go ahead and say it anyway. I was out on a ride yesterday (as a caveat I’m old and fat) but I was doing the same speed on a climb as the tour guys were. The only difference was they were on an 8% grade and I was on a 2% grade! Going downhill with a tailwind I can’t match the speeds of those guys on a flat road into a head wind! They fly!!! I’ve been nondelusional since I went to see Paris-Roubaix 20 years ago.

  12. Just as a postscript to the EDT / TDF comparison:

    On stage 19, the gruppetto (containing Cavendish, Farrar, Greipel, Hushovd, Cancellara, Millar and loads of others) finished 25:27 down on the winner (and outside the delay by a couple of minutes). A total time of 3:38:52.

    The étape du tout results are here:

    The winner (ex-pro JC Currit) came in at 3:39:10, 18s down on the gruppetto.

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