Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Lots of preparation goes into a bike race. The training, the testing of kit and equipment, the nutrition plans, the course recons, the scouring of potentially difficult corners on Google maps. And that’s before you even get to the start line, where tactics and the actual task of racing a bike begins.
The fact remains that only one rider can cross the finish line first. Therefore, teams and athletes are always looking out for the latest thing to give them an advantage over their opponents.
Turns out the latest potential marginal gain that has been uncovered is…*drum roll please*…the internet!
More specifically, social media. Even more specifically, the esoteric corner of social media that is the ‘peloton’ subreddit, a forum hosted on Reddit all about bike racing.
r/peloton, as subreddits are labelled, is a wonderful community of cycling fans sharing news and information about all things racing.
But then, last Friday evening, a new post popped up that was quite unlike any other that had ever been posted before.
“G’day again everyone,” the message began. “I’m on the way to Critérium du Dauphiné with some really good legs, so I’d like to come away with a stage there. In your opinion, which stages suit who, and are there any riders in particular I should watch out for? I’m gathering some intel from you all…better yet – what stage should I go for and why?”
Upon closer inspection, the username of the post’s author was ‘hsweeny,’ undoubtedly Lotto-Soudal’s Australian rider Harry Sweeny. And here he was, getting ready for the Tour de France’s preparatory event, by asking the internet for advice.
Just like you or I would Google something like ‘how long to reheat rice in the microwave so that it doesn’t kill me’ or ‘Chris Froome net worth’, Sweeny was harnessing the power of online human intelligence to crack a WorldTour bike race.
After the excitement had died down that a pro rider had found their way into their world, some truly insightful analysis emerged from Reddit user ‘natanoj007’.
“Stages 1, 2, 5 and 6 are all opportunities for a breakaway with a rider like you!” they wrote. “However, on stages 1 and 2 the sprinters’ teams and the sprinters themselves are still fresh. I’d rate the chance of the breakaway making it a bit lower on those stages. But you might as well try as you can take relative ‘restdays’ on stages 3 and 4.”
Not stopping there, they then went on to list out some optimum breakaway companions.
“Good potential breakaway companions in this race, (big engine, no punch) are Thomas Champion, Kevin Geniets, Josef Cerny, Kobe Goossens, Mathias Norsgaard, Owsian, Guernalec, de Bod, Romo, Jan Bakelants and Alexis Gougeard.”
“That’s a thorough analysis!” Sweeny replied. I do tend to agree with you, Stage 5 looks good and a strong break will most likely go over the first Cat 3, with a relative downhill for the last 10km.”
“Imagining Harry Sweeny walking up to his DS: ‘yea those guys on Reddit said this is what we should do…'” added cycling Twitter legend @NairoInGreen.
“Crowdsourcing race recon was supposed to be my little secret,” Sweeny responded.
Stay tuned for stages 5 and 6 of the Dauohiné later this week, when Sweeny could potentially take what would be Reddit’s first-ever professional bike racing victory.