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To race or to wait?

No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
edited July 2017 in Pro race
Every GT we seem to get a "race or wait" debate pop up at least once or twice, and pretty much every time the same entrenched opinions seem to be taken.

There are some that *almost* always claim "this is cycling, 'Dumoulin' happens, they should just race" and some that *almost* always decry Team X's (OK, it's Movistar) lack of class in pressing an advantage.

Others will roll back the decades to the 1980's (where coverage was skimpy and we had to have these debates in actual pubs instead of across a million social media platforms) to explain what would and should have happened.

But all of these fall into a trap of thinking that whatever moral codex might exist in cycling it can be examined independently of cycling itself. This is a mistake.

The first position is based on something like a Nietzschean will to power, where what is right is defined by doing what it takes to win (within the framework of the written rules and their enforcement). It's often coupled with an appeal to the gladiatorial aspect of the sport - we as fans are here for blood, we expect to see it spilled and showing mercy is an abhorrent sign of weakness not worthy of a champion.

The second can be based on any number of ethical frameworks, those that we use on a daily basis to assess the goodness/badness of actions in "the real world". And as in the real world, we often mix and match between different frameworks when making our judgements and describing the intricacies of how we make them (did they attack or drive harder or simply not slow down? was it a mechanical or interference from outside the race? was it at a key point of the race or midway through a stage? etc. etc. etc.)

The third is simply an appeal to conservatism - what is right is whatever we have always called right and what is wrong is what we have always called wrong. If it was good enough for Hinault...Merckx...Anquetil...Coppi...Garin then it's good enough for us.

Obviously I've caricatured these positions slightly, they're more nuanced than that and there are other variations and mixtures available, but it seems to me that they all miss a fundamental aspect of cycling.

The important point of the "unwritten rules" is that they have developed and are interpreted within the peloton itself, in response to what we could characterise as the sociological aspect of the sport. The rules are both set and enforced by the riders. They do this against a background of a sport that takes game theory to it's very limits. Every day riders and teams are faced with multiple choices about whether to cooperate or compete, to contribute or exploit. Each of these decisions is tallied up within the peloton, remembered, and forms a character reference for the rider and the team. This all plays out against a background economics where the currency is favours (assuming we're not talking about actual cheating, where the currency might be hard cash, Vino.). This is one of the things we absolutely love about cycling. We love seeing the prisoner's dilemma play out as the break nears the finish line - who can play the game best?

The unwritten rules exist not because they are objectively good or bad, but because within cycling karma exists. Bank some karma now and you may benefit later. Seize an opportunity now and you'll pay for it next time.

Of course, this isn't actually any different to life outside racing bikes (there are strong arguments that all human ethics and sociology essentially evolved in a long game of prisoners dilemma), and within the peloton the same arguments will be made for why attack X was bad but attack Y was OK - but with one difference to when we make them: the peloton will both judge AND sentence. In the end it is the peloton that writes the rules (to the extent that unwritten rules can be written...). In essence, whether the right action is to race or wait is determined by the peloton, after you've made your decision. You will be judged by your peers. And this is why I love cycling.
“Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

@DrHeadgear

The Vikings are coming!
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Posts

  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 22,895
    Riders should just continue as though the incident, whatever it is, had never happened. Do not alter behaviour. No slowing, no accelerating. If a team has been riding on the front for many kms to set up a tactical move, then they should progress with that plan. There are no time-outs in cycling.

    The only exception to this is when the incident has been the result of an act of malice. The only example I can think of is the tacks incident at the 2012 Tour.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 46,681 Lives Here
    All contextual, but as a general rule, whatever makes it more exciting from thereonin i'll support.
  • craigus89craigus89 Posts: 861
    RichN95 wrote:
    Riders should just continue as though the incident, whatever it is, had never happened. Do not alter behaviour. No slowing, no accelerating. If a team has been riding on the front for many kms to set up a tactical move, then they should progress with that plan. There are no time-outs in cycling.

    The only exception to this is when the incident has been the result of an act of malice. The only example I can think of is the tacks incident at the 2012 Tour.

    Exactly this for me.

    I know this isn't just about what happened the other day, but in the case of Tom, he wasn't unwell, it seems to be because he mismanaged his diet. Therefore, I can't see much of a difference in being expected to wait for him and being expected to wait for someone who has bonked because they haven't eaten enough. That would be ludicrous.

    Safer just to carry on unless the commisaires intervene because of something uncontrollable. If teams want to wait to be sportsman then fine, but don't expect it in return.
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
    Maybe I rambled too much, but my point seems to have been missed.

    The point was that the peloton is an entirely self-regulating closed system. Appeals to externalities like "excitement" or "simple transparent rules (race unless it's tacks on the road)" are not just in vain, they're a category mistake. The unwritten rules are transactional. They may appear as altruistic (and may feel altruistic when they're being abided by) but they're self serving. They emerge from the complex sociological factors of bike racing.

    For me, as I love the complex sociology of bike racing, that's a good thing. The correct thing to do in any particular situation is basically what the peloton thinks it should do.
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • FocusZingFocusZing Posts: 4,416
    I would prefer to see sportsmanship between the GCs. Which sets a good example to the kids watching. I know I know..... But what sticks in my mind was when Lance and Jan waited for each other. A salient memory.

    GCs are on level playing field so forget the PED debate.
  • imafatmanimafatman Posts: 351
    Great post.
  • FocusZingFocusZing Posts: 4,416
    Jeez, I wasn't expecting that response. Maybe saying what you really think and not playing with the posse does work.
  • above_the_cowsabove_the_cows Posts: 10,862
    Doc, that was wonderful. I think we could say the second position is somewhat Bourdieusian while what you propose would be Latourian, where the peloton is composed of actors (and actants) working in a network in many possible ways.
    Correlation is not causation.
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
    Doc, that was wonderful. I think we could say the second position is somewhat Bourdieusian while what you propose would be Latourian, where the peloton is composed of actors (and actants) working in a network in many possible ways.

    Thanks, though I'm not going to even pretend that I understand Bourdieu or Latour :-D
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • above_the_cowsabove_the_cows Posts: 10,862
    Doc, that was wonderful. I think we could say the second position is somewhat Bourdieusian while what you propose would be Latourian, where the peloton is composed of actors (and actants) working in a network in many possible ways.

    Thanks, though I'm not going to even pretend that I understand Bourdieu or Latour :-D

    French sociologists, bane of my life. My whole job is pretending that I do understand them. :D
    Correlation is not causation.
  • bobmcstuffbobmcstuff Posts: 8,064
    Maybe I rambled too much, but my point seems to have been missed.

    The point was that the peloton is an entirely self-regulating closed system. Appeals to externalities like "excitement" or "simple transparent rules (race unless it's tacks on the road)" are not just in vain, they're a category mistake. The unwritten rules are transactional. They may appear as altruistic (and may feel altruistic when they're being abided by) but they're self serving. They emerge from the complex sociological factors of bike racing.

    For me, as I love the complex sociology of bike racing, that's a good thing. The correct thing to do in any particular situation is basically what the peloton thinks it should do.

    Yeah, I agree with you.

    It also depends how well liked the rider and the team is in the peloton as to whether or not people will help them out. I don't really have an issue with that.
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
    Doc, that was wonderful. I think we could say the second position is somewhat Bourdieusian while what you propose would be Latourian, where the peloton is composed of actors (and actants) working in a network in many possible ways.

    Thanks, though I'm not going to even pretend that I understand Bourdieu or Latour :-D

    French sociologists, bane of my life. My whole job is pretending that I do understand them. :D

    Been there, done that (German philosophers). Eventually settled on the Pythonian interpretation (Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar...)
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • Mad_MalxMad_Malx Posts: 3,932
    Think we need a poll. Then spend the two years complaining we did/didn't know what we were voting for.
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 5,590
    Maybe I rambled too much, but my point seems to have been missed.

    The point was that the peloton is an entirely self-regulating closed system. Appeals to externalities like "excitement" or "simple transparent rules (race unless it's tacks on the road)" are not just in vain, they're a category mistake. The unwritten rules are transactional. They may appear as altruistic (and may feel altruistic when they're being abided by) but they're self serving. They emerge from the complex sociological factors of bike racing.

    For me, as I love the complex sociology of bike racing, that's a good thing. The correct thing to do in any particular situation is basically what the peloton thinks it should do.

    I think you're wrong to rule out an altruistic or perhaps more correctly a moral element to some acts of waiting for opponents we have seen. Unless I'm reading you wrong I can't see how it is always or even often self serving to sacrifice a win or gaining a significant advantage in the typical examples we could all come up with.
    AFC Mercia women - sign for us
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
    Maybe I rambled too much, but my point seems to have been missed.

    The point was that the peloton is an entirely self-regulating closed system. Appeals to externalities like "excitement" or "simple transparent rules (race unless it's tacks on the road)" are not just in vain, they're a category mistake. The unwritten rules are transactional. They may appear as altruistic (and may feel altruistic when they're being abided by) but they're self serving. They emerge from the complex sociological factors of bike racing.

    For me, as I love the complex sociology of bike racing, that's a good thing. The correct thing to do in any particular situation is basically what the peloton thinks it should do.

    I think you're wrong to rule out an altruistic or perhaps more correctly a moral element to some acts of waiting for opponents we have seen. Unless I'm reading you wrong I can't see how it is always or even often self serving to sacrifice a win or gaining a significant advantage in the typical examples we could all come up with.

    Well that's an ancient debate in philosophy, but my take on it is that altruism is genuine (in that the explicit motivation for an action is altruistic) but altruism exists because it is advantageous. I recommend Robert Axelrod's The Evolution of Cooperation for a good read on this, if it's still in print. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Evolu ... ooperation
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 5,590
    You are making a different point there to the one you made in your first post. Are acts of waiting altruistic or based on a moral standpoint - in short what is "right" - or are they transactional. Appealing to an evolutionary view of altruism doesn't reconcile the fact that in the moment these are conflicting explanations or motivations.

    I actually think you are mistaken in arguing these episodes can't be explained with reference to a moral code independent of cycling - they are really just examples of sportsmanship and it's only really the detail where you need a deeper understanding of the sport in determining whether sportsmanship demands a rider wait or not.
    AFC Mercia women - sign for us
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 22,895
    Here's a hypothetical question for those who think that they should have waited. Rather than this event happening when it did - it happened a similar way up Etna, the first major climb of the Giro. Again to Dumoulin. But at that time he's just a GC outsider, a possible challenger (one unpicked on PTP). Should they wait then? He's the same rider - only his chances of winning have changed. And should they wait if it was Quintana - the pre-race hot favourite - at the same point.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • sherersherer Posts: 2,395
    RichN95 wrote:
    Here's a hypothetical question for those who think that they should have waited. Rather than this event happening when it did - it happened a similar way up Etna, the first major climb of the Giro. Again to Dumoulin. But at that time he's just a GC outsider, a possible challenger (one unpicked on PTP). Should they wait then? He's the same rider - only his chances of winning have changed. And should they wait if it was Quintana - the pre-race hot favourite - at the same point.

    I think it would depend if the race was "on" or not. If they were just riding tempo then they can wait, if they were racing and something happens then no carry on and race.
  • yorkshirerawyorkshireraw Posts: 1,055
    If it's outside the riders control - puncture or crash (not caused by themselves a la some of Contador's antics), and it's late in the race and one of the big contenders, then maybe wait.
    If it's a rider unable to get their eating strategy right & that results in a comedy strip and dash into a field for a dump, then no.
    I think in this case they continued to ride tempo but not attack, gave him a while to catch up, when he didn't they had to get on with it. Quite fair I'd suggest.
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 22,895
    sherer wrote:
    RichN95 wrote:
    Here's a hypothetical question for those who think that they should have waited. Rather than this event happening when it did - it happened a similar way up Etna, the first major climb of the Giro. Again to Dumoulin. But at that time he's just a GC outsider, a possible challenger (one unpicked on PTP). Should they wait then? He's the same rider - only his chances of winning have changed. And should they wait if it was Quintana - the pre-race hot favourite - at the same point.

    I think it would depend if the race was "on" or not. If they were just riding tempo then they can wait, if they were racing and something happens then no carry on and race.
    My comment was more about which riders should they wait for. Dumoulin at that stage was a GC outsider. Do they wait whenever any rider has a problem? Where is the line drawn as to who is 'wait worthy' and who is not.

    And as for the race being 'on'. Dumoulin pulled up from a group of around 20 on the final climb of the day. There may have been a lull in the pace, but the race had been 'on' for a long time.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • sherersherer Posts: 2,395
    RichN95 wrote:
    sherer wrote:
    RichN95 wrote:
    Here's a hypothetical question for those who think that they should have waited. Rather than this event happening when it did - it happened a similar way up Etna, the first major climb of the Giro. Again to Dumoulin. But at that time he's just a GC outsider, a possible challenger (one unpicked on PTP). Should they wait then? He's the same rider - only his chances of winning have changed. And should they wait if it was Quintana - the pre-race hot favourite - at the same point.

    I think it would depend if the race was "on" or not. If they were just riding tempo then they can wait, if they were racing and something happens then no carry on and race.
    My comment was more about which riders should they wait for. Dumoulin at that stage was a GC outsider. Do they wait whenever any rider has a problem? Where is the line drawn as to who is 'wait worthy' and who is not.

    And as for the race being 'on'. Dumoulin pulled up from a group of around 20 on the final climb of the day. There may have been a lull in the pace, but the race had been 'on' for a long time.

    see what you mean and its a difficult one to define. Guess its up to the patron of the peloton at the time to decide
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
    You are making a different point there to the one you made in your first post. Are acts of waiting altruistic or based on a moral standpoint - in short what is "right" - or are they transactional. Appealing to an evolutionary view of altruism doesn't reconcile the fact that in the moment these are conflicting explanations or motivations.

    I actually think you are mistaken in arguing these episodes can't be explained with reference to a moral code independent of cycling - they are really just examples of sportsmanship and it's only really the detail where you need a deeper understanding of the sport in determining whether sportsmanship demands a rider wait or not.

    Firstly, thanks for engaging with what I wrote instead of jumping into the standard debate on when it's right to wait and when it's right to race...

    My view is that transaction and altruism aren't two different things. I don't need to argue that decisions are made from a purely cold calculating self-interest to maintain the point that within the sociology of cycling the decisions are self regulating. It's not actually possible to tell the difference between a sociopath that understands and plays by the rules and a rider that is sincerely empathetic and wants to be an exemplary sportsman. The actions of either will both be parsed through the same understanding of the unwritten rules, and result in the same reactions.

    The flip side of altruism is retribution, in the game of prisoners dilemma they go hand in hand. We cooperate, but we won't be taken for fools, and we will teach a lesson (by withdrawing cooperation) to those that have broken the rules against us.

    As for whether it's the same as sportsmanship in other sports, I think it's quite different, in that most other sports don't involve much cooperation at any point. Neither sportsmanship nor gamesmanship has the same opportunity to be repaid in kind. In football, for example, barring some few and far between altruistic acts (Robbie Fowler telling the ref it wasn't a penalty, for instance) about the only example of cooperation was kicking the ball out if a player was injured. That's largely gone now, as in a sport where cooperation isn't a fundamental requirement it was exploited (by feigning injury) until teams pretty much stopped doing it and relied on the ref to stop the game instead. Football didn't have a culture that could maintain cooperative behaviour and moved to codifying it as the ref's decision. I'm seeing a similar tendency where people are attempting to present extremely clear interpretations of the rule (with no real requirement for judgement, just perform a check-box ticking appraisal of the situation) or ask the race commisaires to step in and neutralise the race.

    This is what I was trying to get at, in a hugely rambling manner, when saying the peloton would decide. The rules change according to what the peloton decide and enforce. They don't always come to a consensus on any particular occasion, but the etiquette is internalised to the peloton.
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 22,895
    This is what I was trying to get at, in a hugely rambling manner, when saying the peloton would decide. The rules change according to what the peloton decide and enforce. They don't always come to a consensus on any particular occasion, but the etiquette is internalised to the peloton.
    But I would argue that the etiquette is not internalised to the peloton. I would say that the etiquette is primarily not a pure altruistic gesture but instead a move designed to placate the outside audience - who are often eager to be judgemental. The waiting is often accompanied by exaggerated and unnecessary arm waving, largely for the benefit of the cameras.

    Sportsmen in most sports have become homogenised in their public personalities not by their own common consensus but by their common desire not to be the cause of the outrage du jour.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • m.r.m.m.r.m. Posts: 1,644
    Outside of malice committed by a third party, riders should never wait. Crashes, punctures etc. are part of racing. Not ideal, but the least wrong option imho.
    PTP Champion 2019
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
    RichN95 wrote:
    This is what I was trying to get at, in a hugely rambling manner, when saying the peloton would decide. The rules change according to what the peloton decide and enforce. They don't always come to a consensus on any particular occasion, but the etiquette is internalised to the peloton.
    But I would argue that the etiquette is not internalised to the peloton. I would say that the etiquette is primarily not a pure altruistic gesture but instead a move designed to placate the outside audience - who are often eager to be judgemental. The waiting is often accompanied by exaggerated and unnecessary arm waving, largely for the benefit of the cameras.

    Sportsmen in most sports have become homogenised in their public personalities not by their own common consensus but by their common desire not to be the cause of the outrage du jour.

    I think that plays a far smaller part than you suggest, though as fans we have a tendency to think we're somehow important or have a role.
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • RichN95.RichN95. Posts: 22,895
    RichN95 wrote:
    This is what I was trying to get at, in a hugely rambling manner, when saying the peloton would decide. The rules change according to what the peloton decide and enforce. They don't always come to a consensus on any particular occasion, but the etiquette is internalised to the peloton.
    But I would argue that the etiquette is not internalised to the peloton. I would say that the etiquette is primarily not a pure altruistic gesture but instead a move designed to placate the outside audience - who are often eager to be judgemental. The waiting is often accompanied by exaggerated and unnecessary arm waving, largely for the benefit of the cameras.

    Sportsmen in most sports have become homogenised in their public personalities not by their own common consensus but by their common desire not to be the cause of the outrage du jour.

    I think that plays a far smaller part than you suggest, though as fans we have a tendency to think we're somehow important or have a role.
    I was thinking more of the media rather than fans.
    Twitter: @RichN95
  • No_Ta_DoctorNo_Ta_Doctor Posts: 9,465
    RichN95 wrote:
    RichN95 wrote:
    This is what I was trying to get at, in a hugely rambling manner, when saying the peloton would decide. The rules change according to what the peloton decide and enforce. They don't always come to a consensus on any particular occasion, but the etiquette is internalised to the peloton.
    But I would argue that the etiquette is not internalised to the peloton. I would say that the etiquette is primarily not a pure altruistic gesture but instead a move designed to placate the outside audience - who are often eager to be judgemental. The waiting is often accompanied by exaggerated and unnecessary arm waving, largely for the benefit of the cameras.

    Sportsmen in most sports have become homogenised in their public personalities not by their own common consensus but by their common desire not to be the cause of the outrage du jour.

    I think that plays a far smaller part than you suggest, though as fans we have a tendency to think we're somehow important or have a role.
    I was thinking more of the media rather than fans.

    Well the media only exist to transmit to the fans, it's not a scandal unless fans are scandalised.
    “Road racing was over and the UCI had banned my riding positions on the track, so it was like ‘Jings, crivvens, help ma Boab, what do I do now? I know, I’ll go away and be depressed for 10 years’.”

    @DrHeadgear

    The Vikings are coming!
  • Lanterne_RogueLanterne_Rogue Posts: 2,018
    The interesting winkle, of course, is that it's really an iterative game of Prisoner's Dilemma, so 'defect' is an option that can come to haunt you for the rest of your career... That in itself is going to change the strategic environment towards not being a censored (citation needed).
    @canocola

    aka the poster formerly known as underlayunderlay
  • Garry HGarry H Posts: 6,614
    Race, always. It's just for sport.
  • smithy21smithy21 Posts: 2,200
    Does it really matter after the event? It's yesterday's news.

    Does anyone actually even think about chaingate any more. In fact does anyone even remember Andy Schleck?
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