Summer news

If you don't read The Orwell Diaries, you might give it a look. It's a blog that's publishing George Orwell's diary entries 70 years to the day after he wrote them. Seventy years before this summer was the summer leading up to World War II, so there should be plenty of interesting updates coming.

Also, this year's Tour de France is killing me. Other than Mark Cavendish, certified badass, where's the action?

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It's the Tour de France,

It's the Tour de France, what kind of action do you expect ?

Tour boring

So true about TdF. The organisers this year have basically neutered all the Pyrenean climbs, placing big climbs in the middle of the stage, fewer climb finishes. Very few opportunities for big gaps and breakaways. Thus the GC standings are really not changing and won't be until we get to Alpine stages. I tend to agree with commentators, such as Boardman, that wish the radio ban to become the norm. It would make the race more interesting for spectators. Perhaps extend it even further and do not allow strategic interaction from the team cars. Only medical, mechanical. That way the peloton would have to catch breakaways the way they did in the old days of the tour, by riding until you can see the riders ahead. BTW, Lance FTW!

Peeps

This reminds me of Pepys' Diary. It's an interesting concept but I guess, judging by my failure to follow that diary, I'm not the sort of person who can get into following along a diary that was in fact completed long ago. By the way I presume these are both automated. They easily could be. Just drop the entire diary into a file with the days suitably marked, whip up some code that checks every morning to see if there's anything for today (minus X days) in the diary and posts whatever it finds, and done.

There is something I never understood about bike racing, and maybe racing in general but it seems to come out in bike racing. It's not that it's a deep mystery - I can think of explanations - it's just that I don't know which explanation is correct. Here's the puzzle: why do the bikers so obviously react to each other on the road? If your goal is to get from point A to point B in the minimal time, then what does it matter what any other bikers are doing? How would their presence change the optimal program for your own riding, which in principle would seem to depend mainly on your own physiology, your energy reserves, the shape of the course, etc. - but not obviously on the other people who are sharing the road with you.

Here are a few possibilities:

1) You need to pay attention because other bikers are physical obstacles on the road.

2) You need to pay attention because other bikers are useful tools, for example to reduce the air resistance. Birds fly in a V shape because of this.

3) Other bicyclists have a substantial psychological effect on you and, consequently, on your own performance. You can be charged up (or psyched out) by your competition.

4) Multi-player game strategy based on uncertainty. You do not, after all, absolutely have to get to the finish line in the shortest time. It is enough merely to get to the finish line slightly ahead of the next guy. This a relative, rather than absolute, goal, and for this relative goal it becomes important to react to the other competitors. There is, moreover, no such thing as a strategy which will get you to the finish line in the shortest time. Rather, there are are various programs that will trade off factors such as safety and speed. Go faster and you risk an accident. If the other rider is very fast then you may as well take the risk, since if you don't you'll definitely lose; but if the other rider is slow then there is no point risking an accident by riding very fast.

I have no idea which of these effects, if any, are significant, and by how much. Any or all could be, but I don't know which. And there are surely some other factors I have not listed.

a good guide to bike racing

@Constant: 1) and 4) are the most important factors. Here is a link that helps explain the importance of drafting in bike racing:

http://bikeracing.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_importance_of_drafting_in_a_bicycle_race

Your point 3) comes into play on steep climbs where drafting has little aerodynamic advantage. Often on a steep mountain stage, the best climbers and contenders for overall victory in the race, will set a fast pace with the help of members of their team. This has the effect of wearing down the field of riders quite quickly and the lesser climbers will fall behind. When the group has narrowed down to a small group of elite riders, they are all working at a similar effort. If a rider decides to accelerate off the front of the group, you often see the rest follow in the slipstream to catch up. If the rider that takes off is not a contender for overall victory they are sometimes allowed to go. The gap in times on a grand tour such as TdF can be quite small between the top 5 riders, sometimes even less than a minute after 3 weeks of stage races and thousands of miles. If such a small time gap exists between the attacking rider, the other riders will often chase to catch up. This has a psychological effect on the attacking rider, seeing they are unable to ride away to victory. It also is a strategic move. If you watch the upcoming alpine stages, you will see this dynamic in play.