Strategy and Execution

This is an article about one particular stage in this year’s Tour De France, but for the non-cycling fans, this has little to do with cycling itself; it is all about great strategy and perfect execution.

You hear a lot about having a strategy and planning, but ultimately it is all down to the execution. A badly executed plan is better than the greatest strategy ever that is never executed. Although if you are a Man Utd fan, then after this weekend you are rightly thinking there is no plan, no strategy and no execution either at your club. I should confess I am an Arsenal fan, so I am not entirely disappointed in that given it was always Man Utd that were our biggest rivals and I lived in Manchester at the time too, so I’ve suffered enough!!

Classic Strategy Move

Picture stage 11 of the Tour De France, from Albertville to Col Du Granon Serre Chevalier at an altitude of 2413m. After stage 10 the pre-Tour favourite and the winner from the previous year, Tadej Pogacar, was in the yellow jersey (which of those of you not familiar with the Tour means he was winning the whole thing at that point) and performing very well. He had been in the yellow jersey for days and looked strong and likely to go on to win.

However, a rival team, Jumbo-Visma, had other ideas. They had a strategy and a plan for this day and they executed it perfectly. The team had come up with a plan that involved consistently and constantly challenging Pogacar throughout the 151km route and the 4 hours of racing. They did this both individually and as a team to wear him down, and just when Pogacar thought he was safe and had fought off all the challenges of the day, Jonas Vingegaard left him for dead with 4.6km to go. Pogacar had nothing more to give and Vingegaard went on to win the stage and the time difference between them was 2 minutes 51 seconds, which in the Tour is big.

This put Vingegaard in the yellow jersey for the first time, and he never lost it after that and by Stage 21 and the ride into Paris, he was the overall winner. It was both lost and won on Stage 11 though due to great planning and perfect execution.

And Perfect Sportsmanship

There was another twist to come between these two top riders that is also worthy of mention. On Stage 18, both Pogacar and Vingegaard were out front on their own, and this was one of the last chances Pogacar had to recover the time between them. However, Pogacar had a crash coming round a corner which he took a bit quick, and came off the bike. It was not serious but naturally cost him time and was the perfect opportunity for Vingegaard to ride off with his biggest challenger losing many seconds behind him.

But he didn’t. In a remarkable piece of sportsmanship, he slowed down and waited for Pogacar to catch up. Vingegaard said afterwards, he didn’t want to win the stage because of a fall of a competitor, so he waited. Both riders acknowledged each other as they were back next to each other, and then in another piece of great mutual sportsmanship, Pogacar then told his team car he was not prepared to try and challenge Vingegaard for the rest of that stage, given his actions. I think a lot of sportspeople could learn a thing or two from this!!!