Strategic Behavior in Road Cycling Competitions

  • Jean-François MignotEmail author
Part of the Sports Economics, Management and Policy book series (SEMP, volume 11)


Why is there strategy, not just brute force, in cycling competitions? What are the recurring strategic interactions amongst riders? And what can economists learn from riders’ behaviors? Cycling may be one of the most strategically interesting sports, hence its nickname “chess on wheels.” Professional riders’ performances crucially depend on their interactions with other riders, which may not be the case in most sports in athletics, swimming, or skiing. Most interactions between riders are not pure confrontation, zero-sum games, as is the case in boxing, fencing, martial arts, or tennis. In cycling, two rival riders may lawfully ally against some third rider, while such three-player interactions do not exist in football, basketball, or soccer. And cycling being an individual sport run amongst teams, it opens up opportunities of strategic behavior both within and between teams. This chapter provides an overview on (1) the main reasons why bicycle races are strategic, and it then presents several game theory analyses of strategic interactions between riders: (2) attack timing strategy, (3) cooperation and noncooperation in breakaways and in the peloton, (4) sprint strategy and (5) three-player interactions. It is founded on examples of strategic interactions between riders that occurred in the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a España, and other races.


Nash Equilibrium Time Trial Strategic Interaction Finish Line Road Race 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GemassParisFrance

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