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I was watching the "30 for 30" episode on Greg Lemond on ESPN. The video (Slaying the Badger) had interviews with previous teammates of Lemond. One of them was Andy Hampsten and in his interview segment, he said he had to "chase down" Hinault to help Lemond win. Reading the wiki pg for Lemond (link here), it said Hampsten and Bauer had to bring back Hinault.

I've never been on a bike racing team or competed in a bike race so I don't know any tactics or strategies when racing as a bike team so I'm wondering how do riders "chase down and bring back" opposing riders so their teammate can win or what does it mean to bring back riders?

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I know drafting might come into play too but to simplify things, let's forget about drafting

You can't forget about drafting because it is a huge effect in road racing; quoting from How much benefit do we really get from drafting? in Cycling Tips:

Studies have shown drag reductions of between 27% and 50% for riders that are drafting

When a team in the peloton decides to bring that rider back, every rider on the team, maybe excluding the team lead/sprinter1, will take their "turn" at the front of the train, before dropping back to let the next rider have a turn. At worst, this means they get a 27% advantage 6/7ths of the time (Tour de France teams have 8 riders), or still more than a 20% advantage. That advantage only gets bigger in more optimal drafting conditions or if any other teams contribute to the chase.

The rider out on their own gets none of that advantage, so your assumption that they would be more fresh isn't correct - in fact, it's not uncommon to see riders that have been out on their own for a long time spit out the back of the peloton soon after being caught as they have expended so much energy riding on their own.

1. In general, a team is trying to bring a rider back for a reason; for example, on a flat stage, they want to set the finish up for their sprinter. There's no point bringing the race back together just to have their sprinter tired from the chase and unable to compete effectively in the sprint, so the sprinter may take shorter, fewer or even no turns at the front of the train.

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    Can you perhaps directly answer the question (what does "bring back" mean, literally)? It seems to me what you're describing via drafting is them letting Lemond draft off them, at an accelerated pace that costs the other riders in the long run, in order to bring the pack back to Hinault - not doing something directly to Hinault. Why is it "bring back Hinault", then? Or is my understanding wrong?
    – Joe
    Sep 17 '20 at 18:01
  • There was a lot more in the original version of the question :-(
    – Philip Kendall
    Sep 17 '20 at 18:13
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    The term 'bring back' is misleading. The lead rider is not being slowed down but rather the pack is making a concerted effort to speed up and catch up to him. A solo break away is a big risk as the rider doesn't get the benefit of drafting - it can be exhausting. If a rider does it too soon, he is likely to get caught before the finish. The term is an idiom, they are not literally 'bringing him back'. Sep 29 '20 at 21:14

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