How do cycling teams decide who is their top guy?

Watching the Tour de France I’m now thinking about this. What are the criteria which team managers use to decide if for example Froome or Thomas is their man for the overall victory?
Since races are done very strategically by teams race performances are not a very good measure of who is better. Or are they?
Or does it come down to lab data where the guy with the higher power/weight ratio gets the top spot?

Any insights are welcome!

Bare knuckle fight or rock paper scissors depending on if it’s classics or grand tours.


I imagine it’s a lot more long term focused, they look over experience, numbers, and performances in races. I imagine it’s similar to any job, where if you’re angling for a promotion you need to prove that you’re capable of taking that next step and management will evaluate accordingly.

where it gets tricky is like the tour last year when thomas was stronger than froome, but it wasn’t unreasonable to think froome could have won the tour if thomas worked for him, but that’s all about management and taking into account team goals, personalities, and all that.

Yeah, to be honest I always forget about the perspective that for pro cyclists it’s in many ways like our jobs for us. Maybe with the difference that not many people have accounting as a hobby.

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Grand tours haven’t been the same since GC riders stopped being decided by pistols at dawn.


cyclings news did a podcast with EF at their team selection camp before the tour. Mitch docker also talks about it on his podcast “life in the Peloton”

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Strength and weaknesses, as in every team role. GC contenders need to be pretty good allrounders, but mostly good climbers as that is where you can make (and lose) the most time. However since there is nearly always an ITT, they can’t afford to lose too much time there either. And then they need to be able to recover very quickly and be very fatigue resistant, because they have to last the whole three weeks without any bad days. Many of the sprinters for example will pack and go home early instead.

I’m by no means an expert, but from various commentary it seems like most of the riders have very short contracts. It also seems that guys are mostly hired to be top guys, so it’s a big deal if there’s a change. So it’s not quite a formula or whatever that decides it, there was someone signed with that expectation.

I think the example of Froome/Thomas and now Bernal is a bit unusual, as other teams can’t afford to keep paying three riders so capable of winning the whole thing, most of the time they’d be off their contracts and able to sign with someone new.

power to weight is certainly probably the major factor - you need to be around 6W/kg to be a GC contender.

But teams would also be looking at changes in performance in altitude, and performances in a flatter TT as well where W/CdA matters. Most teams will plan out the race calendar, and if they have multiple GC contenders, encourage one to aim at the Giro, another at the TdF, etc.

But one major issue that isn’t really quantifiable is fatigue resistance and whether they can maintain performance over the full 3 weeks of the tour. Most teams have a “Plan B” with a rider who is potentially a stage-winner. If their GC guy is no longer in contention, they will target a stage where the terrain favors their B rider (whether this is an uphill sprint, a breakaway stage, etc)

Team Ineos have handled this one by nominating a couple of riders as “protected” in the first 2 weeks, and seeing who is the stronger in the 3rd week. You could see this in the way the handled the Woods/Thomas crash - Bernal kept going with the bunch, while the rest of the team stopped for Thomas.