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  • 09.04.15

    The role of the road captain in professional cycling

    Shot caller, decision maker...and highly disposable. Understanding the captain's role with Millar, Hammond, and Flecha

    Words
    Timothy John
    Photographs
    Offside-LeEquipe

“The really hard thing is when it’s all hit the fan and you’re riding at threshold, when the race meeting plan has gone out of the window completely, you’ve just been dropped and you’ve got two riders in the front group and the team of your chief rival has four. You’ve got to make those crucial decisions” – Roger Hammond

The role of road captain is little understood, but its greatest exponents are among the most established names in the peloton: Eisel, Paolini, Rogers, to name just three.

It is at once a position of great responsibility and total subservience, fulfilled by a shifting cast selected on a race-by-race basis both for their suitability for a given event and for their relationship to the rider that the team hopes will win it.

Racing cyclists, two, embracing over fence, red and white kit, Alexander Kristoff and Luca Paolini, Milan-Sanremo 2014

The captain must combine physical strength with tactical acumen, be utterly unafraid of his rivals and even team-mates, whom he must bend to his will in service of his leader.

He is simultaneously the messenger from the team car and the rider calling the shots. If the pre-race plan is implemented successfully, the credit belongs to the DS; if it goes wrong, it is the road captain who is likely to feel the ire of his colleagues.

Rouleur caught up with three senior members of the recent peloton, one of them a road captain par excellence, to discuss the role. Here then are the thoughts of David Millar, Juan Antonio Flecha and Roger Hammond.

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