Tour de France primer: What is a breakaway?

Learn about one of cycling’s basic tactics

July 6, 2023

At this year’s Tour de France, you will often see pink EF jerseys race ahead of the pack.

This is called a breakaway. We’re here to ride a bold, aggressive race and will keep sending riders off the front. We always do so for good reason. We’re not here just to show our shirts. We’re at the Tour de France to win.

The breakaway is one of cycling’s basic tactics. If you are new to the sport, a breakaway might seem like a vain effort. More often than not, riders who race ahead of the main group early on get caught. Still, fortune favors the brave, and there are days when the breakaway has a very good chance of staying away all the way to the finish line. To win at the Tour de France, you have to be willing to gamble.

Most of the time, the breakaway is a team tactic however.

When one of our riders is off the front, his teammates have no reason to chase him, which means that they can save their energy in the peloton, as their rivals spend their strength pushing into the wind at the front of it.

Heading up the road early can also give our riders the chance to make key efforts for their teammates late in a race that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to manage. Knowing that they won’t likely be able to follow the best riders in the peloton when they attack, they might push ahead early to get a head start. That could mean that they could play a role on the other side of a hard climb, where they would have got dropped, for instance. They will be looking for a teammate to catch up from behind. Having two or more riders in a select group like that is always an advantage.

Breakaway riders also look to collect the prizes that race organizers offer to the first riders who pass set spots on the course. There are King of the Mountains points at the top of climbs and points for the sprinters’ competition on fast stretches of road at the Tour de France.

Neilson Powless has been collecting King of the Mountains points at this year’s Tour de France. He wore the polka-dot jersey as leader of the climbers’ competition to the end of stage five and is still very much in the running. Getting in breakaways is the best way for him to cross summits first and collect more points. But he can’t get in the break every day. The Tour de France is three weeks long and he needs to pick and choose where he spends his energy. If Neilson doesn’t make the break, his teammates will try to get up the road and take points themselves, so his rivals don’t get them.

Every time we break away, stage victory will be our main goal though.

If you see a pink EF Education-EasyPost jersey out front, tune in and stay tuned to see if we can race to victory.

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