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Breaking away at the Tour
Neilson Powless shares his tips on how he picks the winning breakaway
Getting into a breakaway at the Tour de France is no easy feat. Getting into a breakaway with the potential to make it to the finish is even harder still. Luck is involved for sure, but according to nine time Tour de France veteran, Tejay van Garderen, the biggest factor in making it into the breakaway is sheer power and determination.
While this might only be his first trip around France, the young american climber, Neilson Powless, didn’t wait long to turn a few heads with his breakaway heroics. On stage 6, Neilson found himself in a strong breakaway on a day with a hard mountain top finish. While a few small tactical errors on the main climb of the day meant he narrowly missed out on the win, he has since found his way into three more winning breakaways, including the one which saw Dani Martínez take the win on stage 13. Neilson so far is the only rider with a 100% success rate when it comes to picking winning breaks at the 2020 Tour which has impressed his teammates, spectators, and director sportifs alike.
“People always think of Thomas de Gendt as the breakaway star. I think Neilson is this year’s breakaway king of the Tour de France,” said Jens Keukeleire on the second rest day in Voiron, the very next day, Neilson was there again, in another star studded breakaway.
After his stage 16 breakaway ride, Neilson said “I’m able to pick the right moves, but I just can’t stick it.” But after a first Tour de France like this one, we know it’s only a matter of time before he steps onto the podium at cycling’s biggest race.
Hear from our breakaway ace, Neilson Powless on how he picks the right breakaway.
Line up early
“Typically the guys looking to get into the breakaway will be lining up early to make sure that they are at the front of the pack as soon as they reach kilometer zero. Lining up early will also allow you to check out the other riders and see which ones are maybe tightening up their shoes a little extra before the neutral start ends.”
“Another telltale of someone who is trying to make it into the breakaway is if they only have one bottle on their bike before an uphill start. That’s usually a guaranteed sign that they are trying to make the breakaway because then they are looking for every gram they can save to escape from the bunch.”
Pick the right move
“If there is a rider who is only a few minutes down on the General classification and he is trying to make it into the breakaway, there is a good chance the other GC teams behind won’t let that break go. You have to pick a move with some guys that are far enough down in the classification but that are also strong enough to make it to the line.”
Check the vibe of the rider next to you
“If the rider next to you is putting off some nervous energy or trying really hard to move to the front, those are typically the best guys to follow because that usually means they are the most eager and could be the guys to pull you up there without asking you to take a pull at the front. The easier you take it getting into the breakaway, the better it will be for you at the end which is crucial when trying to make your job easier at the Tour de France.”
Be hyper focused at the start
“Most breakaway attempts start right as the flag drops. Being at the front of the pack, ready to jump on any moves that might fly out of the peloton is crucial.”