Like Sheep Astray
1“That’s the real secret in sprinting: being in the right place with 500 meters to go. The right place is just behind a leadout man who shepherds the sprinter…setting a fast pace while letting him save his energy by riding in the draft… usually with two or three kilometers to go, sometimes further…if you’re by yourself, you really don’t have a place…” Gord Fraser, Star Sprinter
The good shepherd herds his lambs, wards off danger, and leads the sheep safely into the fold. Racing’s shepherds are the lead-out experts. This skill is often misinterpreted by amateur racers. In the set-up for the designated sprinter, there’s often confusion about who is supposed to benefit from the fight for positioning. Even where pecking order or team roles have been clearly established, a selfish tendency to disregard the plan seems to show up most often in a lead-out.
Lead-outs end where the sprint begins. This means the race for the last lead-out person is over with 200 meters or 2more to go. The temptation of barreling with momentum and adrenaline toward the finish in full line of sight seems too much for an inexperienced lead-out rider who forgets he’s riding for another. Those astray are conditioned to prepare for the final sprint and haven’t learned to recognize the distinctive segments preceding the last move: the subtle opportunities sensed by the experienced. A lead-out starts well before obvious finish action but may be characterized by violent and aggressive maneuvering, which makes it another hard ability for a neophyte with less skill and less extrinsic incentive for the risks.
A good lead-out man is often a team’s MVP. The lead-out knows how to negotiate the surge after surge before the sprint to win…like surfing, hanging 10 on many waves. 3Ron Kiefel had a reputation for lead-outs. Sitting on him was known as being in the electric chair – like a freight train down a steep ‘Frisco street – express delivery for the sprinter, Kiefel got the win for his man.
Prayer for Lead-Out Skills
“Appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” 4Numbers 27:16-17
We are glad for the shepherd’s rod that protects and the staff which guides. We confess we’d rather lead than serve at times. We ask for ability to see how to ride a race in segments and for lead-out skills.
Ponder Can I give a proper lead-out? Affirm I take on wolves and the wind for the sake of my sheep. Watch the safe passage of your sprinter.
1“Sprinter Staying Cool Under Tour’s Pressure,” by Samuel Abt, published July 8, 1997, International Herald Tribune www.iht.com
2The distance for the end of a lead-out varies upon experience of the field, nature of the event, and type of course. Some sprinters take over in the final kilometer, using other sprinters as lead-outs. In amateur racing, most lead-outs deliver their men within sight of the finish line or prior to a final corner. In pro races, the lead-out may begin an hour from the finish line with lead-out men covering multiple moves. The point is to deliver your man among the Sprinter’s Seven and be gassed in doing so because you did your job properly!
3Ron Kiefel was great at other roles too. He was a winner in his own right both domestically and in European racing. One of the men he consistently delivered for wins was Davis Phinney.
4The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society