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The Knowledge - how the pros know what lies ahead, even without race radios (+ gallery)

Teams provide info of key points on day's stage - but the info given can vary greatly...

Sunday’s final stage of the Tour de Yorkshire was a cracker – but unlike last year’s opening day of the Tour de France, which followed much of the same route but in reverse, radios are banned at this level of race. On a complicated and challenging route, that can cause problems for riders.

All well and good if you can commit the route to memory or, even better have done a recce. But that’s not always possible, and on a day like this with narrow roads and riders getting shelled out the back, you can’t rely on being able to grab a word with the DS in the team car.

One solution adopted by several teams – or even individual riders within them – is to tape details of the stage to their top tube or stem, so they know what’s coming up.

Here’s a selection we spotted at the start of the final stage in Wakefield on Sunday – a day that included six categorised climbs, but several others that caught out riders who weren’t aware of them.

First up, this was on the Great Britain team Cervelo of one of the country’s top up-and-coming riders, Germain Burton.

Written by hand, it shows at which kilometre each of the categorised is crested, plus the two sprint points and the finish line.

But it’s worth noting that while the official feed zone was at 88.5km at Mythomlroyd, the feed here is at 74km.

So Burton - and perhaps the rest of the team? - is taking his musette earlier than due.

The clue as to why may be those letters ‘MU’ that appear at the point everyone else is going through the feed zone at the bottom of the climb to Hebden Bridge – “move up,” we’re guessing.

And that ‘B’ at 120km? Bidon seems the obvious answer.

Given it's an under-23 team, it could also simply be that British Cycling thought it best the young riders get their food in ahead of what was the highest climb of the day.

Next up is Cofidis, whose rider Nicolas Edet joined Giant-Alpecin’s Lawson Craddock at the front in the latter part of the stage to take the mountains competition. There’s quite a lot of information packed in here.

Besides the distance into the stage at which each climb starts and finishes, there’s also a note of the average gradient. There’s a bidon to be had at the top of the Chevin, at 143km, and unlike some of the other teams, they’re also aware of how tough the (uncategorised) climb to the second sprint is – “C’est 1,5km à 10%.”

Next, British team, Madison Genesis. It’s pretty, but the information is as per the road book – when the neutralised zone ends, the six categorised climbs and two sprint points, the feed zone, and the finish line.

This handwritten note on the bike of one of the Roompot-Oranje riders, by contrast, may seem a bit of a scrawl, but it packs an awful lot of information in.

The pairs of numbers denote the start and finish points of climbs, with a vertical arrow denoting the uncategorised ones.

Exclamation marks are used for particularly tough categorised ones. It was a big race for the Dutch team, and they had clearly done their homework.

Finally, here’s the one on the bike of Team Sky’s Lars-Petter Nordhaug – the man who won the race. The team’s attention to detail is meticulous, so it’s perhaps no surprise that along with Roomport Oranje Peloton, this was the most detailed of the ones we saw.

It shows where the feed zone, intermediate sprints and six categorised climbs are, the latter denoted by the initials “GPM” – and it also let Nordhaug and his team mates know where half a dozen uncategorised climbs were.

Clearly, Sky had taken a closer look at the route than most – Ben Swift, who crashed out on the first day, had made this one of his big goals for the season – and knowing where the key points of the race (and potential locations of attacks) helped them defend the jersey on Sunday.

Even in races where radios are allowed, the value of knowing where the key points during the day are is invaluable.

One of the cooler graphics we’ve seen was on Fabian Cancellara’s bike at Paris-Roubaix in 2011, showing all the sectors of pave. Of course, the Swiss rider got marked out of the race that year, with Johan van Summeren taking a solo win.

Meanwhile at the Giro d’Italia and Milan-San Remo, organisers RCS Sport provide cards in their signature pink that show the stage profile – this one is on the dashboard of a Vittorio Servizio Corse neutral service car, but we’ve seen riders tape them to their bikes.

Using graphics like this is actually a top tip you can borrow from the pros if you're doing a sportive, so you can know exactly what lies ahead - why not try it sometime?

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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