In 2021 Julian Alaphilippe, rather than attempt to win the stage for himself, and knowing that he can very well be a contender, assisted instead Mark Cavendish (by leading him—letting him draft—to within sight of the finish line).

In 2022 Wout van Aert, one of three very strong cyclists in the same team at the Tour, went for the win himself, foregoing an assist to either Jonas Vingegaard or to Primož Roglič.

Under what circumstances is a domestique a rebel (or even a traitor)?

Does the domestique have to request permission for this rebellion? Is this to be done ahead of time or on the spot? (Are riders even equipped with microphones and transmitters, or can they only listen to the directeur sportif?)

For the record, my objective from the question is to understand the sport, not to criticize WvA, nor particularly to admire JA's restraint.


1 Answer 1


The role of van Aert was precisely to win stages. He was not an ordinary domestique at all, at least not in flat and classic-like stages. He was doing supporting role in mountain stages and when the general classification was important.

And this is not an exception. The riders have different roles in different types of stages. Even general classification riders will help riders with good chances to win the stage who are better finishers in less hilly stages.

Also other typical domestiques will go into the daily early breakaway. They are are allowed and even supposed to try to get there. Usually more riders from a team will try but just one or two will manage. Less so from typical GC teams in mountain stages and from typical sprinting teams in flat stages but still one will often go. They may be helpful to the GC rider later anyway, if caught and able to help at the front for a while.

Sometimes you will see a rider to just get their headphones from their ears and continue on their own. And yes, their headsets do include a microphone.

Then they can be considered a rebel. Or if they just refuse to follow the instructions of their directeur sportif. But that is not common, the contract and even future contracts with other teams could suffer.

A traitor would be someone outright helping another team. That is forbidden by the rules. Otherwise rich teams could effectively get more riders by using riders of other teams.

  • Actually, consider Hinault/ Lemond in ‘86. Hinault promised to help Lemond, but he didn’t quite do this for much of the race. Disloyalty has various degrees. This one seems like it was up there. I don’t think I remember a domestique outright helping another team’s GC contender, that seems way too far.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 17:13
  • 1
    Yeah, watch the movie Slaying the Badger to see what happened in 86. So fascinating. The closest other example I can think of is Rohan Dennis abandoning the Tour in 2019 out of some kind of disagreement with his team. That wasn't really betraying a teammate, but certainly was a form of rebellion. Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 21:44
  • 1
    The 2009 Astana Tour de France team also comes to mind with Contador and Armstrong dividing loyalties amongst their teammates. Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 21:55

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