Friends for (almost) a day: Studying breakaways in cycling races

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

We study breakaways in cycling races and examine the determinants of their success. Early on in a cycling race, a small group of riders generally slips away from the main bunch of riders and starts building a lead over this ‘peloton’, in the hopes of staying out of its hands until the finish. The slipstreaming benefits of sheltering behind another rider yield free-riding incentives to each breakaway member, turning the interaction into a social dilemma. This study is the first to empirically examine breakaway success from this perspective. To this end, we employ a self-compiled, rich data set. We find a positive effect of group size and group strength on breakaway success. The effect of group size is concave (i.e., decreasing in size) and becomes negative when the number of riders in the breakaway exceeds 26. This is in line with the opinion of cycling commentators who believe that breakaways can be both ‘too small’ and ‘too large’ to be successful. Our study contributes to the literature studying social dilemmas in the field and strategic behavior in sports.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Aug 2018

Fingerprint

social dilemma
group size
small group
Sports
incentive
determinants
interaction
Group
Social dilemma
Group size
Lead
literature
Strategic behavior
Free-riding
Incentives
Interaction

Keywords

  • sports economics
  • free riding
  • cooperation

Cite this

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title = "Friends for (almost) a day: Studying breakaways in cycling races",
abstract = "We study breakaways in cycling races and examine the determinants of their success. Early on in a cycling race, a small group of riders generally slips away from the main bunch of riders and starts building a lead over this ‘peloton’, in the hopes of staying out of its hands until the finish. The slipstreaming benefits of sheltering behind another rider yield free-riding incentives to each breakaway member, turning the interaction into a social dilemma. This study is the first to empirically examine breakaway success from this perspective. To this end, we employ a self-compiled, rich data set. We find a positive effect of group size and group strength on breakaway success. The effect of group size is concave (i.e., decreasing in size) and becomes negative when the number of riders in the breakaway exceeds 26. This is in line with the opinion of cycling commentators who believe that breakaways can be both ‘too small’ and ‘too large’ to be successful. Our study contributes to the literature studying social dilemmas in the field and strategic behavior in sports.",
keywords = "sports economics, free riding, cooperation",
author = "Thijs Brouwer and Jan Potters",
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Friends for (almost) a day : Studying breakaways in cycling races. / Brouwer, Thijs; Potters, Jan.

In: Journal of Economic Psychology, 08.2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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