The baroudeur – the fighter, the adventurer, the chancer, the opportunist – is a spoil sport. A spoiler of riding in peace, a spoiler of sprinting at will.
He comes to start a fire. At the slightest opportunity, he puts the hammer down. It could be on a bitch of a small climb, or at a time when the peloton slackens off ever so slightly, or on a winding road where he can hide – anything will do.
Baroudeurs aren’t always liked. ‘Again!’ the peloton says to itself when they attack. It is they who hand out leg ache. Deadly accelerations are their standard.
There is no set format for a baroudeur. Neither a true sprinter, nor a true climber, nor exactly a rouleur, the baroudeur is all those at once. He is capable of all of it, but in his own time. He knows that he will not beat the sprinters at the finish and so he has to set off beforehand. He knows that he will not beat the climbers in the high mountains; he makes his kingdom the medium mountains. He knows that he will not drop everyone on the first push so he puts in a second.
The baroudeur is relentless. He particularly likes to make his escape attempt a few kilometres from the line – right under the noses of the sprinters – and then to hold off the peloton, spreading his wonderful strength all over the road.
As a beginner, the baroudeur catches his colleagues out but very quickly his manner is known to the peloton and he wears ‘the sign’. He is a marked man. If he lifts his arse out of the saddle, the pack is on the lookout. The team-mates of the sprinters are charged with hunting him down. The leaders’ team-mates have an eye on him simply because the chancers know how to take a chance and, often, to chance it is to also win it.