“Etixx-Quickstep: How did they manage to lose that???” gasps an incredulous Eurosport commentator, Rob Hatch. He finds the answer with his very next breath: “Never underestimate Ian Stannard.”
Stannard’s odds-defying victory in the 2015 edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad proved that it was possible to beat the Belgians at their own game. Having pulled Stannard with them to the head of the race at 40 to go, Etixx had a 3-1 advantage as it reached the final five kilometres. All they had to do, surely, was wear Stannard down. Punch. Counterpunch. And repeat. How many times have we seen it before?
Although their riders made a couple of tactical blunders, ultimately it was Stannard’s strength, his refusal to recognise when he was beaten, that prevented a foregone conclusion from being realised. Rather than allowing them to put him in the corner, Stannard threw punches of his own, knocking first Stijn Vandenbergh, then Tom Boonen(!) and, in the final straight, Niki Terpstra to the canvas.
Domestique - Also known as "gregario" or "knecht". The role of the domestique, or servant, is the most important in any team. In fact, it's so important, that it won't do with just having one domestique, you need a lot of these. The role of fetching water bottles, protecting riders from wind and pulling in break-aways isn't glamorous, but it's vital, and even the best star rider wouldn't win Tour de France without good domestiques. See Chris Froome (SKY) on stage 9 of the TdF 2013 for an example of how much harder a stage is if you have no help. All rider types can and will pull domestique duty during different parts of a race.
Captain - This is the rider that everyone else is riding for. Normally he's the one the team manager think has the best chance to win, but this can change during a longer stage race. In the TdF 2013, Moviestar started with Valverde as their captain, but ended up riding for Quintana when they realized he was going to finish the race better.
Super-Domestique/Lieutenants - We've had some teams pumping excessively much money into the contracts, signing riders to be domestiques even when they would be capable of being captains in other teams. See Saxo-Tinkoff as the most obvious example, signing Roche (AG2R) and Kreuziger (Astana) from their comfortable roles as captains to help out Alberto Contador. The upside of this is that you get incredibly strong support for your leader. The downside is that sometimes, the lieutenant is the stronger rider of the two, which makes them more tempted to ride for their own chances. See Froome climbing happily away from Wiggins in the TdF 2012.
Rouleur - The "Roller". To win a cycling race, you need to keep the wheels turning. The rouleurs are excellent pacemakers, setting a consistent high pace in the peloton. They are normally good TT (Time Trail)-riders, and while on domestique duty, they are called upon to ride any attempted breakaways into the ground. On the other hand, if you want to put on top speed and ride away from the peloton, there's no better rider to do it than a real rouleur. Powerful guys who can put out incredible watt numbers over long amounts of time. We've seen Fabian Cancellara outpace everyone in the classics several times, and Tony Martin made a Vuelta stage a Solo TT attempt. These guys can roll.
Grimpeur - The Grimpeur is a climber. As opposed to the rouleur, he might not be able to hold the cadence needed for a good solo TT run, but he's got muscles that can work with higher effort, sorely needed if you want to scale a mountain or two. By simple physics, the climber has a lot of advantages by being small and light-weigh. The less weight you lug around, the less energy you need to spend to get there.
GC - Grand Concours. The "Great Competitions". Strictly speaking, this means the three-week stage races; the Giro, Tour de France and the Vuelta, but in a matter of parlance, it can also refer to any stage race more than a week, and the GC now often means "General Classification". The big three is also referred to as "Grand Tours".
GC Rider - the GC rider is someone who the team hope will win GC races. To do so, they have to master both climbing and TT, or at least be so incredibly good at one that the other one doesn't matter. If you can do both incredibly well, like Chris Froome, well, then you're not a GC rider, you're a GC winner.
Road Captain - Before they had team radios, all decisions had to be made on the fly; when to breakaway, what riders to send, who to pull them in, etc etc. This is usually left to one of the most experiences (read: older) riders on the team, who've rode the race several times before, and know the course better than anyone. This is still important today, but some teams seems to have left everything to radio (SKY!), which means they are unable to cope quickly if many things happen at once.
Puncheur - This is a rider who's got a good sprint, but also enough punch in the legs to get over a medium hill or two. And at a considerable speed as well. They are the strongest racers in many classics, as they have the combination of speed and endurance needed to win such races. If the sprinters can't get up the hill to fight at the finish line, the puncheur is there to sprint down the rest of the reduced field.
Finisseur - A finisseur is someone who's got enough power to put in a decent uphill sprint, even at the end of a mountain stage. When most riders are struggling just to keep the wheels rolling, he can grit his teeth and accellerate away for the last half kilometer or so, putting a lot of seconds into his rivals. Joaquin Rodriguez is an awesome finisseur.