Cooperation in bike racing—When to work together and when to go it alone

Journal Article


We present an agent‐based model of bicycle racing that incorporates both physiology and the types of multiplayer scenarios that arise in real races. In these scenarios, riders can choose to share the workload with other riders (cooperate) or pursue their own self‐interests (defect). We compare the model's predictions to race situations and use it to investigate how different strategies can affect outcomes. We find that an individual player's best strategy depends on fitness level: below‐average riders fare better as defectors whereas above‐average riders perform better as cooperators. The strategies of stronger riders affect their teammates' results as well. The teammates of defecting strong riders fare worse overall than the teammates of cooperating strong riders. These results reproduce a dynamic that played out in the 2009 Tour de France. The winner, Alberto Contador, pursued a strategy perceived by many to be unusually uncooperative by repeatedly defecting on his teammates. The strategy worked to his advantage but may have negatively affected his teammates' placements. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity, 17,39–44, 2011

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