What is sandbagging in cycling?

What is sandbagging in cycling?
Riders during Paris - Tours 2023

The term "sandbagging" in cycling can refer to two distinct actions taken by cyclists during a race depending on the context.

The first, and more common usage, is when a rider deliberately attempts to seem like they are suffering or struggling with the current effort, when in reality they are not. There are "known" sandbaggers in the peloton who do this quite often, either by putting on a pain face, saying they're "sick" (you can't be sick everyday Roglič 🙃), or drifting off the back of the group.

The second, and less common usage, is when a rider "weighs down" the group, almost like a sandbag to deliberately attempt to slow it down. Why? Typically because they have a teammate up the road, who the group the sandbagging rider is in is trying to catch, and by slowing it down the teammate up front is likelier to succeed. A great example of this was when Pogačar was riding solo up the road during the 2023 Il Lombardia and Adam Yates, Pogačar's teammate, was in the chasing group. Adam Yates deliberately tried to sandbag the group which likely played heavily into Pogačar winning the race.

How does one sandbag a group? It's pretty easily done. Especially downhill, where the sandbagging rider can deliberately feather the breaks causing the riders behind to tail off from the group or force them to put in an effort to catch back up to the rest. The sandbagging rider would then rinse and repeat.

The same process can be applied for ruining a working paceline of riders, which generally desperately needs organization and structure to catch up to riders in front.

Fun fact the term "sandbagging" originates from the late 1880s and was in reference to a person who snuck up on another person from behind and beat them with a sandbag. Apparently, that was, uh, common.