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  1. #1
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Getting better at pack riding

    In another thread, Duke of Kent wrote:
    I have a problem holding a wheel. Well, specifically, holding a wheel in the last 3 laps or so leading up to the finish of a crit. I can roll through two-wide in a crit for two hours, string it out in a chase and do all of that, but unless I pop out on the outside, and can surf someone up to the front, I'm useless at the end of a race. I'm hoping that the guidance I recieve from teammates and guys on the rides will help me use my strengths to the best of my abilities. And that I can repay them when the road goes up.
    I have the same problem. I'm curious what in particular you're going to work on to improve your pack riding and what you can do in races to help teamates on climbs.

    Background, skip if you want: I raced as a 4 in the mid 80s and early 90s, then quit riding. I didn't learn much about racing then, I was mere pack fodder. I got back into riding when I hit my 40s, and slowly built up my riding. I'm now psyched to go back to racing and maybe be a little smarter. I've hooked up with a club that's big on teamwork and I'd like to be able to use what talents I have to help the team.

    Since my race records are all old and I'm rusty anyhow, I'm going to do the local earlybird training race series to brush up on my pack skills and get the rest of the points to upgrade from 5 to 4. I've been riding the larger group rides to get used to pack riding again. Actually all this was my plan for last year but I crashed hard in one of those group rides (someone at the front put on the brakes right as I was looking off to the side) and being off the bike for a month and extra nervous about crashes discouraged me from doing anything but hillclimb races (which are what I really like anyhow).

    What sort of mental or physical exercises can one do to help pack riding? I used to do the weekly twilight crit series even though I hated it, just to work on my pack skills. But they don't have it anymore.

    What can a climber do to help his teamates in a road race? I've tried pacing a teamate up to a group when the race is splintering on a climb but even going as smoothly as possible it doesn't seem like much help.

  2. #2
    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    Eric,

    The Early Birds crits should be useful. I'll be at a few of them myself for the same reason (not so much to win, but to get my "racing head"). If you really want to pack in (ha ha) some practice, you could do the 8:30 (4/5), the mentoring session, and the 35+ races all in the same day. 5 weeks of that ought to improve your pack skills considerably.

    Also: SJBC does still do the Twilights on Tuesday nights in the summertime, not exactly sure when they start but word usually does go out to various clubs. They also have practice RRs throughout the year which may or may not be as effective as crits, but certainly won't hurt. You have to "join" SJBC ($40) and it's $5/race.

    Check your private messages for more info (AV-related).
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    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    Oh, re: helping teammates on climbs; if you are a good climber, I'd consider the problem from the opposite angle: how can your teammates help you, i.e. form a break, deliver you to the bottom of a big climb, or help you maintain position after a climb.

    My observation is that strong "flat" riders can help climbers on the flats, but the reverse is never true—you are never going to "pull" someone up a climb (beyond simple motivational talk; and if you're in the heat of it you probably aren't going to have the breath for that).
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    I have no idea what you can do mentally to prepare for racing in tight quarters. A bad case of "Crash-phobia" is hard to get out from between your ears. Although it's easy to say, "Be aggressive, not tentative.", in some cases that is much easier said than done.

    OTOH, physically you need to practice, practice, practice as has been pointed out by others. In addition, if you tend to fade at the end of a race you may need to work on your stamina. LSD rides, building a strong base, hill repeats, intervals, fast and long group rides, and lotsa saddle time will help with that.

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    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 'nother View Post
    but the reverse is never true—you are never going to "pull" someone up a climb
    Don't tell any domestiques


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    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    ^^ 2 strong climbers. I'm talking about a strong climber trying to "pull" a non-climber. It ain't gonna happen.
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    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Yeah, that's true, but with two strong climbers, you can pwn the field on a climb.

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    semifreddo amartuerer 'nother's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    Yeah, that's true, but with two strong climbers, you can pwn the field on a climb.
    Of course. I guess I was kind of assuming he was talking about helping weak climbers.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Duke of Kent's Avatar
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    Well, I should have prefaced my point with a bit of background. I'm 5'7", will be around 138lbs this season, racing P/1/2. I consider myself very adept at crit racing in that I can do large amounts of work at race speed for a teammate or in a break, and I have sufficient technical skills. My main problem is that I simply get shouldered out of the way by bigger riders who want my position late in races. And, as much as I'd like to think that I can fight back, that's more than likely going to result in myself and others touching the tarmac. I can handle someone leaning on my through a corner, and do the same to others just fine, but when someone is literally a foot above me and throws a hip/elbow/shoulder, I need to move.
    "If a non personal post makes you feel as if you've been attacked, maybe the problem IS you."

  10. #10
    Senior Member ldesfor1@ithaca's Avatar
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    strangely, I enter every race (most especially crits) with the understanding that I may crash, no matter what I do. I can not control all variables and scenarios.


    With this idea/mantra in mind I try and put myself in smart places in the pack.

    i.e:

    riding in the front third of the peloton is way safer, so I work hard to be in this position. Additionally, any perception of hard work to get in the front third usually pays divedends with less work in the long run. Less accordion effect, less panic in the last few laps trying to get into position to contest a sprint and less fear of a crash.

    I like to be on the outside of the peloton for sprints... it gives me confidence that I can sprint safely and gives me a decent view of whos wheel to grab.

    If you are in a tight and nervous pack, being nervous yourself wil translate to the rest of the pack. If I see one guy who keeps swerving through corners, it freaks me out. Dont be that guy freaking everyone else out and it weill likely lead to a calmer group of guys around you... and less "hold your line!!" being shouted at you.

    I'm a fred, so I tend to announce my lines around tight corners... particularly if its a risky move to the inside... claiming the "inside!" as mine gives me a sense of confidence, too. (this may be an old habit from my glorious days on the basketball courts).



    You may consider some "bumping" drills with friends where you practice rubbing shoulders and tapping handlebars or hands. When you are confident that you can be bumped and not freak out you not only increace confidence but also make a safer pack for everyone else.
    Oh, if some one drifts towards you in a fast peloton, resist the urge to swerve quickly away from this impending danger and into the rest of the pack. thanks!
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  11. #11
    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    Yea, I know I can't drag a non-climber up a hill. I was thinking more what I can do for a teamate who can climb but can also sprint or TT better than me (not hard to do).

    From what I remember, the guys yelling "hold your line" are some of the ones to watch out for.

    Everyone says to be in the first 1/3 of the pack. But by definition only a third of the riders can do that.

  12. #12
    Senior Member ldesfor1@ithaca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericm979 View Post
    Yea, I know I can't drag a non-climber up a hill. I was thinking more what I can do for a teamate who can climb but can also sprint or TT better than me (not hard to do).

    From what I remember, the guys yelling "hold your line" are some of the ones to watch out for.

    agreed.


    Everyone says to be in the first 1/3 of the pack. But by definition only a third of the riders can do that.
    No, only people who are interested in giving themselves the safest path to possible wins say that... and I'm guessing that most of us dont always find ourselves into that first third of the pack.
    If i come into the last lap in the back half of the pack, even a Boonenesque sprint will be futile.

    was there a question here?
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  13. #13
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    When I raced 1/2/pro, I weighed 150-160lbs at 5-8% body-fat and was pretty average. Other teams always seems to have football linebackers that would try to sweep me off their teammate's wheels at the end of a race. Some of them have actually backed off to the opposite kerb and come flying back to body-slam me off the wheel. What I've found to work well in many of these cases is to move up slightly and place their designated teammate between me and the sweeper. So coming around the last couple corners, I'd half-wheel their teammate on the inside so that no one could get to me.

    Another tactic that worked well is to have your own linebacker around to protect you from the other big guys. Two on each side works great while you're sitting on their sprinter's wheel. Then these guys can just not sprint coming out of the corners to hold off the pack.

    Another strategy that works well is to not be on their designated sprinter's wheel. But rather keep your eye on him from off to the side even with him. Or be two spots back.

    In all these cases, it's of utmost importance to really pay attention and have lightening-fast reflexes. Count the gears that their sprinter is using. Get ready to sprint the second he starts to go and get on his wheel. Or even stay next to him in open air to keep the sweepers on his other side.

    I personally had a really strong sprint but wouldn't waste myself. I'd always break up a sprint into three sections of 100%-95%-100% effort. The 1st stage was to get into position and if I was two positions back from their sprinter, I'd have to go all out to get on his wheel. Or sit near the end of the lead-out train to not draw too much attention from their swepers. Then sit for a while and then go all-out to come around at the end. If I didn't have that 95% effort in the middle to recover, there's no way I could do two double-length efforts at 100%.

  14. #14
    Burning Matches. ElJamoquio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    When I raced 1/2/pro, I weighed 150-160lbs at 5-8% body-fat and was pretty average. Other teams always seems to have football linebackers that would try to sweep me off their teammate's wheels at the end of a race. Some of them have actually backed off to the opposite kerb and come flying back to body-slam me off the wheel.
    Apparently racing in MI is a veritable group-hug compared to SoCal.
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    Burning Matches. ElJamoquio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    Yeah, that's true, but with two strong climbers, you can pwn the field on a climb.
    [Hijack]
    I often wonder how much of this is:

    1. drafting... which calculations show should be only a slight advantage,
    2. psychological... not having to set your own pace, placebo, etc...
    3. physiological... stealing someone else's water, etc...
    [/Hijack]
    Reacting is mind candy; it requires no thought. Thinking is tedious.

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  16. #16
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElJamoquio View Post
    Apparently racing in MI is a veritable group-hug compared to SoCal.
    Yeah, I saw that crap in Colorado too. One of my Cat 2 friends got bumped off a wheel, sprinted pretty much straight through the bumper to get around him, then the bumper punched him in the quads. So... he jumped off his bike at 28 mph to tackle him. He got 2 punches in before they slid to a stop, picked up his bike and chased back on. Everyone on the side of the road was completely dazed.

    I don't see any of this in TX (yet), but we've only recently aligned our categories somewhat even with the "fast" markets. 10 years ago, a Colorado Cat 3 could rip a TX Cat 2 to shreds.

  17. #17
    Senior Member JoeOxfordCT's Avatar
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    ....not that the thought of me entering any races is keeping anyone up at night but....

    You can call me wussy or whatever but stuff like that is what keeps me from sticking my toe in the racing waters...I like my collarbones & bike just the way they are...in one piece.

    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    Yeah, I saw that crap in Colorado too. One of my Cat 2 friends got bumped off a wheel, sprinted pretty much straight through the bumper to get around him, then the bumper punched him in the quads. So... he jumped off his bike at 28 mph to tackle him. He got 2 punches in before they slid to a stop, picked up his bike and chased back on. Everyone on the side of the road was completely dazed.

    I don't see any of this in TX (yet), but we've only recently aligned our categories somewhat even with the "fast" markets. 10 years ago, a Colorado Cat 3 could rip a TX Cat 2 to shreds.

  18. #18
    Senior Member classic1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Duke of Kent View Post
    Well, I should have prefaced my point with a bit of background. I'm 5'7", will be around 138lbs this season, racing P/1/2. I consider myself very adept at crit racing in that I can do large amounts of work at race speed for a teammate or in a break, and I have sufficient technical skills. My main problem is that I simply get shouldered out of the way by bigger riders who want my position late in races. And, as much as I'd like to think that I can fight back, that's more than likely going to result in myself and others touching the tarmac. I can handle someone leaning on my through a corner, and do the same to others just fine, but when someone is literally a foot above me and throws a hip/elbow/shoulder, I need to move.
    Its in your head. Size doesn't matter. You either have the cojones or confidence to mix it or you don't.

    Robbie McEwen is only 5'7" and nobody moves him. Stephen Pate is of similar size and was racing 6'5" steriod monsters on the track and never got shifted. FWIW a lot of big guys don't like pushing shorter riders because they get underneath their elbows and handlebars.

    Go and find a big arse mate and practice bumping with him out training to get the confidence to mix it in races.

    As for big dudes waving elbows, just ride into their elbow. Big blokes make more noise when they hit the deck.

  19. #19
    Senior Member socalrider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 'nother View Post
    ^^ 2 strong climbers. I'm talking about a strong climber trying to "pull" a non-climber. It ain't gonna happen.
    Get behind the weaker climber and push...

    The most tired I had been from a 100 mile ride is when one of my teammates bonked with about 20 miles to go and I with 2 other teammates pushed him for 20 miles.. We took turns pushing.. It was harder than interval training..

  20. #20
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    Couple things:

    1. MI was, in the early 90s, a definite group hug compared to CT/NY/NJ/MA/RI. In MI I'd yell "on your right" and people would move left! I used to yell that in NY to get guys to go right (i.e. I yell "on your right" and they move right to block me). Then I'd go left, which is where I wanted to go anyway. I don't have to yell anymore. In some races I'd yell something and someone would say "don't go, it's just him". lol. So my tactics had to evolve

    2. In a crit in CT, one guy had his foot out and was kicking another guy with 1/2 lap to go. I don't remember what happened other than neither of them placed. THis was a P/1/2/3 race. This was maybe 4 or 5 years ago I think. usually things aren't like that.

    Tactically speaking there are only two skills a racer needs. One is staying on a wheel. The other is taking a wheel. I think that everything else is related to those two things. But if anyone disagrees I'm all ears.

    The rest of it is more how to draft, how to ride in a field, etc. But without being able to stay on or to take wheels, you're not going to be able to use your other skills.

    cdr
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  21. #21
    Mr. Dopolina Bob Dopolina's Avatar
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    OK. I'm a bad man. I admit it. I was one of those guys who took the wheel I wanted. If some fool would let me take it, I would. Having your bars a smidge in front of the other guys gives you a lot of clout.

    If someone tried to push me off a wheel I would put my hand on their hip and put them where I wanted them. It is pretty safe as they will still be stable and it won't cause them any difficulty. I don't know how many times I was boxed in so I just pushed my way out. Especially if it was a race that had some less experienced or lower category riders in it. In my mind, they haven't earned the right to be on that wheel so I am only taking what is mine (this is a racing mindset. strange stuff. I'm not like that, at all, off the bike) That's racing.

    I think a lot of it has to do with confidence. If you roll up beside someone and just move onto the wheel with confidence usually they other rider will give it to you. If they don't you may have to fight for it or move up one rider and pick on someone else.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Bullseye's Avatar
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    carpediemracing, an insightful post. thanks.

    -bullseye

  23. #23
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    I'd always break up a sprint into three sections of 100%-95%-100% effort. The 1st stage was to get into position and if I was two positions back from their sprinter, I'd have to go all out to get on his wheel. Or sit near the end of the lead-out train to not draw too much attention from their swepers. Then sit for a while and then go all-out to come around at the end. If I didn't have that 95% effort in the middle to recover, there's no way I could do two double-length efforts at 100%.
    +1 that's how mine tend to work out

  24. #24
    Slow'n'Aero DrWJODonnell's Avatar
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    I am so glad I am too wussy for all of these "Pack" shenanigans.

    To the guy who is afraid to race because of this post, we are speaking of higher cats and unusual circumstances. Go out and race. It's fun.

  25. #25
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElJamoquio View Post
    [Hijack]
    I often wonder how much of this is:

    1. drafting... which calculations show should be only a slight advantage,
    2. psychological... not having to set your own pace, placebo, etc...
    3. physiological... stealing someone else's water, etc...
    [/Hijack]
    Well, there is the one-two punch approach with alternate attacks. I attack while you wait on a wheel. Someone has to respond, and it's not you. As soon as they catch me, you go off the front hard. Someone has to respond... repeat until one of us stays off the front.

    The draft is slight, but if everyone is the same strength, then it will be the determining factor. On a 4% grade, at 10-15mph, the draft will add up.

    The psychological component is significant as well. The wheel in front of you feels a little like a rubber band pulling you along. If that rubber band breaks, all is lost.

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