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Old 03-14-10, 09:45 PM   #1
DrWJODonnell
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Truisms that might not be so true?

I was inspired by the "first race attack" thread when people chimed in with what you have to do and what you are not supposed to do. We have all heard roughly the same advice, and most of the time, it is exactly that - good advice. But do any of you have any stories of how you ignored good advice and it was for the best?

"Never attack on a downhill" - I have heard this many times but I can honestly say that I have initiated breaks a number of times on downhills (when most people are resting after pedaling UP the hill on the other side) and in fact, my last road race win was due to me separating from the pack on a 35 mph decent, and then holding off the pack on the final miles. I can honestly say that while it is generally good advice, telling a person to not attack on a downhill can limit their options unnecessarily.

"Save it for the sprint" - Again, speaking from experience as I once won four consecutive races (on the same course) jumping from 1k out. Week after week, I decided not to wait for the sprint, and it panned out for me every time. Waterrockets has practically made a career and I think is patenting the move. In fact, if more people DIDN'T believe the save it for the sprint mentality or the "I'm not going to chase that down" hesitation, I probably wouldn't have won those four in a row. But I guess I am trying to say that you don't always have to save it for the sprint.

"Attack all out, and don't look back. Don't stop until you get caught." - I am an attacking fiend. But I will be the first to tell you that not all of my attacks are created equal. Sometimes I don't go all out. I want a breakaway partner to bridge. Maybe I want to see how the field will react when I put in a REAL strong attack. And I just don't want to blow up because I do have a limited number of matches. Other times, I will be in the early stages of a breakaway, but I don't like the composition, and so I pull the plug long before we are caught. I do it to conserve energy, because I don't believe that the conventional wisdom is always correct.

"You must stay at the front of the pack." - I admit, I don't have a lot of experience with disproving this one. I like to stay near the front because I am always patrolling for a chance to get away from the pack, and I don't have the anaerobic capacity to deal with accordion effect. Also, over the years, I have learned how to be near the front and generally stay there 90% of the time that I want to be there. But I have to believe that just for shear dynamics, it must be better for SOME people to not be at the front. Look at McEwen. You never see him until the last miles. I would assume that most people who fancy themselves sprinters would be just fine NOT wasting energy holding position and just being towed around. Is staying at/near the front of the pack another one of those lies?

Do you guys have others?
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Old 03-14-10, 09:47 PM   #2
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Spin to win.

I'd rather mash for cash, or hash, or whatever else rhymes with mash.
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Old 03-15-10, 08:53 AM   #3
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I think truisms tend to be generalities. Lowest common denominator type stuff. I think you're a victim of your own strength. No disrespect intended - you're just too strong. Most riders don't have great FTPs.

Down hill attacks are usually easier to follow, since the delta in work done between the front and the back is much higher than the delta on, say, a climb. This means a downhill attack works if the road is extremely twisty (Sanchez in 2003 Paris Nice) or the rider attacking is really, really, really strong. I can coast up to guys sprinting down hill (maybe not now, but last year definitely). And I can soft pedal or coast and go 45 if I'm following someone down a hill.

Save it for the sprint. For an average rider, that's the best tactic for a place. "Average" means someone that isn't that strong in anything. You can get a top 10 without a good sprint, even in crits. You have to have impeccable position going into the sprint, as much reserves as possible, and go 100%. It's incredible how much stronger you can feel if you are patient. A guy that got 3rd at Elite Nationals (Pro-Am) said that he purposely sat in for the first 90 or so miles. He knew that any effort, no matter how slight, would eat away at his final reserves. In the end he bridged a minute gap solo (starting at 8 miles to go), got yelled at to pull since he was just an amateur, pulled the break for the last 5 miles, led out the sprint, and got third out of five. To be fair the best pro in the break pulled a foot out in the sprint.

Attack all out, don't look back. Again, the racer has to have superior strength. Fine, if you time it right, it could work, but, realistically, honestly, figure an average racer can hold 250-270 watts in TT mode. How fast is that? How fast can a pack chase?

And finally, most riders don't have the fitness to constantly patrol the front. I know I don't. When I do I have this timer that starts ticking rapidly, and when it hits zero I feel this big ka-boom and I'm done. Give me 2-3-4 laps I'm okay. A whole race? Forget it.

With all due respect,
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Old 03-15-10, 08:58 AM   #4
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"Attack all out, and don't look back. Don't stop until you get caught." - I am an attacking fiend. But I will be the first to tell you that not all of my attacks are created equal. Sometimes I don't go all out. I want a breakaway partner to bridge. Maybe I want to see how the field will react when I put in a REAL strong attack. And I just don't want to blow up because I do have a limited number of matches. Other times, I will be in the early stages of a breakaway, but I don't like the composition, and so I pull the plug long before we are caught. I do it to conserve energy, because I don't believe that the conventional wisdom is always correct.
I can't speak on anything above cat 4's in this regard, but my experience is that people don't really know how or are too afraid to handle a bike. Use this speed in the first corner out of the downhill and it's actually pretty easy to create a gap. That gap grows bigger each lap for the same reason.
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Old 03-15-10, 09:06 AM   #5
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"You must stay at the front of the pack." - I admit, I don't have a lot of experience with disproving this one. I like to stay near the front because I am always patrolling for a chance to get away from the pack, and I don't have the anaerobic capacity to deal with accordion effect.
FWIW: in Cat 4, many attacks aren't strong enough and aren't long enough to string out an entire field; they usually get caught before the whole group is up to speed. If you're near the front and tired when an attack goes, it can be easier to let the others jump after it and grab a wheel further back in the group, where the Delta V is more manageable. I think the accordion effect is overrated. Then again, I have good anaerobic capacity, so that might be why I feel that way about it.
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Old 03-15-10, 09:38 AM   #6
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As for staying at the front of the pack, I think it depends often on the dynamics of a particular course. Also depends in part on whether you have teammates that 1) will pull you up at the end, and 2) cover breaks at the front.

The strongest masters team around here often has their sprinter, who wins more often than not, sitting at the back until near the end.

For me personally, I've found that if it's a course that I can move up on, and I think the pack is going to stay together (so I'm not concerned about missing a break) I can end up in the exact position starting the sprint whether I stay up front the whole time, or only move to the front in the last couple of miles, and I can be fresher in the latter scenario.

Of course I'm risking getting caught out by a crash, or missing a move.
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Old 03-15-10, 07:16 PM   #7
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I've got one - Never get behind the fat guy at the bottom of a climb.
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Old 03-16-10, 02:14 AM   #8
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Attack into the wind/cross-wind. This is fine, but unless you are a pro team, I think what is more practical is attack into a cross wind that becomes a tail wind in a matter of kilometers.

Train agressively, race conservatively. The last part of this expression creates a big wheel suck culture. On your high priority races maybe, but every other race - experiment - agressively.
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Old 03-16-10, 06:05 AM   #9
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Ride lots.

When I read this training advice I want reach through the computer and slap the author.

Attacking.

In the lower cats I think the axiom holds true. Most attacks in cat 4 racers are guys getting a 50m gap then looking behind them to see if they are chasing. Once they see the group chasing they give up. On the few occasions I've been in a succesful break it was head down don't stop till your caught.

I've made downhill attacks work but they were on long steep technical descents. I think they were succesful due more to my descending abilities than tired riders or my strength.

CDR:

I'd like respond to one thing you've written here and in the attacking thread. I don't think being strong is the most important part of the succesful attack. I am privy to Ex's numbers. Yes compared to mine they are quit a bit larger. However I'd wager that they aren't so much different from the other strong guys in the masters. What I do see that is different is Ex's ability to suffer. He can endure the pain longer than most or just dig a bit deeper for that brief moment that makes the difference.

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Old 03-16-10, 08:03 AM   #10
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I'd like respond to one thing you've written here and in the attacking thread. I don't think being strong is the most important part of the succesful attack. I am privy to Ex's numbers. Yes compared to mine they are quit a bit larger. However I'd wager that they aren't so much different from the other strong guys in the masters. What I do see that is different is Ex's ability to suffer. He can endure the pain longer than most or just dig a bit deeper for that brief moment that makes the difference.
Isn't that restating the power numbers in a different way? If his ability to suffer is better, then it's going to lead to a higher power profile. One guy could have 400W at 5 minutes, but if he got better at suffering he might be able to hold 400W for 6 minutes. The measurement of power encompasses the ability to suffer.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:09 AM   #11
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Isn't that restating the power numbers in a different way? If his ability to suffer is better, then it's going to lead to a higher power profile. One guy could have 400W at 5 minutes, but if he got better at suffering he might be able to hold 400W for 6 minutes. The measurement of power encompasses the ability to suffer.
There is a lot more psychology involved in all of this than a lot of people realize.

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Old 03-16-10, 08:20 AM   #12
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Isn't that restating the power numbers in a different way? If his ability to suffer is better, then it's going to lead to a higher power profile. One guy could have 400W at 5 minutes, but if he got better at suffering he might be able to hold 400W for 6 minutes. The measurement of power encompasses the ability to suffer.
Yes and no. What I'm saying is more of a mental edge than a physical one. True, that at that moment one rider might be able (willing) to hold that power number longer than the other rider. What I want to communicate is that just saying 'you have to be strong' to make an attack work might make some less experienced riders hesitate to attempt an attack. The inference being that you have to have some massive numbers to be a successful attacker. I believe Ex is a good example of this, as I've mentioned his numbers are good but I know some riders who's numbers are better that he beats. ..The willingness to suffer a bit longer, especially in a cat 4 or 5 race may be just as if not more important than a high FTP.

I think this is particularly important in TT's and in climbing. Ex and I have had many discussions about what really makes a good TT'er or climber. I know guys who put out much bigger power numbers than I do but cannot TT as well as me..one of my training partners is lighter with a higher FTP yet I drop him on climbs all the time....he hates to climb..I love it...and relish the pain that comes from it. I guess what I'm saying is we have to define 'strong' not just in absolute numbers but in mental strength as well. An old teammate of mine who was a freakin' beast on the bike once told me that the pain is all in your head..once you get that you can ride through anything.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:35 AM   #13
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Yes and no. What I'm saying is more of a mental edge than a physical one. True, that at that moment one rider might be able (willing) to hold that power number longer than the other rider. What I want to communicate is that just saying 'you have to be strong' to make an attack work might make some less experienced riders hesitate to attempt an attack. The inference being that you have to have some massive numbers to be a successful attacker. I believe Ex is a good example of this, as I've mentioned his numbers are good but I know some riders who's numbers are better that he beats. ..The willingness to suffer a bit longer, especially in a cat 4 or 5 race may be just as if not more important than a high FTP.

I think this is particularly important in TT's and in climbing. Ex and I have had many discussions about what really makes a good TT'er or climber. I know guys who put out much bigger power numbers than I do but cannot TT as well as me..one of my training partners is lighter with a higher FTP yet I drop him on climbs all the time....he hates to climb..I love it...and relish the pain that comes from it. I guess what I'm saying is we have to define 'strong' not just in absolute numbers but in mental strength as well. An old teammate of mine who was a freakin' beast on the bike once told me that the pain is all in your head..once you get that you can ride through anything.
You are simply reverting to the "old school" pre power meter definition of Strong. Some riders (the good ones) are gamers. They are never going to put out 100% to see a number on a power meter, but will to beat another racer. Even they don't know how hard they can ride.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:43 AM   #14
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You are simply reverting to the "old school" pre power meter definition of Strong. Some riders (the good ones) are gamers. They are never going to put out 100% to see a number on a power meter, but will to beat another racer. Even they don't know how hard they can ride.

OK, lets settle this. you have a CP chart - maximal efforts when you're fresh all out, hold nothing back correct? Those are your power numbers. You'll rarely hit them in a race because during a race you'll be a bit tired or whatever - not like when you test fresh.

EDR is talking about how during a race, when you get CLOSE to your CP maxes, it hurts. Some people are willing to hurt more and longer than others. I'm speculating here - that this will get you closer and closer to your maximum power chart. If you aren't willing to suffer, and you're an order of magnitude stronger rider - whatever you're going to ride away for the W. But if you're evenly matched, and one person is willing to suffer more and longer than another, that increases their chances of winning.


All this COMPLETELY ignores tactics. If you can sprint - don't breakaway, it won't benefit you. and vice versa, if you can't sprint, you better start attacking.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:46 AM   #15
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I have found it pretty much impossible to put out FTP-level efforts for extended periods unless motivated by a real race. Hence my L4 intervals tend to always be lower than my actual FTP.
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Old 03-16-10, 08:51 AM   #16
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Tubulars corner better than clinchers
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Old 03-16-10, 08:56 AM   #17
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Tubulars corner better than clinchers
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Old 03-16-10, 09:20 AM   #18
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You are simply reverting to the "old school" pre power meter definition of Strong. Some riders (the good ones) are gamers. They are never going to put out 100% to see a number on a power meter, but will to beat another racer. Even they don't know how hard they can ride.
I've ridden with people multiple times through the year. Like...every week. Some days people are stronger than others. Personally, some days my legs don't feel it but the power says it. My head wants to give up, the PT tells me I'm being a *****.

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Old 03-16-10, 10:01 AM   #19
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Old 03-16-10, 10:50 AM   #20
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You are simply reverting to the "old school" pre power meter definition of Strong. Some riders (the good ones) are gamers. They are never going to put out 100% to see a number on a power meter, but will to beat another racer. Even they don't know how hard they can ride.
I disagree. I think that you could test two riders in a lab and they could put out similar numbers, yet in situations that you have to ride through pain, such as an extended climb or TT some riders have a better ability to deal with it. This isn't to say that power numbers are not important but it isn't always the metric that can decide if your attack sticks or not.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:01 AM   #21
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Re: Save it for the sprint.

Man, that is a HUGE "it depends"

On a flat, fast course that will generally be true. It is VERY hard to stay away, much less 4x in a row after people know who you are.

However, throw hills into the mix anywhere on the course and that goes out the window. I like to see the "sprinters" get blown out the back by an all out effort on the final hill, so I will frequently launch there.

This all assumes late in the race tactics. I one truly tries to save it for the sprint, the big risk is missing a decisive break early or midway through a race.

Which is where we came in... It Depends...

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Old 03-16-10, 11:09 AM   #22
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Re: Save it for the sprint.

Man, that is a HUGE "it depends"

On a flat, fast course that will generally be true. It is VERY hard to stay away, much less 4x in a row after people know who you are.

However, throw hills into the mix anywhere on the course and that goes out the window. I like to see the "sprinters" get blown out the back by an all out effort on the final hill, so I will frequently launch there.

This all assumes late in the race tactics. I one truly tries to save it for the sprint, the big risk is missing a decisive break early or midway through a race.

Which is where we came in... It Depends...

-Z
I was at Nelo's a LBS (Austinites will know it well) yesterday talking to him about this..Nelo is an ex Euro pro and was second in command of the Brazilian cycling federation. In Brazil he was tired of seeing what he called bike parades, guys just sitting in waiting for the sprint. So he implemented a prize structure based on the speed of the race. Depending on the course he would put a minimum speed rule..if the winner didn't achieve the minimum speed he got a medal or a trophy...if he did he got the money...he said after he put it into effect pure sprinters stopped winning the majority of the races..
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Old 03-16-10, 11:15 AM   #23
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I was at Nelo's a LBS (Austinites will know it well) yesterday talking to him about this..Nelo is an ex Euro pro and was second in command of the Brazilian cycling federation. In Brazil he was tired of seeing what he called bike parades, guys just sitting in waiting for the sprint. So he implemented a prize structure based on the speed of the race. Depending on the course he would put a minimum speed rule..if the winner didn't achieve the minimum speed he got a medal or a trophy...if he did he got the money...he said after he put it into effect pure sprinters stopped winning the majority of the races..
That's great.

I think that is also the point of primes or intermediate points. To fire things up a bit.

We race at a motor speedway up here in the summer. 12 turns. Wide open corners. Totally flat. Very, VERY difficult for any break to succeed. Very rare. Most have actually stopped trying.

I have, on three separate occasions, actually fallen asleep during a race.

The primes help shake things up, but your "bike parade" is frequently an apt description. Need something, anything to shake things up.

-Z

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Old 03-16-10, 11:18 AM   #24
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Ted Williams used to say "hit according to your style". It would be stupid for someone like Phil Rizzuto to swing for the fences, and it would show up in his stats. It would be similarly stupid for a short basketball player to be obsessed with slamdunking the ball. Some people just don't have the sprinting gift, and I think it would be stupid for them to "save it" for their 16th place finish. Better off using their advantages.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:23 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Grumpy McTrumpy View Post
Ted Williams used to say "hit according to your style". It would be stupid for someone like Phil Rizzuto to swing for the fences, and it would show up in his stats. It would be similarly stupid for a short basketball player to be obsessed with slamdunking the ball. Some people just don't have the sprinting gift, and I think it would be stupid for them to "save it" for their 16th place finish. Better off using their advantages.
Well that would be part of the axiom "Race to your strengths and train to your weaknesses". A truism that is actually true.
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