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  1. #1
    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Making the most of your attacks

    Maybe it's because the season is ending here in SoCal that I can finally think about attacking more in the last few races that I've done. All season most of my races have been too fast for me to really try anything too impressive until these last few weeks. I've recently done a couple crits where the pace was so slow (I'm thinking most of the serious racers have already hung up their spandex for the year) that I was dying to attack just to try and make something happen.

    So here's my questions: do you attack differently at different times depending on the circumstances? For instance a couple of weeks ago I attacked right after a prime hoping to either form a break or stretch the race out a bit to tire out the guys who just sprinted. The only problem was no one followed! I turned around and realized I had opened up a huge gap which only lasted a few laps before I was caught. Since I was hoping to get some kind of response from the field by either starting a break or stretching the field should I have attacked with a little less "gusto" in order to tantalize a few other riders to follow? I tried attacking again this morning with 1 1/2 laps left in the crit hoping again that maybe one or two guys would follow but to no avail. I was off the front (this time with a much smaller gap) for a lap before being swallowed up just before the sprint.

    I realize you have to think strategy about when to attack, but I imagine there must be some strategy about how you attack too, right?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    When you attack, commit. If someone comes with you, work together and make a run for it. If not, put your head down and ride. Sometimes it takes a while for someone to come across. Unless there is a team working together to bring you back, most people are going to try to bridge rather than ride at the front and pull the peloton around. One of my best results was a crit where I initiated the break and another person bridged across several laps later and helped us stay away.

    Also, if there is only a lap and a half left in the race, don't even think about trying to organize (assuming these are the traditional short laps and not like a 2 mile lap or something). Just put your head down and ride. You'll know when someone joins you when you look between your legs and see a wheel. Even then, unless you have a huge gap, it's unlikely you will be working together. If you are learen't out and aren't a sprinter, race seriously for second; if you are a sprinter, initiate the sprint early and try to keep the guy from coming around.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 09-12-11 at 12:02 AM.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  3. #3
    ride lots be safe Creakyknees's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ethman View Post
    do you attack differently at different times depending on the circumstances? ...

    I realize you have to think strategy about when to attack, but I imagine there must be some strategy about how you attack too, right?
    yes, and yes.
    "have fun and be kind"
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    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
    yes, and yes.
    care to share?

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    Robbie McEwen Wannabe tbrown524's Avatar
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    You're in SoCal so I assume you raced the CBR race. Most breaks in the lower categories don't stick at that course since most of the guys won't join in the break figuring that the break won't stick and will much rather save themselves for the bunch sprint. The incline appeared to be the perfect place to attack and start a break away since people(myself included) needed to time to recover after cresting.

    just my two cents.
    "Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

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    Senior Member agoodale's Avatar
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    This is what I've seen racing crits in cat 5,4, &3s in SoCal.

    Cat 5 - Attack whenever you feel like it. This is the time to learn.

    Cat 4 - 99% of crits come down to a field sprint. Attack for a prime you like and then hang on a little longer to try and get others to work with you OR Attack the last few laps and never look back OR Attack if you have 3 or more teammates who will actually try and control the field for you (doubtful in 4s).

    Cat 3 - Approx 50% of crits won by a break. If you have good teammates: Attack, attack, attack until one of you is in the break. If you don't have teammates: Attack whenever you're up to it but shut it down early if it's not working. Recover and then try again. It's often better to let the stronger teams attack and then bridge to a good looking break. Attacking the last lap also can also work occasionally if you're exceptionally strong.

  7. #7
    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbrown524 View Post
    You're in SoCal so I assume you raced the CBR race. Most breaks in the lower categories don't stick at that course since most of the guys won't join in the break figuring that the break won't stick and will much rather save themselves for the bunch sprint. The incline appeared to be the perfect place to attack and start a break away since people(myself included) needed to time to recover after cresting.

    just my two cents.
    Were you there yesterday? I was riding in the 4/5 and 4/5 30+. It's strange how much harder the 30+ race is then the 4/5. Feels more like a cat 4 race whereas the 4/5 feels just like a cat 5 race. The last race I did there in August there was a huge split in the field in the +30 race. It started as a breakaway but then grew to about 11 guys. The rest of the field didn't even bother chasing. I had hoped that breaks like this were the norm out there. You'll see them in all the other higher cat fields (like you mentioned).

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    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by agoodale View Post

    Cat 4 - 99% of crits come down to a field sprint. Attack for a prime you like and then hang on a little longer to try and get others to work with you OR Attack the last few laps and never look back OR Attack if you have 3 or more teammates who will actually try and control the field for you (doubtful in 4s).
    Sounds like I'm going to have to get to be a hell of a lot stronger in order to pull this off.

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    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    Maybe no one jumping on your wheel was their way of trying to politely tell you to lay off the beans before the next race.
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  10. #10
    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    On a side note, part o the reason I've been attacking so much is because I can't seem to hang in the last lap or 1/2 lap leading up to the final sprint when everybody starts riding a lot harder. What type of fitness is this in terms of power? 2 min? 5 min? Just wondering what I'll need to work on for next season.

  11. #11
    Village Idiot
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    Quote Originally Posted by ethman View Post
    On a side note, part o the reason I've been attacking so much is because I can't seem to hang in the last lap or 1/2 lap leading up to the final sprint when everybody starts riding a lot harder. What type of fitness is this in terms of power? 2 min? 5 min? Just wondering what I'll need to work on for next season.
    Everything.
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  12. #12
    VeloSIRraptor
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    Quote Originally Posted by ethman View Post
    Sounds like I'm going to have to get to be a hell of a lot stronger in order to pull this off.
    yep - that's typically the case
    at all levels


    Quote Originally Posted by ethman View Post
    On a side note, part o the reason I've been attacking so much is because I can't seem to hang in the last lap or 1/2 lap leading up to the final sprint when everybody starts riding a lot harder. What type of fitness is this in terms of power? 2 min? 5 min? Just wondering what I'll need to work on for next season.
    depends... frankly, LOTS
    I've never met anyone who said, "I've got enough power to break away at the end of a race. This is all you need... ###"
    Even the guys who pull this off (Ex, WR, Shovelhd, B, etc) all want more, and feel like they truly need more.
    The bigger the race, the more you'll need.

    The first Thursday night crit of the year one of our guys went on lap 2 and held it.
    In the middle of the year I went with 1/2 a lap to go, and can tell you how much it took. (cat 4s)
    Mid & late season I did it a number of times in a velodrome, and I can tell you how much that took....

    but that doesn't really matter - each race is it's own thing.
    Unless you have the whole field outgunned (yes, all of them combined,) Timing Is Everything
    I remember a post (can't seem to find it though) where Ex said something along the lines of, "They all knew ol' Ex was going to go, but he still got away"

    In the Cat4s, if a field doesn't want to let you go, you are Highly unlikely to get away.
    The trick here is to go at a moment when they are either distracted or when they are okay you going away.

    For example - going with 10 laps to go, they very well may give you a moment, figuring that they can get you back as they ramp the pace up.
    Going with 3 laps to go is tougher... they know that you are going for the win, and if you can get away when the field is at full speed, they know that you must be chased down immediately.
    Going with less than one lap can work, if you can pre-empt the sprinters - they can't follow because they'll blow up, and their teammates are (hopefully) tapped out or already on the limit...

    I used to think that a +10' escape & TT was my best hope.
    This 2011 seasons, it turns out that a 3 minute-ish 'pursuit' style attack worked well, as did the 1/2 lap-to-go attack.

    There are many ways to open a coconut - you've got time, and the appropriate category (cat4) to experiment... so try them all.
    This is 85% of what I do in week-night races & on the track. Give them all a try, you may be surprised.
    Last edited by Hida Yanra; 09-12-11 at 01:58 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
    If it comes down to a field sprint, you probably won't win, so don't let it.

  13. #13
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ethman View Post
    On a side note, part o the reason I've been attacking so much is because I can't seem to hang in the last lap or 1/2 lap leading up to the final sprint when everybody starts riding a lot harder. What type of fitness is this in terms of power? 2 min? 5 min? Just wondering what I'll need to work on for next season.
    Work on finishing the race first.

    No way you can attack the field if you aren't even strong enough to hang on/in..

    Also: attack when things are hard/fast, not when they are easy/slow.

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    coffee-stained punk hammy56's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    Work on finishing the race first.

    No way you can attack the field if you aren't even strong enough to hang on/in..

    Also: attack when things are hard/fast, not when they are easy/slow.
    get out of here with your logic and common sense!

  15. #15
    . botto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    Work on finishing the race first.

    No way you can attack the field if you aren't even strong enough to hang on/in..


    Also: attack when things are hard/fast, not when they are easy/slow.

  16. #16
    Robbie McEwen Wannabe tbrown524's Avatar
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    Actually I got the opposite from both races... The 4/5 was harder than the 30+ 4/5 due to all the braking in the corners and the pack chasing down breaks that weren't going to last anyway.

    Keep reading the forums and you'll get there... It's like a Poor Man's coach.
    "Meyrueis, Lozere, June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

  17. #17
    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hida Yanra View Post

    I used to think that a +10' escape & TT was my best hope.
    This 2011 seasons, it turns out that a 3 minute-ish 'pursuit' style attack worked well, as did the 1/2 lap-to-go attack.
    What's a 3 min pursuit style attack? This is like the track's version of a TT right?

    There are many ways to open a coconut - you've got time, and the appropriate category (cat4) to experiment... so try them all.
    This is 85% of what I do in week-night races & on the track. Give them all a try, you may be surprised.
    I've done a few track races on a borrowed bike, but I'd really like to do more...

  18. #18
    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    Work on finishing the race first.

    No way you can attack the field if you aren't even strong enough to hang on/in..

    Also: attack when things are hard/fast, not when they are easy/slow.
    Unless it's a really tough 3/4 race finishing is generally not my problem, the issue is where I'm finishing (midpack). Granted I still need to get A LOT stronger than where I am now. I had tried a few attacks when everyone was sitting up looking at each other after another attack was reeled in.

    I should have rephrased that part about hanging in at the end. The problem I have is when the field really starts to speed up leading to a sprint I can't hold the fast wheels as they take off and claim top 5 and 10 spots, I wind up farther back in the teens and twenties.

  19. #19
    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tbrown524 View Post
    Actually I got the opposite from both races... The 4/5 was harder than the 30+ 4/5 due to all the braking in the corners and the pack chasing down breaks that weren't going to last anyway.

    Keep reading the forums and you'll get there... It's like a Poor Man's coach.
    I do like the forums for that reason, I've learned quite a bit from reading all the posts you guys have put up.

    I think the pace of the 30+ races was much higher, also people seemed willing to try more moves at least in the 2 weekends I showed up this season. The 1st 4/5 race I did we spent a lot of time looking at each other waiting for someone to set the pace.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ethman View Post
    Were you there yesterday? I was riding in the 4/5 and 4/5 30+. It's strange how much harder the 30+ race is then the 4/5. Feels more like a cat 4 race whereas the 4/5 feels just like a cat 5 race. The last race I did there in August there was a huge split in the field in the +30 race. It started as a breakaway but then grew to about 11 guys. The rest of the field didn't even bother chasing. I had hoped that breaks like this were the norm out there. You'll see them in all the other higher cat fields (like you mentioned).
    Were you in the break? Anyway, I initiated that break, at least I'd like to think I did. What happened was I saw a bunch of guys going for the prime, I saw that I had no chance to win, but that we had opened up a big gap on the field. I figured now was as good of time as any to initiate the break so I yelled at all the guys to go for it and surprisingly they did. First time I've ever seen a somewhat organized break in a 4, 4/5 or 5 race. Just depends on who shows up I guess and how motivated the field is. I think since august's race was a smaller field, we pulled most of the stronger guys from the main peleton and so the rest of the field didn't have the motivation/engine to chase us down.

  21. #21
    Senior Member ethman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sdgrannygear View Post
    Were you in the break? Anyway, I initiated that break, at least I'd like to think I did.
    I made it in. Thanks for getting it started! Made for a much more interesting race.

  22. #22
    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ethman View Post
    So here's my questions: do you attack differently at different times depending on the circumstances? For instance a couple of weeks ago I attacked right after a prime hoping to either form a break or stretch the race out a bit to tire out the guys who just sprinted. The only problem was no one followed! I turned around and realized I had opened up a huge gap which only lasted a few laps before I was caught. Since I was hoping to get some kind of response from the field by either starting a break or stretching the field should I have attacked with a little less "gusto" in order to tantalize a few other riders to follow? I tried attacking again this morning with 1 1/2 laps left in the crit hoping again that maybe one or two guys would follow but to no avail. I was off the front (this time with a much smaller gap) for a lap before being swallowed up just before the sprint.

    I realize you have to think strategy about when to attack, but I imagine there must be some strategy about how you attack too, right?
    Absolutely. tl:dr warning. This could get long. Then again, maybe it won't. We'll see.

    The first thing that needs to be said is something I repeat over and over to younger riders until they're sick of hearing it. Know what you are capable of, know what others around you are capable of, and use your abilities to increase your chances for success. Simple, really. But how is a Cat5 rider supposed to know any of this when they may have done less than 10 races and their fields are mainly composed of rabid dogs frothing at the mouth that attack anything that moves? The answer is to try it. The best places to do this are on competitive group rides and training races, but use the money races if you have to, especially in Cat5 where there is no money. You need to find out how long you can solo at 100%, 90%, 80%, and FTP level effort. A powermeter and/or an HRM is an invaluable tool for measuring this, but it is not absolutely necessary. You can go by RPE once your fitness level and racing volume is high enough. I've found on this forum that attack, attack, attack is the predominant mantra. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not my mantra. There is a time and place to attack, and if you don't know what you are capable of, then it may not have a high degree of success. Know your capabilities, know your competition, read the race, and choose your attacks wisely. This only comes with experience.

    Attacking out of the field. In general, you'll want to be at least in the front half of the field if not the top ten riders. If you take off in a full tilt sprint, most fields (other than Cat5, maybe) are going to let you go unless you're a marked man. What you want to do is roll off the front in a seated sprint. That means starting at about 5mph faster than the front of the field, and accelerating in the saddle until you've reached your top seated speed. It's ok to look back after the first ten seconds to make sure you're not towing the field, but once you commit after that, do not look back for at least 20-30 seconds. You need to focus 100% on putting out 100% with no distractions. After that point, the surge of adrenaline has worn off, your heart rate and resp rate have caught up with the effort, and the door to the pain cave is starting to open. That's when you need to decide to keep going or not. If there is a group, pull off the front and recover. Be very careful of attacks as you pull off, and keep the power on to minimize the speed differential between you and the group, or you'll waste yourself chasing back on. If the group sits up, or doesn't have the stink to keep going, you have two choices, ride on the back until you get absorbed and be rested for the counterattack, or attack the group and continue the solo effort.

    Where to attack. With some exceptions, most courses have features. A hill, a sharp corner or two, a narrow section (funnel), a windward leg. For all of my A criteriums, I like to arrive extra early and scout the course, preferably with a race going on. I'll walk the whole course. That can't be done for road races, so pre-ride the course before race day if you can. Figure out what features will assist you in an attack. I'll focus on criteriums. You might be a strong climber. For the first few laps, take the hill at the field's pace and measure your effort. You may find that some of the guys in the front are having a harder time than you cresting that hill. That's a data point for you. You may be someone who is a good bike handler and can corner hard. If you can out-corner the front of the field, that is another reference point for you. So, hypothetically, let's say you have those two traits. You might try attacking about 100m-200m before the last sharp corner before the hill. You will get through the corner faster than the field, and you have an advantage on the hill.

    When to attack. There are so many variables. I've been in breaks that went at the ***, and I've won solo off the front with five to go. It's all about reading the field, something that will come with time and experience. There will be lulls in every race, road or crit. If you are on a strong team, then these kind of things can be decided beforehand. I don't have teammates in most races so I tend to be a follower. For A races, you should recon the field so that you have riders to mark. Just don't be too tied to preconceived plans, as they can blow up in your face. It comes back to knowing your competition, knowing your capabilities, and riding your race.

    What it takes to attack. You may be a natural sprinter, all fast twitch with no place to go. Guys like that need to learn patience more than anything. They need to minimize effort to save as much as they can for the finish. That means that they should not be attacking every other lap. That's not using their capabilities wisely. Most guys are not pure sprinters, whether they think so or not. I bet if you asked a Cat5 field who thought that they were strong sprinters, 3/4 of the field would raise their hands. The reality is, there's probably 4 or 5 that qualify, and half of them didn't raise their hand. So if you're not a pure sprinter, what do you work on? FTP. 1m power (WRI's, kilo attacks, tabatas, etc.) FTP. Long base rides with lots of rest. FTP. Did I mention FTP? If it had to be only one thing, I would choose increasing FTP.

    I hope this helps a bit.

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    . botto's Avatar
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    ^

    good stuff.

  24. #24
    Must Go Faster veloboy971's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by botto View Post
    ^

    good stuff.
    +10
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    VeloSIRraptor
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    Quote Originally Posted by veloboy971 View Post
    +10
    I'll double down on that
    +20
    Quote Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
    If it comes down to a field sprint, you probably won't win, so don't let it.

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