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  1. #1
    Senior Member The Domestique's Avatar
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    Race Tactics: Blocking

    In a recent race, my teammate made it in a small 2 man break (eventually 3). I have always been told it's a good strategy to block, i.e. set a false tempo on the front that helps them get away. Others believe the exact opposite. This short video shows what I did (with the help of another rider who had a teammate in the break) to help them stay away. Even though it worked, another experienced racer chastised me saying, "NEVER sit on the front if your teammate is up the road."

    In my own defense, I watched the position of the break around corners, glanced at my elapsed time on my Garmin, and made sure the gap was going up while doing it. 25sec, 30sec, 45sec etc while maintaining a pace that kept most of the field working. I worked really hard to fight for that position repeatedly. My guy got third and the field never pulled them back. Great team result. Yet, I still got chewed out.

    Watch and see. UNLESS you are already on record as hating my video commentary, production style, me, or my dog,...which is the case for some. In that case, perhaps just contribute your thoughts to the discussion.



    So, with a teammate up the road. Is it a good tactic to...

    A) Get on the front to regulate the pace..."block"
    B) Stay off the front and let teams or individuals organize a chase...
    C) None of the above (enlighten me)

  2. #2
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    I think what you should do (in general, while 'blocking') is stay 2nd wheel, and just not pull through when the guy on front pulls off.

    Or just don't do anything blocking-wise and just follow bridge attempts and sit on them.

    Fwiw in the 1/2's fields I rarely see actual 'blocking', it's more like the 2nd-wheel thing where guys just don't pull through, or they go with bridge attempts and sit on.

  3. #3
    Senior Member brianmcg123's Avatar
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    The guy who chewed you out is a ******. If anyone wants to chase its their responsibility to get up front. Pros do this all the time.
    Everyone's a roadie, they just might not know it yet.

  4. #4
    fuggitivo solitario echappist's Avatar
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    blocking is fine, and pay the haters (guys yelling at you) no mind. they'd do the same if the situation were reversed.

    the other thing is watch for anyone trying to bridge, and if it's a strong rider, you may want to opt to jump on the wheel of the bridger (don't contribute though) and get a tow to your teammate if the guy bridging is strong enough

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Domestique View Post
    So, with a teammate up the road. Is it a good tactic to...

    A) Get on the front to regulate the pace..."block"
    B) Stay off the front and let teams or individuals organize a chase...
    C) None of the above (enlighten me)
    I didn't watch the video but this is a common question/theme. "Blocking" when one doesn't know about blocking is usually "Active Blocking", aka riding at the front and trying to go at a slightly lower pace. "Blocking" in the real sense is "Passive Blocking" where you follow the ones pulling and not pull through.

    There are very few instances where it's effective to Actively Block. Generally speaking it's dirty riding though, like hitting the front just before a hairpin and then going through it slowly.

    There are even fewer instances where it's expected to either Actively Block or at least control the field in a physically blocking way. I forget which classic it is but one of them (Ghent Wevelgem?) has a narrow bit of road. Everyone hammers to get to that road and then whoever is at the front goes 4 wide and blocks the road. Then they eat, drink, recover, etc, before the road widens and the race resumes. It looks like it's sort of accepted by the field that if the team at the front decides to do this then it's the way it is. I watched whatever race a short time ago, Cervelo Test Team had 5 or so guys at the front in that narrow section. They even convinced a guy who managed to squirm his way through that he shouldn't attack. I think one CTT guy actually grabbed his jersey to keep him in place while they "discussed" things. The other rider eventually relented and took a spot just behind the CTT guys.

    Passive blocking is virtually always accepted by all parties involved. It's the best way to do things. When Devolder won Flanders the second time Chavanel kept getting into breaks. He'd sit at the back and do no work for most of them. If his break companions insisted on dragging him to the finish he'd beat them because he was fresh. The others accepted this and worked hard even so.

    Passive blocking requires the rider to have a very small sphere because the rider must be able to take wheels and defend his own spot. The rider must be aggressive and fresh enough to take wheels, respond to attacks, and chase down riders that actually get a gap. It can be very difficult to passively block but it's certainly easier than chasing.

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    aside from not making the break yourself, i don't think you did anything wrong. the kind of blocking that i think deserves chastising is when a team will block the road gutter to gutter and literally restrict movement forward by being in the way. i'm also not a big fan of ****ing up the rotation of a chase, i prefer to see what is happening and either a) sit on the back of it and attack to bridge when the time is right or b) attack to make others chase then sit on and hope to get a ride across or go back to the field. this will cause slowing and allow a break to gain some real estate.

    also, no way my teammate Mohammed would have let Jesus get up the road like that!

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    Quote Originally Posted by echappist View Post
    blocking is fine, and pay the haters (guys yelling at you) no mind. they'd do the same if the situation were reversed.

    the other thing is watch for anyone trying to bridge, and if it's a strong rider, you may want to opt to jump on the wheel of the bridger (don't contribute though) and get a tow to your teammate if the guy bridging is strong enough
    this isnt an absolute. part of it is a math problem. if you have 1 teammate up the road against 2 others, you have a 1 in 3 chance (33%) of winning. if you are bridging with another, you might get to a 2 in 5 chance (40%) of winning, but it's really better than that because 1 of you can sit on or animate to make others chase, etc. the other considerations are who are you going across with and who is up the road. if you are following a fast finisher, then you dont want to help take him across. if its someone who is strong but a weak finisher, you add horsepower to the break without necessarily decreasing the chances of a win.

  8. #8
    fuggitivo solitario echappist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDcatV View Post
    this isnt an absolute. part of it is a math problem. if you have 1 teammate up the road against 2 others, you have a 1 in 3 chance (33%) of winning. if you are bridging with another, you might get to a 2 in 5 chance (40%) of winning, but it's really better than that because 1 of you can sit on or animate to make others chase, etc. the other considerations are who are you going across with and who is up the road. if you are following a fast finisher, then you dont want to help take him across. if its someone who is strong but a weak finisher, you add horsepower to the break without necessarily decreasing the chances of a win.
    good point

  9. #9
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MDcatV View Post
    this isnt an absolute. part of it is a math problem. if you have 1 teammate up the road against 2 others, you have a 1 in 3 chance (33%) of winning.
    The math is right statistically, but wrong from a racing perspective.

    I always look at the mix. If I've got the best finisher and he's not going to be worked over by the numbers (I've been in breaks where it's me and 5 guys from one team) I'll let folks go up the road and make the break stronger, because I have 100% chance of winning (barring a flat or something like that).

    If I go it often sets off alarm bells, so I'll help them get a gap if I can. But if our representation is weak or outnumbered, I'm going to be bridging or surfing a bridger at some point, or setting up a teammate who can win.

    If I'm happy with what we have up the road I'll sit around the front. If the chase is silly enough to let me in the rotation I can pretty much guarantee the break will be getting more room and someone is going to have to come around me. If the team chasing asks me to stay out I'll honor the effort and protect and serve. It's funny how people will complain about you not pulling and keep silent while letting you in the rotation.

    And there's a lot of Cat4 brains that think everyone will chase their own teammate down and let guys with representation in the break go to the front. You have representation in the brake and I'm chasing you won't get in the rotation and if you pull the old get to the front and break thing you'll see me flying by you.

    Active blocking is low brow. Especially when one team blocks the entire lane. That's just classless.
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 07-09-13 at 08:37 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Good in a 4/5 field. I'm really surprised nobody tried to bridge in those 20 minutes where you were setting tempo. But hey, if you can get away with it... *shrug*. Might work on a lazy Cat 3 field. Won't work at all in a 1/2/3 field. The moment the pace slows some opportunist will attack. One guy goes and maybe nobody responds if it's early in the race. Two or three go, then a lot of guys follow and the pace shoots through the roof.

    I remember that course. My first year racing I was in that field. There were rain storms all day the day of the crit and that course turned slick as ice. One of my teammates slid the front wheel on warmup and landed on his face and during the race, through every corner I felt my rear wheel slide. There must have been over a dozen crashes in our race.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  11. #11
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    I always figured that if I wasn't getting yelled at I wasn't doing a very good job blocking. Short version: your was tactic was legal and and it worked. That's all you need to know.

  12. #12
    Senior Member The Domestique's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Good in a 4/5 field. I'm really surprised nobody tried to bridge in those 20 minutes where you were setting tempo. But hey, if you can get away with it... *shrug*. Might work on a lazy Cat 3 field. Won't work at all in a 1/2/3 field. The moment the pace slows some opportunist will attack. One guy goes and maybe nobody responds if it's early in the race. Two or three go, then a lot of guys follow and the pace shoots through the roof.
    Good point. You didn't see those.

    Several guys did. One guy stayed in no mans land, the others were pulled back. This may have added to the impression that we pulled back the break. I didn't show every bridge attempt or those that I sat on or left alone. On the two attempts that went with multiple riders they would put in two hard laps (we shucked a ton of guys) and eventually I would pull through, take the edge off the pace, and it would relax.

    Also worth pointing out, the juice may have been gone from some of the field (certainly not all) because this was stage 3 of the race with a 78 Mile RR with 3,000+ feet of climbing in 105 degree heat the day before. FYI.

  13. #13
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    I skimmed the clip. You did fine there - it's the guys that weren't chasing that didn't do well. "Chasing" isn't time trialing at about the same speed as the break. It needs to be much faster. You don't want to spend 10 laps bridging a 20 second gap. It's possible, with commitment, to do it in maybe 1.5 miles, definitely within 2 miles. But that's not your problem in this race. It's a confusion between a group ride and a race. The riders at the front are treating this like a group ride, where you keep everyone together, where you dip your toes into effort. It should be different - they should be sitting in, dry as a bone if you will, then cannonball into the deep end. All that movement really stirs up the race.

    In your case, if you could see that the chase wasn't going fast (i.e. bursts of 30-35 mph) then you should have sat in. At that point you had all the excuses in the world to never see the front. It should have been the most boring race in the world, HR never going over say 140-150 bpm, never seeing wind, just sitting in at the most comfortable pace in the world. You should have been barely warmed up at the end of the race, it should have been that easy.

    My expectation of a teammate in that situation is that he either wins the field sprint (if he can sprint) or he solos in ahead of the field (if he can't sprint). It's not only about helping your teammate, it's about maximizing the team's results. In this case, if you had let all the stronger guys willing to work work, you should have been good for a top 3 in the sprint even if you don't necessarily have a sprint, and if you had gone maybe a lap early (assuming there were some sprinters waiting for the sprint who didn't contribute any pulls), you should have finished solo.

    btw a while ago I posted something on how you know you can sprint, meaning in a physiological way. I've never seen a rider turn into a sprinter (from a time trialer or climber type). I've seen sprinters slow down, that's for sure, but I haven't seen a rider suddenly turn into a sprinting monster. Sprinters have that jump from the get go, with no specific training, and they have it even if they haven't been training for a while.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
    btw a while ago I posted something on how you know you can sprint, meaning in a physiological way. I've never seen a rider turn into a sprinter (from a time trialer or climber type). I've seen sprinters slow down, that's for sure, but I haven't seen a rider suddenly turn into a sprinting monster. Sprinters have that jump from the get go, with no specific training, and they have it even if they haven't been training for a while.
    this seems to be happening to me. I can hold a sprint longer, but i cannot generate the Ws I used to nor can I respond to attacks like I could even just a few years ago. it's actually pretty frustrating.

  15. #15
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    The math is right statistically, but wrong from a racing perspective.

    I always look at the mix. If I've got the best finisher and he's not going to be worked over by the numbers (I've been in breaks where it's me and 5 guys from one team) I'll let folks go up the road and make the break stronger, because I have 100% chance of winning (barring a flat or something like that).

    If I go it often sets off alarm bells, so I'll help them get a gap if I can. But if our representation is weak or outnumbered, I'm going to be bridging or surfing a bridger at some point, or setting up a teammate who can win.

    If I'm happy with what we have up the road I'll sit around the front. If the chase is silly enough to let me in the rotation I can pretty much guarantee the break will be getting more room and someone is going to have to come around me. If the team chasing asks me to stay out I'll honor the effort and protect and serve. It's funny how people will complain about you not pulling and keep silent while letting you in the rotation.

    And there's a lot of Cat4 brains that think everyone will chase their own teammate down and let guys with representation in the break go to the front. You have representation in the brake and I'm chasing you won't get in the rotation and if you pull the old get to the front and break thing you'll see me flying by you.
    Reminds me a bit of the guy complaining that you weren't pulling the first time we raced together at Lago, then you smiled at him. Ear to ear grin. IIRC, he jumped, and I was on your wheel when you retaliated, and you and I were OTF (chasing)

    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    Active blocking is low brow. Especially when one team blocks the entire lane. That's just classless.
    I had a hotheaded friend back in Colorado. There was a team doing this in a Cat 3 race, and he dropped back about 15 feet from the line, sprinted full force, tackled the biggest blocker at 30mph, and beat the piss out of him on the side of the road. That was a suspension, but it was probably worth it to him and pretty funny. People talked about not blocking like that for fear of retaliation for several years. This guy also went to the can for throwing a frozen water bottle through a semi windshield, then getting into a fight with the driver. He was a nice guy though. Really.

  16. #16
    In the Pain Cave thechemist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post


    I had a hotheaded friend back in Colorado. There was a team doing this in a Cat 3 race, and he dropped back about 15 feet from the line, sprinted full force, tackled the biggest blocker at 30mph, and beat the piss out of him on the side of the road. That was a suspension, but it was probably worth it to him and pretty funny. People talked about not blocking like that for fear of retaliation for several years. This guy also went to the can for throwing a frozen water bottle through a semi windshield, then getting into a fight with the driver. He was a nice guy though. Really.
    Wow...granted, I have wanted to throw water/water bottles in car windows before
    FS: quarq specialized spider NIB

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    Senior Member topflightpro's Avatar
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    I actually watched the video, and that guy seems justified in yelling at you.

    From what I saw, you continually sprinted around the guys in front of you, got on the front, then intentionally slowed down. Not only is that a jerk move, but it can be a recipe for causing crashes.

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    Senior Member globecanvas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
    btw a while ago I posted something on how you know you can sprint, meaning in a physiological way. I've never seen a rider turn into a sprinter (from a time trialer or climber type). I've seen sprinters slow down, that's for sure, but I haven't seen a rider suddenly turn into a sprinting monster. Sprinters have that jump from the get go, with no specific training, and they have it even if they haven't been training for a while.
    Can you give me a hint how to find the post about sprinting that you are talking about?
    Ninny

  19. #19
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
    I actually watched the video, and that guy seems justified in yelling at you.

    From what I saw, you continually sprinted around the guys in front of you, got on the front, then intentionally slowed down. Not only is that a jerk move, but it can be a recipe for causing crashes.
    Maybe I'm not sensitive enough to it, but I couldn't detect a significant slow down. The way it looked to me was that he just took over when the leader pulled out, and didn't hold pace.

    I've done similar before, and my teammate won from the break. He and I rotated hard attacks for the first 20 minutes, until finally one of his attacks stuck. I train with him many times/week, and know exactly what he can do, and for how long. So I went to the front and pushed it about 1mph slower than that pace. This was enough for most of the peleton, as they figured a solo had no chance. Once the counterattacks started, I would let a pair go (as long as they weren't from the ATT/Brain-Spine team -- those guys chase each other) in hopes of two of them bridging up. Finally, a pair got away, and I stayed up there riding a touch below my teammate's capability. Again, people were generally happy to let me stay up there as the lead grew past 2 minutes. A couple would pull through hard, and I'd merge into the chain, and when my turn came, I'd go back to the same pace and just not pull off.

    It's the pack's fault that they never came around me to swallow me up. I had a huge advantage knowing exactly what my teammate could do, while I maintained the legs needed to go with any and all attacks as I saw fit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by globecanvas View Post
    Can you give me a hint how to find the post about sprinting that you are talking about?
    I can't find it myself.

    I describe more a situational thing, like if you find yourself sitting up in a town line sprint because you thought no one else was sprinting, or if you thought you sprinted on the wrong lap in a race because it seemed that no one else jumped when you did. When a natural sprinter sprints it's pretty tough to beat them. It's not uncommon for such sprinters to win by huge margins, 10-20 meters or more, even though everyone went at about the same time.

    It's also something where when a good sprinter jumps it's literally impossible to stay on their wheel. It's like they were teleported 15 feet up the road.

    Although I've been on the giving side of that I had a real shock when I went head to head with a "real" sprinter, a multi-time national track and crit champ. At the time I had a good sprint, I was pretty secure in my jump, but when he went (and I knew he was going) he got 2 lengths immediately. I couldn't close it down since our speeds were otherwise the same. It was the first time I'd been so decisively beaten and it horrified me - the one thing I could do wasn't good enough.

    Another guy that always out jumped me was this guy Eric M (or Kyoo M). I could out jump him if I used a lower gear, but he'd out jump me otherwise. I could beat him when he had downtube shifters and I had a bar-end, but once he got STI that was it, I never beat him again.

    A "real" sprinter is rare. It also only helps up to about a Cat 3 level. I found in my limited Cat 2 life, as well as doing P123 races, that those races are so fast that the sprint is almost a continuation of the pace rather than a jump.

  21. #21
    Senior Member The Domestique's Avatar
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    Hold on...

    Quote Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
    I actually watched the video, and that guy seems justified in yelling at you.

    From what I saw, you continually sprinted around the guys in front of you, got on the front, then intentionally slowed down. Not only is that a jerk move, but it can be a recipe for causing crashes.
    Didn't SLOW down, actually maintained pace, but didn't chase. I didn't use the rear camera because it had a dirty lens, but that video shows the group long and thin for 8-10 riders then paired after that. The passing video shows it. I NEVER hit the breaks or slowed down nor would I. That's crazy.

    I did maintain a pace just slower than the break, as I mentioned by glancing at the time from corner to corner. It was still a pretty quick pace (for this group).

  22. #22
    Senior Member The Domestique's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post
    Maybe I'm not sensitive enough to it, but I couldn't detect a significant slow down. The way it looked to me was that he just took over when the leader pulled out, and didn't hold pace. ....So I went to the front and pushed it about 1mph slower than that pace. This was enough for most of the peleton, as they figured a solo had no chance...

    It's the pack's fault that they never came around me to swallow me up. I had a huge advantage knowing exactly what my teammate could do, while I maintained the legs needed to go with any and all attacks as I saw fit.
    Exactly. That's what I was trying for.

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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    I'll sit on the front of the field to help a teammate get up the road, but only for a rotation or two. It's much more effective to cover from 10-15 back.

  24. #24
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shovelhd View Post
    I'll sit on the front of the field to help a teammate get up the road, but only for a rotation or two. It's much more effective to cover from 10-15 back.
    Most of the races I've been in, this is absolutely true. The above was a rare time that they literally let my drag them around at 22mph for 1.5 hours. I dunno wtf they were thinking, but once the break mates that I had "blessed" got up to him, they were doing 25mph. 30 minutes to go, the pack finally came around me and started flying, but it was way way too late. I just sat in and waited for the sprint... then flatted with 2km to go

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    I was in a break on Sunday and my team mate didn't even know I was up the road until like 10 minutes later. So it could be worse

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