I've just started my first year of bike racing and admittedly growing frustrated as I have yet to finish with the pack. I'm getting the impression that under ideal conditions, you have to really make sure you arrive at the start line early to secure a spot at the front. Unfortunately, the last race I did, they started lining riders up at the start earlier than I thought they would and arrived too late during my warmup to get a spot at the front. I didn't feel like the starting pace was unbearable (i'd say it was challenging). The problem i'm finding is it seems if you start from the back that you've more or less lost the race. I feel like I do well for the start of the race managing this. I keep up with the rider in front of me and sprint ahead of them before they allow a real gap to form. However, each rider I pass up leaves me behind another rider on the verge of losing the wheel in front of him. Each time I jump ahead I use a ton of energy. Eventually, I just hit a wall and cant jump in front of the rider in front of me as fast as they are falling off the group.
I feel like I have the fitness and the strength such that I should be able to race beginner cat 5 races. (I ride 10-12 hours a week and my ftp is around 3.1 watts/kg. Nothing spectacular but certainly Cat 5 worthy id assume). I was wondering if anyone could offer tips on moving up the pack if you find yourself coming from behind. I understand that ideally I should just start at the front and stick to a good wheel, but I can't rely on that being the case for every race. Do you just gun it as hard as you can from the start of the race and move up as quickly as possible? Do you try to be measured and move up in an energy conservative manner? Do you keep on the rear of the rider in front of you or allow them some space on the turns (so you dont have to slam your brakes as much as them and conserve your energy) or do you just find it more efficient to slam your brakes along with them and then sprint out of the saddle? Whens the best time to try and pass? It seems like waiting until they start gaping might not be the best time (maybe its better to move up before they allow a gap?). What do you do about riders over-braking in to turns? I guess i'm just wondering what % of my problems are fitness and what percentage are tactical. Its really depressing to think with all the work i put in to riding that I can't even race with the lowest level of cycle racing.