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Old 03-26-14, 04:31 PM   #1
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When is the best time to attack?

I just started racing this year and have 2 races under my Cat 5 belt.
I learned a TON of things in my 2 races and gradually getting the hang of doing crits.
In my last crit, I tried moving up the pack, going nearly OTF, middle and back of the pack, learning about the best lines to take in corners etc.

Anyway, one thing I noticed in my 2 races is that nobody ever succeeds in their attacks and nobody goes into a successful break.
In my next crit, I plan on launching an attack/s just to see how it is like.
Question is, in your experience, when is the best time to launch this that may be successful? Is it during a lull in the pace, before/during/after corners, on straightaways, during the last X laps?

The answer might be "it depends," but what signs are you looking for in the peloton, or any tips in general, if you want an attack to succeed?
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Old 03-26-14, 05:05 PM   #2
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The answer might be "it depends," but what signs are you looking for in the peloton, or any tips in general, if you want an attack to succeed?
Depends on a whole lotta stuff.

If you want to give it a whirl try attacking after a prime when the field is strung out (in a crit). Guys on the front usually don't want to chase.

Another time to think about is a "counter." So an attack or a fast move is made, field is strung out, folks at the front are tired. Go! try to make a small gap and find your pace.

A great place to jump from is a few wheels from the front. Attacking if you are right at the front usually facilitates a few more followers.

Don't blow your load too soon, b/c you have to be willing to drill threshold pace once out there.

And props to you, going for it is the best way to learn.
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Old 03-26-14, 06:08 PM   #3
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As stated above...it really does depend....

A counter attack is always a good place to have a go as well as after a prime. A lull in the pace can also be a good time, but that really depends on how the race has been leading up to that, have you been full gas for the last 15 minutes or has the race been pretty comfortable.

Attacking at a crosswind section can also give you a good opportunity to establish a break.

Don't kill yourself when you make the attack because otherwise a mile later you will probably be reeled in by the group and spit out the back.

A good rule of thumb a lot of others will tell you is that if you are hurting, there is a good chance others in the group are hurting and that is a good time to attack because others will be less inclined to chase.
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Old 03-26-14, 06:11 PM   #4
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It's Cat 5 - breaks never stay away. You are like a rabbit and all the dogs want to chase said rabbit
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Old 03-26-14, 06:15 PM   #5
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At the registration table. Preferably while wearing loafers
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Old 03-26-14, 06:22 PM   #6
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At the registration table. Preferably while wearing loafers
They never see that one coming.
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Old 03-26-14, 06:44 PM   #7
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There's no hard and fast answer, but I read in a book somewhere that a good time to attack is right after a hard effort when everyone is expecting to relax and recover.

I can't remember the title of the book, but it has a blue cover or something.

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Is it during a lull in the pace, before/during/after corners, on straightaways, during the last X laps?
1. During a lull? No. Everyone is rested and waiting for an attack.

2a. Before a corner? Maybe, but don't cause a wreck behind you or including you.
2b. During a corner? Not at this stage of your career. And probably not at any stage of your career.
2c. After a corner? Yeah, if the pack is strung out behind you, you'll be that much further ahead.

3. On straightaways? No real advantage here unless it's on a hill or into a headwind.

4. During last X laps? OK, it depends on all the other stuff that people are saying.
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Old 03-26-14, 06:50 PM   #8
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According to Hinault, as long as you are breathing.
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Old 03-26-14, 06:56 PM   #9
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It's Cat 5 - breaks never stay away. You are like a rabbit and all the dogs want to chase said rabbit
- Yeah, noticed that too. Everybody joining in the fray if one guy attacks.

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Don't kill yourself when you make the attack because otherwise a mile later you will probably be reeled in by the group and spit out the back.
- Was thinking about this. Don't want to be DNF'ed because of burning my matches, but only way to find out is to do it I guess.

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At the registration table. Preferably while wearing loafers
- Oooh, good suggestion. Will try to do this while others are pinning their numbers. Might work.

Will submit a race report in my next race.
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Old 03-26-14, 07:00 PM   #10
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There's no hard and fast answer, but I read in a book somewhere that a good time to attack is right after a hard effort when everyone is expecting to relax and recover.

I can't remember the title of the book, but it has a blue cover or something.



1. During a lull? No. Everyone is rested and waiting for an attack.

2a. Before a corner? Maybe, but don't cause a wreck behind you or including you.
2b. During a corner? Not at this stage of your career. And probably not at any stage of your career.
2c. After a corner? Yeah, if the pack is strung out behind you, you'll be that much further ahead.

3. On straightaways? No real advantage here unless it's on a hill or into a headwind.

4. During last X laps? OK, it depends on all the other stuff that people are saying.
Thanks. Yes, come to think of it, attacking during a lull, everyone is fully rested and will most likely chase me down.
Good point on attacking after a hard effort. Will see how this pans out.
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Old 03-26-14, 07:33 PM   #11
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attack your attacks.
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Old 03-26-14, 07:38 PM   #12
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"Don't attack when it's easy, attack when it's hard" is good advice.
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Old 03-26-14, 08:16 PM   #13
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1. During a lull? No. Everyone is rested and waiting for an attack.
don't know. i've had some good experiences attacking just after a prime. #fredsfightforprimes #duh
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Old 03-26-14, 09:34 PM   #14
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As mentioned.... Dont blow your load when you go... Youll have to hold threshold pace for awhile out there. I also think breaks work well in cat 5 because a lot of guys up front wont chase and there isnt a lot of working together so to speak. One race last year in a cat 5 crit, i tried to break once and then twice with two guys that attacked... The 3rd guy got away and no one even made an attempt to get him. Rode away solo for 15 to 20 minutes for the win.
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Old 03-26-14, 09:51 PM   #15
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200m sign or coming into or out of the last corner of a crit. Duh.
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Old 03-26-14, 10:23 PM   #16
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200m sign or coming into or out of the last corner of a crit. Duh.
I did the Valley Ride and you're in here posting. You let me down.
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Old 03-26-14, 10:32 PM   #17
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attack your attacks.
and ride to drop yourself.
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Old 03-27-14, 06:31 AM   #18
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According to Hinault, as long as you are breathing.
Exactly

Attack at every chance you get, but mostly just as another break is being caught (counter-attacking).

OP - don't ask. just do! After 100 races, come ask if you're still confused.
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Old 03-27-14, 07:18 AM   #19
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I just started racing this year and have 2 races under my Cat 5 belt.
I learned a TON of things in my 2 races and gradually getting the hang of doing crits.
In my last crit, I tried moving up the pack, going nearly OTF, middle and back of the pack, learning about the best lines to take in corners etc.

Anyway, one thing I noticed in my 2 races is that nobody ever succeeds in their attacks and nobody goes into a successful break.
In my next crit, I plan on launching an attack/s just to see how it is like.
Question is, in your experience, when is the best time to launch this that may be successful? Is it during a lull in the pace, before/during/after corners, on straightaways, during the last X laps?

The answer might be "it depends," but what signs are you looking for in the peloton, or any tips in general, if you want an attack to succeed?
I'd like to point out first that there is not a "best line" through a turn unless you're essentially solo or in a tiny group. The "best line" is more like an optimal line, based on the riders around you. If everyone around takes what you think is a horrible line then it's probably the line you really want to take. If you don't you'll end up crossing wheels somewhere. Just a minor word thing but a major thing when dealing with cornering in a group.

Attacking requires good separation (i.e. high power) and good time trialing (i.e. steady power). Few riders have both, but in the 5s a talented and fit rider will have both relative to the others. If you can get separation and TT at 26-27 mph then you may be able to make a break work. If you can't, meaning on a training ride it's hard to sprint away from a stop light and then avg 26 mph for the next 10-20 minutes, then, well, your attacks will be like mine, simply to learn, experiment, etc.

Most successful breaks come from riders that have good steady power. They don't get as redlined when it's fast so they have a higher % of their reserves when everyone is already at the limit. That's when the good riders go. Remember it's not your attack vs their fitness, it's more like your relative attack vs their relative reserves. At the beginning of the race everyone has tons of reserves so even a sharp attack will probably fail because everyone is so fresh. With 3 laps to go a lot of riders have dug into their reserves so a less sharp attack would be, in relative terms, much more effective. There's a guy that's gotten 1st or 2nd in I think 3 of the 4 races I've been in this year. He sits at the back of the field for most of the race but at 3-4-5 laps to go he's off the front, 30 seconds lead, and he's out of reach. Super impressive. He goes when everyone is already redlined. He also saves everything for his attack so he is as fresh as possible relatively speaking. Remember, you don't have to go "fast", you only have to go "faster than the others". If everyone is going 15 mph then a 16 mph break will win.

So, after all that, when do you attack? Think of when you're struggling, when you think of simply staying on wheels. That's when you need to attack, in those situations/areas. When riders are struggling they will wait for someone else to chase. If enough people wait for someone else to chase then you'll have 10-20 seconds before anyone gets going.

It might be with 3 laps to go after a break gets caught, just as you exit a hairpin corner. It might be just before you go into a massive tailwind section (where drafting is less effective so it's easier to blast away those with less reserves). It might be just before a headwind when in an unmotivated field.

Having said all that I imagine that you can also work on the basics - better sheltering, sharper attacks, more efficient cadence choices, position on the bike, stuff like that. Work on the basics, enjoy the deluxe stuff (tactics), and you'll be in for the long haul.

Have fun and let us know how things go at the races.
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Old 03-27-14, 07:19 AM   #20
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Thanks. Yes, come to think of it, attacking during a lull, everyone is fully rested and will most likely chase me down.
Good point on attacking after a hard effort. Will see how this pans out.
Depends on the lull. I won a race by attacking downhill at a slow point (like 20mph) that was ~850m from the finish. The attack indicator was: I was breathing. There were only a handful of guys who could have grabbed my wheel, and they were all thinking about the race coming at 200m. I mean, who's going to attack when it slow and we're going downhill?
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Old 03-27-14, 07:20 AM   #21
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I'll attempt to add credence to my advice by saying I've won 2 of my first 4 races this year in solo breaks. In my experience, all the answers above actually have one thing in common: you attack when the field is unlikely or unable to organize and chase. When that is depends, but here are some times when that happens more frequently (but not always):

1) When the field is strung out after a prime;
2) When the field sits up and fans out and is disorganized;
3) When the field is single file and already going hard;
4) When the field is patting itself on the back from a successful hard effort or chase;
5) When the field slows down or hesitates because of (or better yet, in aniticipation of) a headwind or crosswind;
6) When it's so early that they'll be unwilling to give you credit;
7) When it's so late that every one will look around for a second before burning a match so close to the sprint; and
8) When you've attacked so many times that they're just sick of you and are going to let you go for awhile out of frustration, complacency, or exhaustion.


For a beginner at this, I completely disagree with not putting too much into an attack. If it gets shut down really early, by all means sit up and attack another lap. But if you open a nice gap, bury yourself to make it stick. If it doesn't work and you get dropped, who cares? There is another race next week, tomorrow, or maybe even in an hour. In my opinion, many Cat 4's and 5's have zero chance to win because they won't risk their "pack finish" to try. Getting dropped is not a big deal, and I'd be willing to get dropped 3 weeks in a row to win the 4th. Sitting in and saying you got boxed in or cut off in the last lap for 4 weeks in a row is just nothing to write home about. If you want to try to do this, try it with all you have and be willing to fail spectacularly. It's actually kind of fun to do that, too.
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Old 03-27-14, 07:25 AM   #22
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It's Cat 5 - breaks never stay away. You are like a rabbit and all the dogs want to chase said rabbit
this really depends on the group, course, and the riders in the break

cat 5s are a crapshoot because you could have an incredible athlete (ie: time trial specialist or CX superstar) just entering the road race scene. An example of this was a race I was in a couple of years ago in a flat 3-corner local crit. A solo flyer went off the front with 9 laps to go, was caught at 7 laps to go, and his teammate countered and went into time trial mode to win the race solo off the front. That same guy just won a local hilly 4/5 circuit race after he jumped at the start only to never come back. If you're able to push yourself hard and stay away, the cat5 (and usually cat4) races are great for solo breakaways since the group is likely not to organize itself and chase. This does require significantly more fitness, lack of desire to catch, or an inability to organize to chase (more than likely).

I agree with the mantra of attacking when it's hard, but this depends on the rider and his/her capabilities.

It really depends on the rider and the situation, but another example of a good time to attack (team tactics observed in a local 1/2/3 race): when you're in a breakaway with a teammate. Let's take 5 riders in a break, 2 of them teammates where the other 3 are from different teams. During the break all 5 are working together to stay away. At some point that one of the teammates thinks they can stay away for good, so he jumps. The other teammate still in the break now does no more work forcing the other 3 riders to do the work; the work in the break goes from 5 riders to 3. Meanwhile the solo flyer teammate tries to hold off the break. If the 4-man break catches the flyer the teammate in the break should counter attack (if able), if the 4-man break stays away from the peloton then the teammate in the break should attack at the point where he can finish ahead of the break (whether that's the sprint finish or sometime before).
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Old 03-27-14, 07:27 AM   #23
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^ a rider couple weeks ago in the 4s attacked early on. He was off solo for 14 laps. He sat up because the field hadn't given up. Ironically the field sat up one corner before he did but he couldn't see them sit up. When they came around the corner and saw him sitting up they went bananas and went after him. They caught him that lap.

If the rider had gone literally 300 more meters, checked behind, he'd have seen the field spread out, defeated. In a few laps he'd have realistically put another 10-15 seconds on the field and that would have been that.
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Old 03-27-14, 07:30 AM   #24
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^ a rider couple weeks ago in the 4s attacked early on. He was off solo for 14 laps. He sat up because the field hadn't given up. Ironically the field sat up one corner before he did but he couldn't see them sit up. When they came around the corner and saw him sitting up they went bananas and went after him. They caught him that lap.

If the rider had gone literally 300 more meters, checked behind, he'd have seen the field spread out, defeated. In a few laps he'd have realistically put another 10-15 seconds on the field and that would have been that.
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Old 03-27-14, 07:34 AM   #25
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I'll attempt to add credence to my advice by saying I've won 2 of my first 4 races this year in solo breaks. In my experience, all the answers above actually have one thing in common: you attack when the field is unlikely or unable to organize and chase. When that is depends, but here are some times when that happens more frequently (but not always):

1) When the field is strung out after a prime;
2) When the field sits up and fans out and is disorganized;
3) When the field is single file and already going hard;
4) When the field is patting itself on the back from a successful hard effort or chase;
5) When the field slows down or hesitates because of (or better yet, in aniticipation of) a headwind or crosswind;
6) When it's so early that they'll be unwilling to give you credit;
7) When it's so late that every one will look around for a second before burning a match so close to the sprint; and
8) When you've attacked so many times that they're just sick of you and are going to let you go for awhile out of frustration, complacency, or exhaustion.


For a beginner at this, I completely disagree with not putting too much into an attack. If it gets shut down really early, by all means sit up and attack another lap. But if you open a nice gap, bury yourself to make it stick. If it doesn't work and you get dropped, who cares? There is another race next week, tomorrow, or maybe even in an hour. In my opinion, many Cat 4's and 5's have zero chance to win because they won't risk their "pack finish" to try. Getting dropped is not a big deal, and I'd be willing to get dropped 3 weeks in a row to win the 4th. Sitting in and saying you got boxed in or cut off in the last lap for 4 weeks in a row is just nothing to write home about. If you want to try to do this, try it with all you have and be willing to fail spectacularly. It's actually kind of fun to do that, too.
this is good stuff.

my best results have been because I took advantage of #7 and #5
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