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Old 07-08-14, 01:41 PM   #1
Gramercy
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Riding in the front of the pack, off the front, blocking, etc.

So I wanted to discuss a couple of things in this thread. And yes, I've read 'Reading the Race.' I know most people say on here never to be in the very front of the field except for a few circumstances, so let's talk about it.

Going off the front is risky because you are physically and mentally putting yourself out there. If no one goes with you, then the choice is to stay away as long as possible and try to time trial to the finish, or to ease off and rejoin the pack. Personally, I have no chance of going solo and winning in a break without help, so this is risky unless I get people to come with me. Now I occasionally try a break and usually no one comes, but maybe that's because I go too early. Next time I will try to start a break within 10 minutes of the finish line. So if you wanted people to join a break, would you talk to people before the race and see if they are interested in teaming up for the race? Do you think anyone would willingly go to the front and block the pack while a couple of guys take off? Is there specific etiquette that goes along with this?

Now when I'm tired and the pack is going fast I've experimented with going to the front of the peloton and slowing the pace down. This may work for a while but eventually the entire group will come around. Instead of getting to the front and riding at a slower speed, is it beneficial to try and increase tempo like they do in major races to string out the pack? If I were to increase speed quickly I would most likely go solo off the front, but would slowly increasing the speed from 18mph, to 20, to 23, then to the upper 20's on flat ground help string the pack out and possibly drop riders? Or could this initiate a break? Is there a good way to do this without completely blowing up? And if people do this without teammates, how long is a reasonable amount of time to spend at the front? What should be the desired outcome?

Also, if I were on the front, would talking to the person directly behind or beside me help in any way or do you think this can backfire more times than not, as they can dictate my strategy to others in the group?
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Old 07-08-14, 02:20 PM   #2
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Now when I'm tired and the pack is going fast I've experimented with going to the front of the peloton and slowing the pace down.

i'm pretty sure i'm not reading this right
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Old 07-08-14, 02:30 PM   #3
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i'm pretty sure i'm not reading this right
Ghost blocking? Not sure what else you could call that.

Re: break aways, how do you know you can't initiate and take one solo? Keep in mind, that one or two failed attempts doesn't mean the third, fourth, or fifth won't stick. If you start to roll off the front and no one is with you, just put your head down and go. Worst case you get caught. Breaks can and do happen at any time.

If you want guys to block for you when you try to get away they either need to be on your team and be willing to block on your behalf or you'll need to convince someone to block for you. It seems unlikely that someone will block for you just because. They might let you roll away thinking you'll either blow up or that the pack will catch you, but thats not really active blocking.

Ultimately, I'd say at this level try stuff, have fun with it and learn. If you try a breakaway and blow up and get dropped, oh well. At this point, I just go out and try to have fun with the race and try new things. Chasing breaks down, hammer from the whistle, countering off primes, etc. Try things and take risks (not at the expense of others' safety though).
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Old 07-08-14, 02:42 PM   #4
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It sounds as if you are relatively new to racing and the answers to your questions need to come from experience, trial and error, your fitness and fatigue levels, your team plan (join 1 that understands and actually implements tactics), your race agenda, your knowledge of the field, the field's take on you, wind, terrain, race category, and more experience. Have fun with it. Try different things. Learn your strengths and limiters. Build fitness. Work on your weaknesses. Race to your strengths. Get stronger. Attack, attack, attack. Win. Upgrade. Rinse and repeat.
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Old 07-08-14, 03:22 PM   #5
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the answers to your questions need to come from experience, trial and error
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Old 07-08-14, 04:02 PM   #6
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Going off the front is risky because you are physically and mentally putting yourself out there.
This is true, but you can't win a race without attacking unless everyone else crashes.
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Old 07-08-14, 04:46 PM   #7
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all good questions, but many of them depend on you.

try these things, see what works.

and don't forget to try sitting in the whole time then only going all out in the final sprint. not everyone can ride breakaways.
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Old 07-08-14, 04:51 PM   #8
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and don't forget to try sitting in the whole time then only going all out in the final sprint. not everyone can ride breakaways.

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Old 07-08-14, 05:52 PM   #9
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Pay no attention to Fudgy and his memes. He has no idea what a sprint is, only what it is not.

You're on the right track with attacking by riding faster. If you take off like a banshee in a Cat4 field they are going to either a) ignore you because you're not a marked rider or b) you're on your own and you better have the stink to pull it off or to get others to join you. If you attack attack attack with no purpose you will be forever marked as the idiot that hasn't got a clue. If you attack late, you better have double the stink because you're not going to get any quarter from anyone.

Do you know what your five minute power is? Have you done interval work where you hit the gas and then go for five minutes? Do you keep track of lap times so you know when to go? We can talk strategy all we want but if you don't know what you are capable of, then we are all just pissing in the wind.
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Old 07-08-14, 06:03 PM   #10
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When I'm more awake I'll post a stream of conscious response.
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Old 07-08-14, 06:05 PM   #11
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Pay no attention to Fudgy and his memes. He has no idea what a sprint is, only what it is not.
Incorrect! I'm totally aware of when they are happening. It's like sitting on a bus and the bus next to you starts moving forward and you feel that moving backward sensation even though you are not moving at all.
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Old 07-08-14, 06:19 PM   #12
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Incorrect! I'm totally aware of when they are happening. It's like sitting on a bus and the bus next to you starts moving forward and you feel that moving backward sensation even though you are not moving at all.
Poor mattm. He's gotta be in some serious pain right now.
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Old 07-08-14, 07:19 PM   #13
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I've given up on attempting breakaways. At least in packed fields it just seems like a waste, and with Cat 5 crits being relatively short, there is always someone strong enough to close the gap. I wish we had more road races around here.
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Old 07-08-14, 08:45 PM   #14
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Funny. I've seen plenty of guys ride off the front to win Cat5 crits. Have you thought it might be you?
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Old 07-08-14, 10:17 PM   #15
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Funny. I've seen plenty of guys ride off the front to win Cat5 crits. Have you thought it might be you?
Breakaways just do not happen around here in the 5's. Its what I've been told and what I've experienced. I'm sure there are guys out there that can make one stick, but I don't have the power to do so, nor do most others. Maybe I should go to Massachusetts where they are plentiful.

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Old 07-09-14, 01:59 AM   #16
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Going off the front is risky because you are physically and mentally putting yourself out there. If no one goes with you, then the choice is to stay away as long as possible and try to time trial to the finish, or to ease off and rejoin the pack. Personally, I have no chance of going solo and winning in a break without help, so this is risky unless I get people to come with me. Now I occasionally try a break and usually no one comes, but maybe that's because I go too early. Next time I will try to start a break within 10 minutes of the finish line. So if you wanted people to join a break, would you talk to people before the race and see if they are interested in teaming up for the race? Do you think anyone would willingly go to the front and block the pack while a couple of guys take off? Is there specific etiquette that goes along with this?

Now when I'm tired and the pack is going fast I've experimented with going to the front of the peloton and slowing the pace down. This may work for a while but eventually the entire group will come around. Instead of getting to the front and riding at a slower speed, is it beneficial to try and increase tempo like they do in major races to string out the pack? If I were to increase speed quickly I would most likely go solo off the front, but would slowly increasing the speed from 18mph, to 20, to 23, then to the upper 20's on flat ground help string the pack out and possibly drop riders? Or could this initiate a break? Is there a good way to do this without completely blowing up? And if people do this without teammates, how long is a reasonable amount of time to spend at the front? What should be the desired outcome?

Also, if I were on the front, would talking to the person directly behind or beside me help in any way or do you think this can backfire more times than not, as they can dictate my strategy to others in the group?
Solo break pessimism - if you can TT at race pace (24-28 mph) then you have a chance of making a break work. If you're substantially below that (22 mph for example) then probably not. I fall in that second category of being so slow that it's totally unrealistic to stay away from a field.

Asking for help, aka "combines" - generally speaking people will do stuff if it gives them a benefit. Even a generous, no-actual-reward type thing will have some kind of benefit, like the good feeling you get when you help someone. If you're regularly at races and you know of a couple unattached or usually-flying-solo type riders, see if there's a way for you to work with them. For example if you find a sprinter type and they want to work with you then you could tell him that, say, you're going to go at 3 to go, he can cover moves, and if you get caught he's in good/protected position but in the mean time he's getting a free ride near the front.

Most combines are more "active", meaning two riders work together to get away vs one rider away and one rider in the field. It's usually a result of riders looking to break the stranglehold of individual strong finishers, whether break riders or sprinters. Usually it's sprinters they're trying to defeat - a couple non-sprinters will get together to try and get away from a sprinter that seems to win/place in everything. Or sprinter teams/riders will work together to contain a really strong break type rider.

For this stuff the main thing will be the spirit of cooperation between the riders. Hopefully you'll have run across the others someone regularly, you both respect each other's riding, and you sometimes say hi and all that. I let my legs do the talking last year, going on some doomed moves, and as a result one TT type guy said that if I plan on going we should talk. Although I'm not a TT/break kind of rider his offer is something I've sort of saved in the back of my head. Who knows, maybe in 5 years I'll tap him on the hip as I try to go off the front.

Also if you do end up doing something like this offer to split the money you make. If you don't make any (like the other guy ends up with the money) then realistically don't expect money (you might get disappointed) but file away the other rider's actions for future reference. It's the principle of the thing, not splitting the $5 prime or whatever.

Stringing out the race, unless you're working for someone, is almost always not good. The exception would be a massive cross- or tail-wind, where your work doesn't really benefit the others. For you I'd think about Floyd Bennet Field, where the wind can be pretty strong. If it's a hard crosswind then hitting the front in the gutter would be great. I have very vivid memories of cross-headwinds from the left, sitting 6" to the right of the wheel in front of my, my shins getting scraped by the somewhat thick bushes I was virtually riding in to stay out of the wind. In the tailwind sections (typically the back straight when I was there) I'd regularly pull at very high speeds. Of course this was because I missed the massive break but still, it was fun and the glares I got from the blocking teammates made it worth it. (And for the record I never caught anything there.)

In those wind type situations I wouldn't ramp it up, I'd just hit the front going hard. What you're doing is choosing when to work and forcing the others to work just as hard, relative to their aero drag. Tall guys will hate you more, ditto those that can't find shelter.

I've done the above in races as recently as a few weeks ago. It was a tiny field, I went to the front, no one pulled through, so I went a bit harder. When we hit the crosswind section I attacked hard, knowing that everyone would be exposed to the same wind. It broke up the small group but I only succeeded in dropping two people - one guy plus me, after I failed to recover after my "move". A TT guy (the one that said he'd work with me) asked me why I did it - he said that as soon as we all lined up he thought that I'd win if it stayed together. I replied that I wanted to hurt people but overestimated my ability to recover. Heh.

For me when I get to the headwind section I'd sit up right away. I'll blow myself up in 20 seconds and everyone else will be going 120w while I'm doing it. This is why we never caught anything at FBF - I'd sit up on the headwind section, the (Cat 1-2) teammates would roll up next to me, and we'd go 15 mph for a bit.

As far as talking to people, talking to them at the front of the field, with everyone listening behind (because voices carry back due to the pack's self-generated wind direction), doesn't make sense. Well unless you're feeling supremely strong and you want to totally demoralize everyone! It's better to talk further back in the group. A few guys will listen in but they may not react. I regularly hear plans while sitting at the back but I generally don't have the legs to take action. It may be that the TT/break guys know I won't go so they feel comfy talking about their plans around me, I don't know.

Not sure if I hit the points you had but I hope this helps.
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Old 07-09-14, 05:10 AM   #17
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Most of the "breakaway's" I've seen in cat 5 have been guys that are way too powerful compared to the rest of the group and just ride off the front and are never seen again.
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Old 07-09-14, 05:26 AM   #18
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Most of the "breakaway's" I've seen in cat 5 have been guys that are way too powerful compared to the rest of the group and just ride off the front and are never seen again.
Thats what I'm talking about, and I race all over the country, not just in MA. Sometimes they're not even that much stronger than the field. They get 30 seconds after a few laps and the field sits up staring at each other to work. The guy just stays in TT mode and doesn't waste time looking back.
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Old 07-09-14, 06:06 AM   #19
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Sorry, don't have much experience riding off the front. You can ask me about riding off the back though. I have a lot of experience with that.
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Old 07-09-14, 06:25 AM   #20
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Hang in there. You're only a few OTB finishes from your Cat6 upgrade.
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Old 07-09-14, 06:42 AM   #21
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Sorry, don't have much experience riding off the front. You can ask me about riding off the back though. I have a lot of experience with that.
Negative, If you cannot stay in the bunch then your training is inadequate. Pure and simple.
Going off the front has to count, there has to be a reason as well as in the tactical sense when to do it.
Certainly not when everyone is fresh and easily responding. Best is after a few attacks when recovery is foremost in the mind of the others.
But here again it has to be with a purpose. If you are a solo/unattached rider, it makes absolutely no sense to play at breaking up the field.
Unless you've been the one that is strong enough to dictate pace in the past. ( but that is another level ).
As a solo rider you have to watch the race, pick out who are the wheels to follow and where to be at all times that will both shelter and allow you to expand the least amount of energy. ( which is not to say you won't have to max out at certain times ) but recovering from those efforts to stay connected is prime.
This will probably take a few races, figuring out which teams are dangerous, which riders seem to always be at the right place. Those are the wheels to stay in contact. When a break goes, stay with them, take your turn in the pace line if it works, but being solo just pull thru and keep the rotation fluid. Usually when a break is comprised of teammates from various teams, they will expect you to pull thru. If you refuse then they may very well dog and attack you until you are unable to bridge the gap. Pulling thru sends the message you are serious about staying away, but eventually they will attack to get rid of you so bide your time until the inevitable. Which will happen as the finish gets closer.
If the various teammates in the break are battling against one another, that is a good sign that maybe launching an all out solo for the finish may just work. Then again it may do you in.

Much to figure out and you won't know until you have tried various attempts and learned from the results.
Most importantly, have a plan, don't just go off the front because it's there..
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Old 07-09-14, 06:43 AM   #22
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Sorry, don't have much experience riding off the front. You can ask me about riding off the back though. I have a lot of experience with that.
Me too!
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Old 07-09-14, 06:45 AM   #23
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Hang in there. You're only a few OTB finishes from your Cat6 upgrade.
That must be the beer helmet category
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Old 07-09-14, 06:47 AM   #24
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Great responses and commentary so far. Ferret/Shovel/Creatre, yes, in the Cat 5 races I've done, specifically road races of about 20 to 27 miles, a couple of guys that are stronger than everyone will attack on a hill and leave everyone behind. Average speeds in my races are usually around 24mph, and the guys that can stay away can sustain this speed. CDR, I think if one can sustain 24-28mph solo that is very impressive and if they even have one person working with them, they should be able to win a Cat 4 race in a breakaway at that speed.

I can sustain a little over 22mph solo for 20 minutes (I do a fast lap in central park if it's relatively empty), maybe a tad faster if I'm in a race. The problem I have is that I can sit in for most of the race, but then the last part of a road race will be in the mid to upper 20's, and in the 4/5 Crits I have done the last 1 mile lap is done at 28mph (Globe Canvas averaged almost 30mph in the last mile of the race we did where he won and then upgraded to the 3's), so I need to go almost all out to keep up even while drafting. And then the sprint can hit 36mph so I am not in contention for that, usually sitting around 20th out of 50 before the sprint as people pass me in the last lap. And my max sprint is about 32.5mph on flat ground. Currently working on that.

That is why I would like to get away before the last few minutes before the pace goes up, I think the best action is to get in the front of the pack and take the corners at high speeds to separate myself. I've gotten much better at cornering and love being towards the front and coasting through, instead of breaking and then sprinting out of the corner in the middle of the pack (obviously talking about crits here).

CDR, when I came to Bethel I went too early, around lap 5 of 15, attacked as it started to drizzle on the downhill and it was into a headwind (seemed ideal at the time, but the field was strong). Someone came up to bridge and he eventually won the race as he rode away from me - I got caught by the pack and then got spit out the back.

I don't know my 5 minute power - don't have a powermeter but could probably sustain 25mph for 5 minutes.

I attended some free CRCA clinic and they had powermeters, I held 200w for 30 minutes and wasn't totally exhausted at the end. Don't know what my FTP is.
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Old 07-09-14, 06:48 AM   #25
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It makes no sense to string out the bunch in the last few laps unless you are working for someone.
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