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  1. #1
    Senior Member Velocirapture's Avatar
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    Race_experience 101?

    I'm hoping that the power of the collective can help me fast-track some 'race-experience', through input from all of you lovely folk.

    Ive been selected for a squad that is going to attend some big races in a couple of month's time. Although i've been riding bicycles all my life, I've been riding and racing on the track for only a year, and so my 'race-experience' is sadly lacking.

    Fortunately i am working with a coach, so my many aspects of my riding itself are benefiting, but race experience is something you can only get racing.... or reading about it! (well, not the same benefit, but certainly a benefit). I've found the race report thread to be very useful as its helped me to think about different aspects of racing that had not yet naturally occurred to me. sadly, that thread is a little dry at the moment

    So, at risk of asking people to give away their guarded secrets, i'd really value any race-strategy tips at all that anyone is willing to share.

    i'm an endurance rider, and will be riding scratch, points and individual pursuit, at these races.
    My current strategy in the scratch is very basic - stay near to the front, so that i can respond to moves if necessary, but not so near that i have to work too much; go with attacks; burn all the matches at the bell.
    I'm not too good at working out where i should position myself in the last few laps? (high and near the front [more work] high and mid pack [more people to come around?]

    My strategy in the points has been non-existent, other than to again sit near the front and burn a match for each sprint. Last points race i was in, i was in the points for every sprint except the last two, but low in the points, with others coming over me at the line - which suggests to me that i'm going too early? not sure. any tips? a mate of mine's strategy is to stay with the sprints but not going all out, for the first 2, and then attack when the rest are tired - but i guess it depends on your strengths.

    also, what clues to you guys look for in picking a 'safe' wheel, but one that isn't a dud?
    what clues suggest an attack is a good one to go with, or one to leave the bunch to real in?

    I know i'm asking a lot here, but will really value any input at all, thanks :-)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Velocirapture's Avatar
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    Oh dear, have i asked the un-askable and mentioned the un-mentionable??

    oo boy.... two months to go (til world masters!!) - very excited to be going, very slim on the experience. Any tips for riding on board, and for possible race strategies (the tips given to the young lady racing on grass were great) at all? i've only ridden concrete tracks; 250m and 330m, ~42 deg.


  3. #3
    Senior Member VanceMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocirapture View Post
    i've only ridden concrete tracks; 250m and 330m, ~42 deg.
    The difference between wood and concrete, while quite noticeable, is not significant (other than the need to keep minimum speed to prevent sliding down on wood). The much more significant difference between tracks is the banking and tightness of the turns. Going from a relatively flat 333m to a steep 250m or 167m takes some getting used to. Even that isn't a big deal, and since you already have experience at those differences, you're in good shape.

    Quote Originally Posted by Velocirapture View Post
    but race experience is something you can only get racing.... or reading about it!
    Reading about it certainly helps, but a lot gets lost in translation, and you are right, this is an area that requires experience. This is true for anything of course, but I've found it far more true of track racing than any other type of bike racing I've done (road, crit, mtb, cx). There are not only more types of races, but also everything is more condensed/pressurized. For instance, even for the most basic race (Scratch), virtually every lap is intense and requires your full strategic attention. Now multiply that for the other types of omnium races. I've done about 100 individual mass start races in the past year... and every one has unfolded very differently, so each one has been a learning experience. And I still make mistakes in every race.

    Quote Originally Posted by Velocirapture View Post
    i'm an endurance rider, and will be riding scratch, points and individual pursuit, at these races.
    My current strategy in the scratch is very basic...
    My strategy in the points has been non-existent, other than to again sit near the front and burn a match for each sprint.
    At this early juncture, I'll just say that it is probably worth spending most of your strategic bandwidth assessing the field. I can't think of a single instance where I've had a "general strategy" that held up. Oh, and unless you have your field completely outclassed, I wouldn't suggest burning a match for "each sprint."

  4. #4
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    A wise man once said the points race was a blue collar job. You're better off getting points in every sprint than going all out, winning one, then getting blown out the back.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Kayce's Avatar
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    I was taught that you can be dumb and be a good points racer, but you have to be the smartest person on the track to be a great points racer.
    If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him

  6. #6
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kayce View Post
    I was taught that you can be dumb and be a good points racer, but you have to be the smartest person on the track to be a great points racer.
    +1

    I was conversing with my teammate (Steve Carrell, masters world champ in the points race) about a race once. At any point in the race he knows the point tally of every racer in contention as well as determine how many points he needed (and that he needed to deny them) to win. I was amazed at how much thinking goes on in the race.

  7. #7
    Senior Member bitingduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VanceMac View Post
    The difference between wood and concrete, while quite noticeable, is not significant (other than the need to keep minimum speed to prevent sliding down on wood). The much more significant difference between tracks is the banking and tightness of the turns. Going from a relatively flat 333m to a steep 250m or 167m takes some getting used to. Even that isn't a big deal, and since you already have experience at those differences, you're in good shape.
    Length of the track affects the difficulty of taking laps. Length of the straights relative to the turns affects positioning and how hard it is to come around in a sprint or how hard it is to hold someone off in a sprint. Banking can affect how easy it is to move around in a pack and is something you can take advantage of for attacks.

    Reading about it certainly helps, but a lot gets lost in translation, and you are right, this is an area that requires experience. This is true for anything of course, but I've found it far more true of track racing than any other type of bike racing I've done (road, crit, mtb, cx). There are not only more types of races, but also everything is more condensed/pressurized. For instance, even for the most basic race (Scratch), virtually every lap is intense and requires your full strategic attention. Now multiply that for the other types of omnium races. I've done about 100 individual mass start races in the past year... and every one has unfolded very differently, so each one has been a learning experience. And I still make mistakes in every race.
    This sums it up really well. When I had just started racing at a pretty high level I was talking to someone who had just been schooled in the mass start races at elite nats. He was a very competitive crit and road racer, and he said something like "It's really different racing against a bunch of guys who are real trackies. No matter where I was, I felt like I was exactly where everyone else wanted me to be". There's a lot of manipulation that goes on in a track race, which makes it as much game as sport. Track racing distills all the boring bits out of a crit and just leaves you with the exciting parts. You do well when you start to make fewer mistakes than other people, and start to always put yourself in a position to capitalize on the mistakes other people make. Great races for practicing this are Miss & Out and Unknown Distance. Those both really emphasize position over everything else.

    At this early juncture, I'll just say that it is probably worth spending most of your strategic bandwidth assessing the field. I can't think of a single instance where I've had a "general strategy" that held up. Oh, and unless you have your field completely outclassed, I wouldn't suggest burning a match for "each sprint."
    I usually found that if I went in with a couple different alternative general plans (usually based on knowing something about everyone else's racing style) I could more or less keep to one of them depending on how things unfolded. Tactically though, you have to see opportunities developing and take advantage of them. Your advice to not burn matches in the sprints is very good- it's extremely common to watch people redline to win a sprint and then be half a lap down struggling two laps later. One tip if you can keep track of points well is to not sprint head to head against people who are close to you on points. There are a lot of sprints in a long points race, and few people can contest every one. Sometimes you can get out of sync with the people near you on points and not have to race them directly every sprint. Depending on how you work it, you can make it so you're sprinting in an easier field.
    Track - the other off-road
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  8. #8
    VeloSIRraptor
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    You're better off getting points in every sprint by winning one, then getting staying off the front.
    funny, I've also heard that's a great strategy.
    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.

  9. #9
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carleton View Post
    +1

    I was conversing with my teammate (Steve Carrell, masters world champ in the points race) about a race once. At any point in the race he knows the point tally of every racer in contention as well as determine how many points he needed (and that he needed to deny them) to win. I was amazed at how much thinking goes on in the race.
    Goodness.
    I can podium a cat 1/2 points race reliably, but can't win the ****er.
    Possibly because at the end, when I'm breathing through my eyeballs, I have no ****ing clue what's going on.
    the hipster myth.

    i practice vagabondery.

  10. #10
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by queerpunk View Post
    Goodness.
    I can podium a cat 1/2 points race reliably, but can't win the ****er.
    Possibly because at the end, when I'm breathing through my eyeballs, I have no ****ing clue what's going on.
    Yeah, I'd venture to guess that once you can figure out this mental gymnastics, that will have you "working smarter, not harder". One of the best local (and former national) level racers that I know is known for his ability to choose his battles wisely. He won't contest the first 2 or 3 sprints in a race. He lets the newbie enduros and knucklehead sprinters battle those out and kill themselves. Then he picks up points as he goes through the rest of the sprints. You'll see him attack at the right times and finish off the youngsters after they have already put one foot in the grave beating up on each other.

  11. #11
    Senior Member bitingduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carleton View Post
    Yeah, I'd venture to guess that once you can figure out this mental gymnastics, that will have you "working smarter, not harder". One of the best local (and former national) level racers that I know is known for his ability to choose his battles wisely. He won't contest the first 2 or 3 sprints in a race. He lets the newbie enduros and knucklehead sprinters battle those out and kill themselves. Then he picks up points as he goes through the rest of the sprints. You'll see him attack at the right times and finish off the youngsters after they have already put one foot in the grave beating up on each other.
    Watch the points race at the Beijing olympics for a great example of this. Llaneras was nearly invisible til the second half of the race.
    Track - the other off-road
    http://www.lavelodrome.org

  12. #12
    Senior Member Kayce's Avatar
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    Points races are a good place to be mean too. On Thursday a bunch of us saw that one strong rider was in a really large gear. So the first few sprints were controlled in a way that forced a lot of hard short accelerations, all in an effort to burn him out early. It worked moderately well.
    If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him

  13. #13
    Senior Member bitingduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kayce View Post
    Points races are a good place to be mean too. On Thursday a bunch of us saw that one strong rider was in a really large gear. So the first few sprints were controlled in a way that forced a lot of hard short accelerations, all in an effort to burn him out early. It worked moderately well.
    It's a fun way to mess with people in breaks, too...
    Track - the other off-road
    http://www.lavelodrome.org

  14. #14
    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    Yeah. "Madisons are won in the second half of the race" often applies to points races, too, but a lot depends on your competition.

    Here's a bit of race wisdom: the winning move goes off after the hardest chase of the race (ie, attack when it's hard for everybody).
    the hipster myth.

    i practice vagabondery.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Velocirapture's Avatar
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    It was definitely worth my while being off line for a week. thanks for all the input, everyone.

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