Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Los Alamos, NM
Bikes: 2008 fetish illustre
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Here's the best answer you'll get:
Join a local riding group and ride as often with them as you can. Don't worry about getting dropped. Watch how they ride. Watch how they do break-aways and attacks. Watch how they draft. Basically, develop your pack-riding skills.
Here's more answers:
If you're anti-social or just don't have the opportunity to ride with groups, you'll be in for a shock when you do step up to the line. How strong you are does have a bit part in it. But so does how you handle your bike in tight quarters.
Onto skills though: get the road bikers training bible by joe friel (search amazon.com) to get an idea of training programs. Much of the skills desired is the ability to go pretty fast right off the line and to be able to follow the leaders. This means lots of quick sprints with little time to recover. Get tons of miles under your belt, then start mixing in intervals (high intesity short duration efforts with recovery time between each effort).
Likely you'll get left in the back on your first race. Don't worry about it. Just ride safe and as fast as you can and HAVE FUN. Then you can look back on that race and think about what surprised you, what you need to work on most, and what you did well.