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"Chasing back on" after a flat in a road race

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"Chasing back on" after a flat in a road race

Old 03-12-19, 12:23 AM
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"Chasing back on" after a flat in a road race

We've all seen it on TV. Rider gets a puncture, team car pulls over and mechanic switches wheel, rider gets a draft from team car then filters up through the caravan and back in to the pack with seeming ease.

But in real life (aka amateur races), how often do people actually achieve getting back in the pack? Our road races have one follow car at best. Say you do get a wheel, and the driver is amenable to letting you draft, have you made it back on?

Have you made it back on without drafting a car?

I ask because I had the experience of not getting back on after a flat at an RR this weekend after flatting out one mile in. I got someone's wheel with jr gearing (lol, was supposed to be a teammate's wheel but he grabbed the wrong one), and was able to keep up with the car (van actually) doing ~27 mph.. but there were two main issues:

1) it wasn't fast enough. The pack as probably doing 27 mph at that point!
2) it's actually really scaring riding right on a bumper, because you can't see potholes until you're on top of them. And this was on a road with lots of big potholes.. I was looking through the van's windows to see the road ahead, but it seems like a pothole could still surprise you.. do you just have to hope for the best or what? There's already a ton of trust involved (that the driver won't brake too quickly, etc), and he was going around big potholes, but ugh it was scary!

After drafting the van for about 10 minutes and we started coming up to the pack the moto ref basically said "enough of that" and the van took off. By that point I was maybe 300m behind the pack, but we were heading in to a brutal headwind and all I could muster was 23 mph.. not fast enough to catch. Legs blew up and I was done, had to watch the pack ride away.

I heard the first few laps (20-mile laps of the 100 mi rr) were crazy, and that it calmed down after that. Maybe if it had happened later on I would have made it, who knows.

I don't blame anyone but me for not getting back on, I'm just wondering if it's realistic to think you can get back on or if there are tactics to employ since I've never actually tried it before.

One question is how fast should the car be going? 27 mph didn't seem fast enough.. 37 would have been better! I guess the answer is "as fast as you can go"?
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Old 03-12-19, 07:09 AM
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Ya'll crazy.

From watching stuff on television........IMHO, officials should balance safety and fairness. It wouldn't matter in the last couple kilometers anyway as you'd lose the winning movers. Given that, in the first 90% of a race I see no problem rules wise with an official allowing a mechanical to draft a car to the pack. Under your own power, no sticky bottle.

My guess is the official maybe didn't want the team car getting closer to the pack? I don't know, you guys live in a world I don't experience.

As a spectator, I'd like to see you make it back in the pack as efficiently as possible as the crap on the road shouldn't necessarily determine race outcomes "earlier" in the race.
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Old 03-12-19, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by mattm View Post
We've all seen it on TV. Rider gets a puncture, team car pulls over and mechanic switches wheel, rider gets a draft from team car then filters up through the caravan and back in to the pack with seeming ease.

But in real life (aka amateur races), how often do people actually achieve getting back in the pack? Our road races have one follow car at best. Say you do get a wheel, and the driver is amenable to letting you draft, have you made it back on?

Have you made it back on without drafting a car?

I ask because I had the experience of not getting back on after a flat at an RR this weekend after flatting out one mile in. I got someone's wheel with jr gearing (lol, was supposed to be a teammate's wheel but he grabbed the wrong one), and was able to keep up with the car (van actually) doing ~27 mph.. but there were two main issues:

1) it wasn't fast enough. The pack as probably doing 27 mph at that point!
2) it's actually really scaring riding right on a bumper, because you can't see potholes until you're on top of them. And this was on a road with lots of big potholes.. I was looking through the van's windows to see the road ahead, but it seems like a pothole could still surprise you.. do you just have to hope for the best or what? There's already a ton of trust involved (that the driver won't brake too quickly, etc), and he was going around big potholes, but ugh it was scary!

After drafting the van for about 10 minutes and we started coming up to the pack the moto ref basically said "enough of that" and the van took off. By that point I was maybe 300m behind the pack, but we were heading in to a brutal headwind and all I could muster was 23 mph.. not fast enough to catch. Legs blew up and I was done, had to watch the pack ride away.

I heard the first few laps (20-mile laps of the 100 mi rr) were crazy, and that it calmed down after that. Maybe if it had happened later on I would have made it, who knows.

I don't blame anyone but me for not getting back on, I'm just wondering if it's realistic to think you can get back on or if there are tactics to employ since I've never actually tried it before.

One question is how fast should the car be going? 27 mph didn't seem fast enough.. 37 would have been better! I guess the answer is "as fast as you can go"?
Coming back through the caravan after a flat is in part a learned skill but you have to realize that the pro's make it look way easy. It is usually said with us that you need to be above average strong to get back on, of course it is slightly situational.

only advice i can give you on that front is the following:

- drafting:
you have to be seriously right on the bumper. any team car in a serious race will have a scratched up bumper from the occasional front wheel taps. when you are with multiple people counter-intuitively you want to be the front guy, the guy on the car bumper gets a way better draft than the guy drafting the rider behind the car. (obvious solutions is to ride side by side on the bumper)
There are regulations on follow cars but i don't know if they apply in the US. depending on the car and your bike position either look through the rear window to see where you are going or look over the roof of the car. use hand signals to communicate with the driver / mechanic to go faster slower.
when the car is taking you back up to the rear of the caravan you should be able to go about 10 km/h faster than the pack. i've been a mechanic in a car going 60+ km/h to get someone back on on flat roads. don't overdo it though as you should still have some punch to make the last jump to get back on when you leave the draft of the car.
when you are back in the caravan don't be a hero and try to get back on too quick. just sit in the draft of the cars and when they bunch up before corners they should leave the inside open, that's your chance to move up two cars for free. the last bit at the front of the caravan is always the hardest, as they will hold a gap to the rear of the peloton. this can be closed in the same way before a corner usually.

of course if you are really strong these tips apply less and you can overtake cars on straight roads etc.

if there is just one neutral service car it's going to be harder to come back, as they will drag you up to almost the group and then usually they stick you out in no-mans land as you mentioned. Then it's all about being strong for the last bit.
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Old 03-12-19, 09:28 AM
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I don't have a good tactic for this, but what I did was put Stan's in my tube.
- deflate tube
- unscrew and pull out core
- rotate so the valve is at the bottom
- Squeeze an ounce or two of Stan's into the tube.
- slowly rotate valve to top position.
- Reinstall core.
- Inflate with valve at the 12 O'Clock position.

Every time you reinflate, the valve has to be at 12:00. The Stan's will last for a couple of months. The tube will be a lot slower to lose pressure.
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Old 03-12-19, 09:43 AM
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There was a $10k winner take all prize for this gran fondo.

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Old 03-12-19, 10:05 AM
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As a previous wheel truck driver and caravan jump seat mechanic - I've only seen it happen a few times and every time it was in big races with caravans and the ability for the rider to jump from car to car and that's after I've gotten word from radio tour and know what my rider is and which wheel is flat - jumped out of the car flying up to the rider with the correct wheel in my hand and a push off after the swap. You don't get that in a local RR with a wheel truck. Every time I have driven a wheel truck the rider hasn't had a chance. just one car and a lot of ground to cover by the time they found their wheel and made a swap - even if I help them.
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Old 03-12-19, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Radish_legs View Post
There was a $10k winner take all prize for this gran fondo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCYYZt2eDEw
Hell if there'd been a guy on a recumbent in my race I probably would've caught back on, I guess that's the trick lol.
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Old 03-12-19, 10:45 AM
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Watched teammate C.B. (not on Terun at the time) do it in... That one race with the covered bridge minefield. I used to draft cars a lot at ~35 mph. Hang out a few feet back and near the edge. If they brake, just roll past the edge.

When I did VoS cat 3 I flatted, swapped wheels, chased and picked up 2 other chasers, caught the pack in 20 minutes. Was too much effort and I almost got dropped on the little hill after catching.
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Old 03-12-19, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by gerundium View Post
Coming back through the caravan after a flat is in part a learned skill but you have to realize that the pro's make it look way easy. It is usually said with us that you need to be above average strong to get back on, of course it is slightly situational.

only advice i can give you on that front is the following:

- drafting:
you have to be seriously right on the bumper. any team car in a serious race will have a scratched up bumper from the occasional front wheel taps. when you are with multiple people counter-intuitively you want to be the front guy, the guy on the car bumper gets a way better draft than the guy drafting the rider behind the car. (obvious solutions is to ride side by side on the bumper)
There are regulations on follow cars but i don't know if they apply in the US. depending on the car and your bike position either look through the rear window to see where you are going or look over the roof of the car. use hand signals to communicate with the driver / mechanic to go faster slower.
when the car is taking you back up to the rear of the caravan you should be able to go about 10 km/h faster than the pack. i've been a mechanic in a car going 60+ km/h to get someone back on on flat roads. don't overdo it though as you should still have some punch to make the last jump to get back on when you leave the draft of the car.
when you are back in the caravan don't be a hero and try to get back on too quick. just sit in the draft of the cars and when they bunch up before corners they should leave the inside open, that's your chance to move up two cars for free. the last bit at the front of the caravan is always the hardest, as they will hold a gap to the rear of the peloton. this can be closed in the same way before a corner usually.

of course if you are really strong these tips apply less and you can overtake cars on straight roads etc.

if there is just one neutral service car it's going to be harder to come back, as they will drag you up to almost the group and then usually they stick you out in no-mans land as you mentioned. Then it's all about being strong for the last bit.
Thanks, great tips!

Yeah there was no "caravan" in this race, but the van/driver was from a semi-pro/semi-legit domestic team, and the bumper did have marks on it. The driver said "don't be afraid to hit the bumper" - but I was afraid lol..

I wonder if he wasn't going faster because he thought I couldn't keep up - I was maybe 1-2 feet off the bumper, but it felt easy enough. I think I just wasn't strong/lucky enough to close that final gap after he dropped me off. So it goes.
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Old 03-12-19, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by aaronmcd View Post
Watched teammate C.B. (not on Terun at the time) do it in... That one race with the covered bridge minefield. I used to draft cars a lot at ~35 mph. Hang out a few feet back and near the edge. If they brake, just roll past the edge.

When I did VoS cat 3 I flatted, swapped wheels, chased and picked up 2 other chasers, caught the pack in 20 minutes. Was too much effort and I almost got dropped on the little hill after catching.
Ah yeah I remember that! San Ardo 2017. I couldn't believe he made it back on, that as legit.

He's way stronger than me for that type of effort, physically and mentally.
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Old 03-12-19, 10:58 AM
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Its all just luck, when you get gapped and what the pack is doing at that moment. If they're going all out its over, if they're recovering there's a good shot. Your fate was in their hands no matter how good your power is.

Even being able to change a flat in under a minute, its still too much of a gap so I just consider my day done.

I've only been towed by a follow car once and it worked out. Last year at San Luis Rey I was gapped (maybe 10 seconds?) and they let some cars through (unsafely) and I had to stop. The follow truck let me draft them until I got back to the original gap and I was able to reattach easily, since the group wasn't going too fast. I never thought of the potholes! Although that's an entirely different and easier scenario than yours.

Also I 'echeloned' a bit to see ahead. I don't think that works all the time, but I didn't have to be directly behind the truck to hide from the wind, either off the bumper or directly behind their wheel.
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Old 03-12-19, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by mattm View Post
We've all seen it on TV. Rider gets a puncture, team car pulls over and mechanic switches wheel, rider gets a draft from team car then filters up through the caravan and back in to the pack with seeming ease.

But in real life (aka amateur races), how often do people actually achieve getting back in the pack? Our road races have one follow car at best. Say you do get a wheel, and the driver is amenable to letting you draft, have you made it back on?

Have you made it back on without drafting a car?

I ask because I had the experience of not getting back on after a flat at an RR this weekend after flatting out one mile in. I got someone's wheel with jr gearing (lol, was supposed to be a teammate's wheel but he grabbed the wrong one), and was able to keep up with the car (van actually) doing ~27 mph.. but there were two main issues:

1) it wasn't fast enough. The pack as probably doing 27 mph at that point!
2) it's actually really scaring riding right on a bumper, because you can't see potholes until you're on top of them. And this was on a road with lots of big potholes.. I was looking through the van's windows to see the road ahead, but it seems like a pothole could still surprise you.. do you just have to hope for the best or what? There's already a ton of trust involved (that the driver won't brake too quickly, etc), and he was going around big potholes, but ugh it was scary!

After drafting the van for about 10 minutes and we started coming up to the pack the moto ref basically said "enough of that" and the van took off. By that point I was maybe 300m behind the pack, but we were heading in to a brutal headwind and all I could muster was 23 mph.. not fast enough to catch. Legs blew up and I was done, had to watch the pack ride away.

I heard the first few laps (20-mile laps of the 100 mi rr) were crazy, and that it calmed down after that. Maybe if it had happened later on I would have made it, who knows.

I don't blame anyone but me for not getting back on, I'm just wondering if it's realistic to think you can get back on or if there are tactics to employ since I've never actually tried it before.

One question is how fast should the car be going? 27 mph didn't seem fast enough.. 37 would have been better! I guess the answer is "as fast as you can go"?
Bariani? You were a brave man indeed.
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Old 03-12-19, 11:20 AM
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I've never made it back to the pack myself after a flat. But I once dropped back with another rider (or 2?) from my team to help our leader chase back on. With three of us (maybe it was 4 of us?) we were able to catch back on without drafting. That effort just about ended my race, as I really didn't have legs after that to do much but sit in. And our leader didn't end up doing all that well partly because of the big effort to get back on.
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Old 03-12-19, 11:36 AM
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Only time I tried it was at VoS in 2017, but the driver did not seem to know how to pace it well, because I was blowing up repeatedly sprinting for the draft, and then he'd go too hard over the rollers as well. Didn't really stand a chance to make it back.
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Old 03-12-19, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Bariani? You were a brave man indeed.
Yes, Bariani... brave or stupid, one of the two!

The flat happened after the first right-hand turn, when we were coming down the overpass.. that section of road is smooth but then you take a right and the roads through the next section are like a minefield! And that's where most of this was happening.. hence my fear of hitting potholes while drafting, since there were so many of them.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by mattm View Post
I ask because I had the experience of not getting back on after a flat at an RR this weekend after flatting out one mile in. I got someone's wheel with jr gearing...
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Old 03-12-19, 03:23 PM
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I specifically brought up NorCal racing and drafting at USAC officials class. USAC made it super clear drafting of any kind was not allowed. I then, had my experience and videos of what I saw often in NorCal and the response was they are not doing it right, but we need the officials. But down here - we don't allow that. I made some other endearing quip that sure that was true - we don't have road races.

For single day events we just figured the race was over and wait for a ride. That is what happen at the Knight's Ferry the kids did a few years ago.
I think junior has had 2-3 flats in the USA in road races, and in all cases there was no catch. He had a seat mechanical at nats and made a catch and in Europe, he was just given another bike. Even being knocked off the road by an official motorcycle he did get back on. There you can use the caravan and that is typically not considered drafting, if the rider does not stay too long behind a single car.

Originally Posted by mattm View Post
.... I got someone's wheel with jr gearing (lol, was supposed to be a teammate's wheel but he grabbed the wrong one), and was able to keep up with the car (van actually) doing ~27 mph.. ....
We all know junior gears don't matter :-)
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Old 03-12-19, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Voodoo76 View Post
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Do you think @mattm was trolling me?
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Old 03-12-19, 03:40 PM
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Pros' races are much longer, they've got bigger teams to help control the group if a key rider gets dropped, and way more vehicles with experienced drivers to help riders get back on.

I've never seen an amateur racer get back on at any of the road races around here after a flat. You're a strong enough rider -- Cat 1 in California -- that's not the issue. It's just that the conditions are too different between amateur races and pro races. Ask how many racers are able to bridge up to a "breakaway group" that has 75 riders and a 12+ minute gap. That's essentially what you're being asked to do. Yes, you've got a dude with a car driving in front of you, but he could be taking the climbs at a speed that puts you at over 600 watts, or something that burns a bunch of matches, then going only a mile or three per hour faster than the group when you're on the flats. Pro drivers first of all change the flat way faster, then have the rider make up the ground on the flats and, even more, on the descents, which is another kind of crazy.

If you get back on, it's a triumph, but you're ruined by the effort.

The key difference is how fast the flat is changed. Second, it's having a driver who knows when to make up ground. Third, it's the pace the group is keeping. All totally different.
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Old 03-12-19, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by mattm View Post
Yes, Bariani... brave or stupid, one of the two!

The flat happened after the first right-hand turn, when we were coming down the overpass.. that section of road is smooth but then you take a right and the roads through the next section are like a minefield! And that's where most of this was happening.. hence my fear of hitting potholes while drafting, since there were so many of them.
That would have been epic if you'd pulled it off. I got caught behind a crash and couldn't get back on, and that was only a few seconds delay. Don't know how it happened. It was on a relatively decent part of the course, but right after the minefield section you're talking about. I wonder if people just got complacent.
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Old 03-12-19, 05:09 PM
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I must be the odd one out. I've got back in multiple crits and at least one road race I can remember after flatting/crashing. I can only think of one crit where I DIDNT get back in. I just went hard like it was the end of my race. Because that's the truth, if you dont get back in, your day is over.

Same goes for riding a car bumper. Keep your eyes up and be ready to bunny hop.
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Old 03-12-19, 10:39 PM
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Crits are totally different. Shoot, riders CHOOSE to have mechanical so they can get back in. They fall down, put their foot down - whatever. It is downright hilarious the gamesmanship. I love it.

I have to say I find this whole discussion on how racing really is vs what the rules say refreshing.

All this is against the rules...just so you know. Spoiler that I am, that is how bike races (or soccer games, or...) are won. Work the officials.
Bike racing is won by those that find ways to bend the rules just enough not to get busted. That is part of the charm of the sport. I only wish some of the folks in COS figured that out.
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Old 03-13-19, 02:06 AM
  #23  
CliffordK
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You just need these guys in your pit crew.

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Old 03-13-19, 07:05 AM
  #24  
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I've chased back on exactly twice. One time through a caravan which was nothing, and another time behind a car doing 35+ whenever possible (though for the first bit he was trying to ALWAYS maintain 35 + and I was waving my arms on every roller we hit).

So that's probably with about a dozen flats/crashes/mishaps. A couple of times the guy was like, "just draft" and promptly gunned it and was gone. It's pretty difficult for the most part.
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Old 03-13-19, 07:10 AM
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^ nice example how big the difference is sitting second wheel or on the bumper. going from 600+ watts to 300-400 Watts at around 8:30 in
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