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Racing tactics

Old 04-08-10, 06:02 AM
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Racing tactics

Hello all,

I am a racing newbie (5 races under my belt) and am racing in Australian C grade vets (35+). All crits so far - road racing season is just starting here.

I am enjoying it a lot, but have been reading on the importance of staying near the front in all the tips sections I have read.

So far, I have 2 thirds, a fifth and a couple of mid field finishes. I got one of my thirds by joining a late break away and one by breaking off the from the back of the bunch and sprinting alone with about 1km to go (was caught by 2 riders 20m from the finish line- was about to explode!).

I am looking to ride to my strengths, and as much as possible mitigate my weaknesses.

In the last race where I got third on a solo breakaway, I rode the whole race in the lee of another big guy right up the back - there was an accordian effect on a couple of corners but I did not find it too difficult to keep with the pack (average speed of the race was 39.1km/h). I look to stay down the back as I am a broad 6'4" - making it perfect for someone to draft me. Additionally, the thinking is that the riders at the back are unlikely to chase (all the strong riders are up front) and by the time I am riding past the front guys I have it cranked up to about 50km/h, so no-one can immediately get on my wheel.

So in short - my current strategy is to hide and snipe.

I am interested to know whether this is a viable long term strategy, or if there are other things I could be doing (such as the advice from many places to stick in the first 10 riders). My main concern is the ability to get away from the front if I need to without someone getting on my wheel (other than when I am looking to pull for friends in the race) - in practice sessions at the Velodrome, I have found that I cannot shake riders on my wheel with sudden acceleration - but if I wind it up from the back I can usually break.

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Old 04-08-10, 06:42 AM
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Thoughts? Yes, every situation is different, so its hard to make any generalizations.

That said, I think the advice that you have to always be up front is overstated. On a course that's pretty smooth, and open (i.e. easy to move up) it may be a waste of energy to be in the top handful all race. Local example would be the Lake Mary Crit ( easy 3 turn, wide course).

On other courses, you may have to be up front to have a prayer. Local example Tampa Downtown Crit. (tight, 6 turn crit, with a narrow, cobbled chicane that kills the back of the field.)

You just have to find what works for you, on a particular course, and with the dynamics of a particular race.
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Old 04-08-10, 07:20 AM
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Keep trying different things. When you attack, you can also swerve a bit (not dangerously) to shake people out of your draft. I do this a lot. Also guttering them during your jump helps.

Try spending time up front and see how it works out. See if attacking from 7th works out any differently than attacking from 37th.

Just keep trying different things until you know what your true limiters and strengths are. As it is right now, you're getting consistent results, but not winning. Ask yourself why you're not winning. What can you change to avoid those situations?
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Old 04-08-10, 07:41 AM
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Sounds to me like you got a good plan going. You have to know your strengths and weaknesses. The only way I can win races is if I get in a break or solo off the front. I have absolutely no so I need to be near the front to watch, wait and see if a break forms or if I can instigate one. If I am in the back I'll miss the break. I also like to be up front so I can pack slide on the rolling climbs.
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Old 04-08-10, 08:06 AM
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Thanks all for the constructive words - yes, will keep trying new stuff and see what works.


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Old 04-08-10, 10:28 AM
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Prehn's Tacticts book is good reading, though I'm still waiting to use 90% of what I've read in there. Still, a good read.

In crits I definitely try to stay in the top 20 pretty much the whole time - but not up front - as in the 4/5's there will be crashes, and I don't want to get caught behind one. Can't tell you how many horrible crashes I've heard in my short race career so far. Only seen a few. Also the accordion effect isn't as bad in the front half of a race.

And in a RR I don't want to be in the back half of the pack if it splits in two for whatever reason.
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Old 04-08-10, 12:44 PM
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Velodrome's a different animal from the road unless they are letting you race geared bikes and you're racing for an hour. Tactics are fluid and malleable; what may work in one situation with one group of racers might not work with another. It's a beneficial to learn your opponents strengths and weaknesses as it is to know your own, in some cases it's more useful.

Work/attack only when it's in your wheelhouse and the other racers are having to do as much or more; an example is if you're a skinny climber, attack on the hills, not on the flats into a headwind.

Try different stuff. As you keep racing your power profile will change as you get fitter and your toolbox will be bigger. Of course so will everyone elses.
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Old 04-08-10, 12:49 PM
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What ever strat you go with when racing, one of your goals is to try and save as much energy as possible. Couple notes from friends and I have learned:
- Try not to be the guy on the front during down hills. The rider right behind you will just be sitting, and no matter how hard you are working, on a down hill he wont have to work nearly as hard. Save your energy for making good pulls on hills and trying to shed the pack if you feel good.
- Stay away from the back of the pack, really important on crits with lots of turns. People up front can take the turns much quicker and dont have to break. Riders deeper in the pack are forced to slow down as more individuals go threw, so when the pack comes out of the turn there tends to be a sudden acceration to stay on (wastes a ton of energy).
- Staying near the front is always a good idea, but make sure you dont spend to much time driving the pace, unless that is what your team has you doing for the event. Its always nice to chip in on the pace making, but burning yourself up half way threw the race is not.
- Just keep your head up taking notice of what is going on, how teams and riders are moving, and be prepaired to change your plan at a moments notice.

And as everyone else has mentioned, try things out. If you have a weekly training series near you, they are great places to try new tactics out and learn from them. I have learned something new every race I have done, so its just getting in a lot of racing and find what works best for you.
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