Bike Racing Tactics 101

As my Twitter and Facebook followers might already be aware of, this past weekend I volunteered to help out with our local collegiate race.  I am glad I could help out because, if you have never promoted a race, there are a lot of parts to the puzzle and many of them can only be accomplished with the help of volunteers.  Everything with the race promotion was done very well and my hat is off to the crew of the Florida State cycling Club, however, as a coach and a racer there were two main things stood out to me over the weekend. The first and most frustrating was the time trial (TT) starts.  When you looked at the number of people that were starting off for the time trial I would guess that 40-50% of them were late for their start time.  Typically this would lead to a time penalty because you missed your posted time, however, since this was a smaller venue all of the riders who were late were gifted a later start time.  I have not had many of my athletes in my years of coaching miss a TT start, but if you ask the few that have they will tell you that my response to the news was not a pleasant one.  In a Time Trial often times it is a matter of seconds that can separate first and second place and if you stood a chance of winning you might have just lost that chance.  Being on time for a race is the easiest part of racing, so be responsible for yourself and if you are late take it like a man/woman, don’t hassle the official and you had better have a stellar performance to compensate for your tardiness. Road races are a thing of beauty, ability and tactics and for the road race that I followed I can say it was none of the above.  Since the race only consisted of 3 racers from the start I don’t know if you can even consider it a field, and since it was down to two riders by mile 3 I would have compared it to more of a time trial.  The one factor that kept this from happening though was the rider who took it upon himself to set the tempo for the first eight plus miles of the race.  The lesson was quickly learned though as the rider had been sitting on his wheel for the first 8 miles attacked on a longer climb as he sensed weakness in his competition.  The attack was nothing earth shattering, however, since his opponent had been pushing a strong tempo for the last 25 minutes there was not much need for a Cancellara style attack.  So what is the point I hope this young cyclist walked away with is that you do not have to set the pace and if you don’t have someone who is willing to work with you, you do not have to work with them either.  If there is a field large enough you do not have to stick with the break and can drop back and wait for another break that might suit you better.  In this case though my choice would have been to sit up and soft pedal which will either send the other rider to the front to keep the third rider from catching you or it turns into a game of cat and mouse with one attack followed by the other until the stronger rider prevails.  Think about the tactics of the day though and never feel like you are the only one doing the work if there isn’t someone you are working for.

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