Golden Rules of Road Racing(1)

1. Conserve

“Every time I take a pull up front, I feel it: I’m strong today.
So what if I attack right here?
Then my chances would be reduced. Correct.”
- Tim Krabbe, The Rider

Bike races often come down to only three, four
or five massive explosive efforts throughout the entire distance.
Closing that gap, making the break, holding the wheel up that climb,
responding to that attack or nailing that bunch sprint. That’s it.
Those critical moments are going to require the effort of your life though.
Don’t waste your energy on the things that don’t matter.

Save your energy for the last third of the race.
The majority of the time the winning move will come during this period.
You’ll see many people try to get away at the beginning of the race.
That’s fine, let them go.

“After one kilometer, a minuscule rider with a lack rag-mop attacks: Despuech. Baloney.
This race lasts 140 kilometers. Despuech is crazy.
He is only showing us that he doesn’t stand a chance in hell.
He knows it too, but still it’s a fact: he has to choose between finishing at the back after shining,
or finishing at the back after not having shone at all.”
Tim Krabbe - The Rider:

It’s not all for nothing though.
Riders in the break will force the rest of the peloton into an defensive position.
There are always riders willing to go out in an early break for various reasons.

2. Know Your Competition

The statement above does not come without its exceptions.
If the strongest five guys of the race decide to attack at the beginning of a 100km race
and you know they have people working for them,
then there’s a good chance you should make an early move with this group.
I’ve been in dozens of races where I’ve been in early moves that have stayed away.
You just need to go with the right group.
This has more to do with the combination of riders rather than the strength of them
(which often goes hand in hand). A chasing peloton will almost always be faster than a small bunch of riders.
It’s not a matter of how much time you can get on the peloton;
it’s how much time they allow you to get.
Getting the peloton organised is the issue, and understanding who is working together is key.

3. Know the Gap

Pay attention to gap of the breakaway in the race.
If you can see the break, watch for when they pass a landmark
and time the gap from when the last rider passes it until the front of the peloton hits it.
Is it increasing or decreasing? Always know the race situation so you can judge your strategy.

“Every once in a while someone along the road lets us know how far behind we are.
A man shouts: ‘Faster!’ He probably thinks bicycle racing is about going fast.” 
- Tim Krabbe, The Rider