Golden Rules of Road Racing(2)

4. Attacking

“Always attack as late as you can, but before the others do.” - Tim Krabbe, The Rider

You know those times where someone attacks and everyone else in the peloton sits
there looking at each other while more riders hop across and to the break and it just rolls away?
Do you ever think, “that’s the move, but I’ve completely missed it”?

There is an art to attacking and the reaction of the peloton will differ depending on how you attack.
Often the best time to attack is after a series of moves when the riders chasing are tired or psychologically worn out.
You need to attack hard in these situations in order to get away and you have to commit to it.

The “soft attack” works brilliantly if you want to slip off the front and not stir a reaction from the bunch.
The peloton will often let you ride away as they won’t see you as a threat.
Don’t do this for nothing though. Make sure you do this at a critical time of the race
where your move is going to stick or create a good situation for a teammate.

5. Know The Wind

Study at the course map before the race and know the direction the wind is blowing from.
Crosswinds can split the bunch into multiple echelons and completely turn the race upside down.
If the race is approaching a corner and you have a strong headwind or tailwind,
get to the front of the bunch before the turn because this means the crosswinds are coming.
As difficult as it may seem, it’s much easier to be rolling in the front echelon with a crosswind
rather than being stretched out single-file in the gutter trying to catch a non-existant draft and closing gaps.
Of course everyone will want to be in this front echelon,
but fortunately many people haven’t studied the course or get caught sleeping.

If there is not a crosswind capable of blowing the bunch apart,
it’s still important to know the wind direction so you can hide in the bunch.
Always try to move up in the bunch by catching a draft from a rider(s) coming up beside you.
The more you can keep your nose out of the wind, the more energy you’ll save for the finish.
You only have so many matches you can burn. Use them wisely.

6. Know Your Strengths, and More-so, Your Competitor’s

“As the better sprinter, he is the favorite, and the favorite has to accept that he’s the one open to blackmail.” - Tim Krabbe, The Rider

Are you weak on the climbs? Then position yourself at the front of the bunch
just as the climb is starting and slowly drift back in the peloton so that you use as little energy as possible.

Are you a poor bunch sprinter? Then it’s best that you try to win from a small bunch.

Are you a good time trialist? Then try create a situation where you can win alone.

7. Study the Finish

Most road races at the amateur level finish where they started.
Whenever I do a road race I’ll ride backwards along the finishing straight for about 5km as part of my warm up.
I’ll look at the terrain to see if there are climbs, descents, corners, etc
while memorising every detail and keeping the distance in mind.
It’s obvious that races are only won at the finish and after all your hard work
you don’t want to go down the toilet because you didn’t know
that you had to be first around that final corner or up that steep climb.

8. Judging the Finishing Distance

The notion of starting your sprint at 200m to go is actually quite arbitrary.
It’s a good gauge in races where the finishes are flat and fast.
It’s too premature to begin sprinting if the finish is on a climb or into a block headwind.
It’s not far enough if the finish is on a descent where you’ll get up to 70km/hr.
Judge your finishing sprint based on the amount of time you know your body can do for a maximum effort for.
On a flat finish, 200m means a 20-30 second all-out sprint effort.
On a climb, this might mean starting your sprint at 100m remaining.

Road racing imitates life, the way it would be without the corruptive influence of civilization.
When you see an enemy lying on the ground, what’s your first reaction?
To help him to his feet. I road racing, you kick him to death. - Tim Krabbe, The Rider