A cycling race tactic is a specific plan by a single or group of riders in support of a particular strategy. The strategy is the overall game plan and the tactics are the many little movements it takes during the game to achieve the goals of your strategy. Plan A is to have a pre-race strategy. Plan B is to make Plan A work! All racing tactics can be categorized as follows;

  • POSITIVE (work done for team or individual goal – effort placed on advancing pace/ group)
  • NEUTRAL (Holding your place but neither advancing nor blocking the outcome)
  • NEGATIVE (Working against or attempting to undermine efforts of other teams or individuals – reacting to other riders moves and therefore works against your result)

The “BIG 5” race tactics: ATTACKING, BLOCKING, CHASING, BRIDGING and SPRINTING. I will send you specific sheets on these but 1st and foremost you need to fully understand the following;

Fundamental tactics that apply to every race:

  • Always remember what the overall planned strategy is. You can change tactics as long as it does not affect the strategy.
  • Never go to a race to lose unless either you or your team cannot physically support any kind of winning action – when you would then race to place (even if it is a ‘training’ race’)
  • Never chase your own teammate.
  • Never do your competition’s work for them
  • Never underestimate your competition’s strength.
  • Always try to toughen every race you enter.
  • Every ounce of energy you expend must be to your own or your teams’ benefit.
  • Racing aggressively is your best weapon.
  • No matter how hard you are hurting do not let anyone know i.e. look relaxed and SMILE

Fundamental facts that apply to every race are;

1)      If you are not 30% stronger than the rider or group on your wheel then you should not be ahead of that rider or group unless you have a special purpose for pulling at that point.

2)      Only 30% of a peleton, usually only the riders in the front 10 to 15, are a major factor during a bicycle race. The rest of the riders are

  • Sitting in to save it for the finish.
  • Barely strong enough to hold on at the back.
  • Injured or sick and are trying to recover.

These 3 groups of riders are most often the causes of crashes so if you want to increase your safety make certain that you ride in the front 1/3rd while at the same time staying off the front (unless you have a really good reason to be up there).

3)      A break must have at least one team rider in it or it will almost certainly come back

4)      The peleton will often lose focus on a break which is more than;

  • Women’s Cat 3/4, Juniors and Cat 4/5:     20 to 25 seconds ahead
  • Men’s Cat 3 Women’s Cat 1/2:                 30 to 40 seconds ahead
  • Men’s Cat 1/2:                                          50-60 seconds ahead
  • Pros:                                                          Never

Learn to judge these times i.e. how long your lead has to be in order to stay away in a break

This is the time of the year when you need to complete a few basic tasks to prepare for your season. The 1st thing to do is to prepare your race bag. Clean out your old food items from your race bag i.e. throw out those 1-year old power bars and smelly gloves. If you do not have a racing bag as yet choose an old sports bag, preferably with a wet liner pocket, and then fill it with the following essential items:

 Full set of riding clothing including Gloves, Sunglasses, Shorts, Shirt, and Socks. Expand this list as soon as you replace your old Helmet, and Shoes, etc. simply add them to your race bag as spares
 Full change of fresh clothing including Underwear, Shorts, Shirt, Socks, Shoes and Cap/Hat
 2 bottles of water and 2 bottles of sports drink (the kind that fit directly into your water bottle cage)
 2 recovery drinks (cans of product like ‘Boost’ are convenient), several fresh power gels and high carbohydrate content food bars (not protein bars)
 Small 1st aid pack including Sudafed, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Band-Aid, Non-stick wound pads, Roll of paper tape, Triple anti-biotic gel, etc.
 Sunscreen, Lip balm, other toiletries
 Large towel (on race day add a small towel in a plastic bag with a bottle of water to wash down after events)
 Spare tire, tube, pump, patch kit, and a basic set of bicycle tools
 Several signed “Liability Release” forms, a pen and a box of safety pins
 Copy of your racing license, drivers license, other ID including emergency contact, spare car keys (AAA plastic key is flat), $10 cash and a blank check all in a single billfold holder to be carried in your racing pocket. Keep your race bag in your vehicle at all times.

Now that you have your race bag prepared we can focus on your “1st race of the season” check list:
2 days before the race: NOT NIGHT BEFORE! Prepare your bike for racing. Cleaned, lubricated and tires pumped to full racing pressure. If you shave your legs do this the same night. You will probably use the bike before the race but it will require only a quick wipe down to get back into racing shape.

Night before the race: Prepare for quick, on the road, breakfast. You are looking for high fiber nourishment (OJ with Oatmeal with no-fat milk & brown sugar/raisins or peanut butter & banana on whole wheat sandwich and coffee/tea if you like) to be eaten 3 hours before racing. Fill a food bag with your hydration fluids bottled ready to drink (1 for drinking on the road, 1 for each warm-up and 1 for each hour of racing) and nourishing snacks – do NOT rely on fast foods or snacks sold at the event, bring what you eat with you. Put out your racing address, directions and start times. Eat a healthy dinner & get at least 8 hours sleep. Finally: Place the following list up on your mirror – go over it before going to sleep.
 Objective: What do I want to accomplish in this race and what is the team objective? Do they fit?
 Vision: What psychological commitment do I have to make to achieve my objective?
Reinforce the Vision: This means think ONLY about actually achieving the goal
 Optimism: Look at my training and racing accomplishments to date – I will repeat my best effort.
 Physiological: Control stress. Physical and Psychological stresses are productive
 Relax: I will not get too serious. I will have fun and prepare myself to enjoy the experience.
 Safety: Racing is an inherently dangerous sport. I will not contribute to unsafe racing conditions

Race day: Arrive 1-hour before your event (pre-registered) or 2 hours before to allow for registration. Choose a shady or sheltered quiet area and set up your trainer. Register. Preview your race strategy with your team. Before starting your warm-up pin your race number onto your racing jersey. Warm-up in old clothing and plan to complete your warm-up 10 minutes before your start time, put on your race clothing, use the bathroom and then proceed to the line – you do not necessarily need to pre-ride the course. Race hard. Plan A is: “Stick to the planned strategy”. Plan B is: “Make Plan A work”. Immediately after the race, 10-minute cool-down, clean up and change out of your race clothing before ‘hanging out’. If you are on a podium put on your spare set of team clothing (from your race bag) and BE ON TIME for the presentation. That would be your opportunity to thank your sponsors. Once you are done – call your coach and let him know if you achieved your goal and what you couda, shouda and wouda like to have done differently.

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Drinking safely on the move takes practice (that is why I include practicing the skill on the spin ride). When you decide to drink;
• Hands on the hoods
• You do not need to look down to take the bottle out
• Reach for the bottle and slide it out while looking forward
• Learn to grab the bottle and grip it in the same place so that you do not move your hand on the bottle (and risk dropping it)
• In your mouth tilt the bottle up (and squeeze). Do not tilt your head
• Take as much as you can in one squeeze. Anytime your hands are off the hoods you are in danger. To avoid having to reach for your bottle too many times do not ‘sip’ on your bottle – learn to take a really big swig i.e. you should empty a bottle in 3-5 reaches.
• Glance down to see where the bottle cage is, look up and put the bottle back
• The entire movement should take a few seconds