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racing & team tactics for a newbie(4 posts)

racing & team tactics for a newbiejayz
Apr 13, 2001 10:54 AM
this will be my first season road racing...i have raced mnt bikes for a few years, and also did a few 'cross races last year..
but i spend most of my time on my road bike, and feel like i am strong enough to do alright..but i am alittle concerned about "team tactics"...how much of a role does that stuff play in the lower catagories (4&5) ???
i joined a club this year...but at my level, do they really worry about picking a leader, blocking, and all that other stuff?
how would i work with a team if each of the people racing is at different fitness levels?? meaning what if you are faster than your teammates also in the same catagory?

thanks
-j
re: racing & team tactics for a newbieDuane Gran
Apr 13, 2001 4:41 PM
As a person pretty new to road racing, I'll take a stab at this, but some others may be able to offer more insight.

Team tactics are rare and often ill executed at the cat 4/5 level from what I see and what I have been told. A good friend of mine once observed the following:

"In a cat 4/5 race they will let about anyone jump off the front unless they all wear the same jersey. However, if you want to jump off solo and chase it down, they don't like that at all, and they have to follow along. In short, the mentality is favorable for breaks, but not chase groups."

Whenever there is a break off the front, the group gets all nervous and is hoping for someone to do the work to reel it in. I have frequently been in the position of trying to organize chase groups with little success, but that is another story. The bottom line is that most people want to find a way to bridge the gap without working for it. That contradiction is what allows breaks, at this level, to stick.

The trick is to make this work for you. My team has been analyzing our races and I think we are starting to get a little smarter. A few revelations we have made:

* Know who your "money guy(s)" is/are and protect them. This may not be the most fit person. The person could be horrible at riding over 50 miles, but when the finish line is in sight he sprints like a madman. In order for this tactic to work, you have to have the team mentality. A win for one person is a win for the team. Unless everyone believes this and executes on it, you all might as well be wearing different jerseys.

* Come into the race with a gameplan. For example, your plan for a 5 loop course might be to sit for 2 laps and not contest any breaks, move up to the front in the 3rd lap and contest breaks, break in the 4th and/or 5th lap. If everyone knows a general plan it helps to ease any tension over when to strike. If you know the course, it also helps to have a landmark where you plan to attack. Note that the example tactic may be totally bunk. I don't claim to have great tactics, but even a bad plan executed consistently is probably better than no plan.

* Have your roles understood. This is related to the first part, but is more for the other riders. If your job is to lead out your "money guy", you should know it. Likewise, if your job is to block, you should know it. Don't assume that it will all make sense in the moment, because it won't.

One thing I have observed is that you can get a big edge on the pack in a cat 4/5 race if you use team tactics, but only if it is done in an organized way. The people who beat my team were simply more prepared and executed with more confidence. Fitness certainly plays a big role and shouldn't be underestimated, but riding smart can bridge some fitness disparity.
On the contraryRobO
Apr 17, 2001 6:39 AM
I've never been in a 4s race where they would let someone off the front. They would give chase even if it were 2 minutes into the race. The guy off the front would get swallowed if not right away, but within the next lap.
re: racing & team tactics for a newbiewayne scott
Apr 16, 2001 5:48 AM
Here's my 2 cents. I've been racing for 2 years now, maybe about 10 races a year. This is my first year of making a real committment to it. In 4/5 races there are next to no team tactics. First of all alot of the riders will be unattached or maybe only with a few other guys, so that limits their options. Where I race there are usually a few teams with alot of guys, say 10 or more, who could tactically influence a race. However, I've never really seen a team organize a lead out train for a sprint. It usually is a mess with the bunch spread across the road, the less fit riders fading and coming back through the pack, and only a few people in position to contest the sprint. I've never seen a break work, a few times I've seen a rider or two jump away in the last kilometer and stay away. When breaks go, even if the big teams are represented and trying to block, everyone panics and thinks their missing it. So, riders with some sense will at least try to jump out of the group and cross to it, others will just get to the front and then drive the group back up. I've seen unattached riders who don't know what their doing driving a big peloton back up to a small breakaway. And of course, everyone is content to sit there and let them do it. Also, there always seems to be alot of riders who won't try to get away, but don't want to let anyone get away either. So they won't instigate anything but they'll chase it down (this could be good tactics if your actually trying to control the race for a designated sprinter, but I don't think this is usually the case with these guys). Anyway, I think the lack of tactical sense spoils some of the fun because you can't really anticipate too much what other riders will do. I've even seen a new guy on our team single-handedly chase down (with the whole group in tow) one of our own riders who was trying to get away. So unless your a sprinter (majority of races will end in a sprint), find the hard races which will break up and a strong rider can make a difference. Group tactics will be less important and the strongest riders will be at the front.