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Race advice for first time team(7 posts)

Race advice for first time teamMarlon
Jun 17, 2001 12:38 PM
A group of 3 other friends and I are entering in a novice race - two laps of a hilly course, only 42 km in total - and we'd appreciate any advice since we've raced individually in small crits or as mountain bikers, but never together before in a road race.

Our team profile: myself, I'm small and compact,a middling cat 5 who's raced short 20km crits, and who works best on the flats and short hills. My 1st teammate is a lean, rangy cat 4 racer (former mountain biker) whose strength, quite literally, is on long hills but can sprint like a maniac as well. The 2nd teammate has a similar build to the 1st and is a frequent mountain biker new to road, but who's logged significant mileage and who is strong on long hills, but not quite as much as the 1st. The 3rd and last teammate of mine is a large but super fit converted mountain biker who does best on descents, but is ok on flats too.

Our aim is to have at least a finisher in the top 10, but we don't want to be competitive to the point where it's no fun. The course circuit is located here:

http://www.cyberus.ca/~obcweb/racing/grandprix/engcircuit.htm

The plan (as we have it so far) is to ride for my 1st teammate. My 2nd teammate will chase any early breaks, while me and my 3rd teammate will attempt to hang in for the early climb until we reach the descents and the flats near the end of the course, where we'll protect our 1st teammate for the first lap, and as much of the climb as we can on the 2nd lap. After that, it's up to my 2nd teammate to shield the 1st until the flats and the final leadout.

Any suggestions from the vets here?
NumbersMass Biker
Jun 18, 2001 8:31 AM
Even the most skeletal plan is better than none.

Make sure teammate #2 gets in any break. That gives you and teammates #1 and #3 a "free ride". You don't have to do any work in the field and let the other teams turn themself inside out trying to bring your guy back.

If the break gets brought back, send a strong counterattack almost immediately. Again, do the same thing. Maybe get teammate #3 up the road. Again, this gives your team a free ride.

The key is numbers. This means that whenever a bridge tries to get across, it is your responsibility to hop on it. Your strongman (#1) needs to be vigilant to make sure that he gets on any bridge attempt. He gets a free ride to the break and joins any teammate you have up there with fresh legs. And then, the responsibility is his to break away/ride away from this lead group. It will be easier for him as he will have fresh legs and he will also have a teammate up the road.

In the end, if it comes down to a bunch sprint, set it up for the strongest guy. This means having a backup plan if it comes down to the sprint. Four guys is ideal. You send one up the road with 1km to go on a suicide flyer. Meanwhile, back in the pack, the train is forming up. Other teams will try to chase your flyer down, and your train gets a free ride to the line as other teams panic. If they catch your guy, you are delivered to the line. If they don't you take it in a flyer. The key to this, of course, is communication and organization. Don't wait until the last mile to pull your train together - look for each other in the last 5+ km or so and be ready to pounce.

With numbers, you can
a) send one off the front early and have other teams chase
b) afford counterattacks
c) pull a train together for the inevitable bunch sprint
d) send a guy on a flyer with a km to go to "draw out" the guns from other teams and have them tow your train to the line

The downside is that there is always some super strong (and tactically savvy) dude who plays off the numbers of your team and uses it to his advantage. But hey, that's bike racing.

MB
Thanks!Marlon
Jun 18, 2001 2:56 PM
Thanks MassBiker - that was a super-insightful and helpful piece of advice. I hadn't really thought of any backup plans, but I think we'll try a modified version of what you propose. Right now, it seems a little daunting to attempt all the coordination, but it's pretty exciting too: I think we can pull it off! I'll post a report when we do the race in a little less than a month's time from now. Thanks again!
RealityKerry Irons
Jun 18, 2001 6:21 PM
Good strategic advice, but it pays to realize that in a Cat 5 race, the most likely thing to happen is a constant shelling of people off the back, triggered by crashes or a high pace. It's not likely there'll actually be much executed strategy on anybody's part. Plans will be made by you and others, but the pace will determine who survives to the finish. You have to be at the finish to win, and many's the time I've heard "OK, we'll launch an attack at the half way point, you initiate, and we'll sit on while the other guys do all the work . . . . " but guess what, two of your buddies are off the back by the mid point, and you're hanging on by a thread. This was either caused by some attempted early moves or the fact that things are just a whole lot faster/harder than you expected. The most important thing is to make it to the last few laps without having worked too hard, find a good place on the course to move as close to the front as possible, and hope for the best in the sprint. It's a rare situation where all the stuff described here actually happens at the Cat 5 level.
re: Race advice for first time teambigbadtrikid
Jun 18, 2001 1:30 PM
Stay at the front. And a qoute I always like is "if in doubt take the lead. And always remember Lance out there. He always make the pain go away for me.
re: Race advice for first time teamSkeptic
Jun 20, 2001 1:41 PM
So, in one thread you're asking for advice because you're entering your first RR and in this thread you're giving advice? Seems goofy.
(bracing for the flames) I know this sounds ridiculous butlonefrontranger
Jun 24, 2001 10:17 AM
... if you're serious about executing tight tactics, those mini two-way radios are employed a lot in collegiate races for exactly the reasons that Kerry posted in the "reality" response, i.e. you don't want to get past the major climb only to realize your team's strung out all over creation. I've been in and seen well-organized Women's 4 teams who used them to fantastic result, because they save the "lieutenants" (your #2 & #3 riders) the effort of having to ride all over the field trying to round everyone up. It boils down to the ability to make fast, effective decisions, and IMO 2-way radio helps lower cat riders more than anyone else in that regard.

The caveat is you have to practice and know how to use them safely BEFORE you take them into a race. The coaches / teams I've worked with who used 2-way are dead adamant about this.

Only the headset style is safe to use (the mic clips to the collar of your jersey), and put tape over the ear that has the earbud in, to kill the wind noise. Practice using them together beforehand (while riding) so that you establish a "code" language. You want to keep discussions *very* brief, and make sure you pay close attention to what's going on in front of you while you're talking. Don't turn the volume up so loud that everyone around you can hear your tactical discussions (don't laugh, my team has done this).

Also, you don't have to "wire" everyone, just the key riders. The teams I've done this with, the "dumb" riders were the domestiques (pack fodder) and were advised they were to stay alert because if they got out of sight they were SOL.

I'm sure it isn't financially feasible for you guys to buy a set just for this event, but if someone has a set to borrow, or if you have a set already (you mentioned you guys MTB, and they come in huge handy for that) you might consider it.

Before the rest of the world sends me down in flames, I'd like to mention that the sheer act of having a plan and executing it will go an awful long way in a Cat 5 race. The advice from the others is dead on the money, and I wouldn't change it. I just wanted to bring up an idea that's worked very well for the teams I've ridden on.

Good luck!