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tactics geniuses, some advice, please?(36 posts)

tactics geniuses, some advice, please?weiwentg
Aug 3, 2002 6:07 PM
LFR, this means you ...
I've got a race coming up in which I (and 7 other riders) am domestiquing for another guy. he's a strong TTer, but can't really sprint. there is at least one other good TTer and one good sprinter on the opposing teams.
the course is depressingly flat. it's 9 laps, 5km a lap. the main road is a false flat. we make a 135 degree (ack) turn into a side road. the first thing we face is a hill, about 40m, and a long gradual downhill after that. after that, it's a 90 degree corner back to the main road. there are 2 sprint primes on laps 3 and 6.
so, what do we do? given that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, the current plan is 2-3 guys riding tempo up front. on lap 6 the rest of us jump hard and TTT it to the finish. someone (probably me, since I'm the 2nd strongest rider) will lead out our team leader. any advice?
one other thing. 4-5 riders will have 2-way radios :)
Sherpa, we could use your help on this one, toolonefrontranger
Aug 3, 2002 8:21 PM
OK, the first thing is to check out Coach Carl! The URL is He has an exhaustive list of tactics there.

If your guy can't sprint, don't bother wasting time and effort on a leadout strategy unless and until he gets dropped and you as lieutenant (that means 2nd strongest guy BTW) are left holding the bag. Incidentally Coach Carl would probably indicate that you as lieutenant and field sprinter have the responsibility of taking the next place on the podium! After all, you have a strong enough team to ensure this, if all is well ridden. We watch Team Veritas do this stuff to the women's 1/2/3 field at almost every race all season long. They alternately attack the field until it's either so shattered or so tired it doesn't respond, at which point their strong gal goes on a breakaway. They then either bridge to that with their second strongest rider, or failing that, protect their field sprinters to the line for the remaining podium spots.

For a rider with this kind of strengths, your team needs to 'evolve' the peloton and then ultimately the breakaway to eliminate any and all opportunity to pass him at the line. This means two things: you must be willing to burn through all six domestiques if necessary to attain the ultimate goal: your dude in a solo break to the line. Also, your dude must have the courage, means, and nads to make the jump when and where appropriate.

To use the guys, you might set one group of 2 or 3 to attack for the first 3-4 laps, then the second set works from 4-8 and then your captain works the last. While the attacker of the moment is working, the next one is waiting third in line. From this position they are waiting for the current one to be caught or the countering team to cover it. The rest are not too much further back, you know, the whole crashing thing...

You must know the strength and endurance of the team members to assign roles! If you have guys you know won't make it until the end, then send them on some early suicide attacks / breaks. When they get caught, monitor the counter moves, wait for a lull in the action to be sure your guys are rested (you want the other teams to use up their strength before you do), then attack at an opportune moment. An opportune moment is when anything changes: corners, hills, after the prime sprintss, a change from tail to crosswind, anything that momentarily throws some confusion into the mix. If the yellow line rule hampers you, go up the right side of the road, through the gravel if necessary (been there, done that).

As far as radio assignments, make sure the captain, lieutenant and both "sub" squad leaders have one. The "sub" squad leaders get to yell at the remaining unwired guys.

Last but not least, HAVE FUN. These are not easy tactics to execute; try testing them out on club rides first - especially who's going to use the radios, since they're not all that easy to use as it seems. Heck even after ten years experience, I left a bit to be desired as lieutenant at Platte Bridge!

I'm sure Sherpa23 will have some germane things to say; he's a lot more experienced at this sort of thing even than I :)
and check this link while you're at itlonefrontranger
Aug 3, 2002 8:35 PM
There are times to race aggressively and times to race negatively. This guy's strategy may be a bit too negative (field sprint oriented) for the dynamic you're involved with, but he makes some darn good points:
righto, we'll do our bestweiwentg
Aug 4, 2002 5:12 AM
we get together Thursday to finalize the plan.
most of the radios will only be one-way: we have only 2 2-way headsets. one with our captain, and another with the leader of the domestiques' squad. we're going to have a 'directeur sportif' and one more observer. there will be lots of yelling.
btw, that is your name on the temporary information page of Coach Carl's website, is it not?
PS, you did say to play Lance at the local crit, yes?weiwentg
Aug 4, 2002 5:16 AM
more like I'm playing George H this time round, but oh well. :)
My thoughtsSherpa23
Aug 4, 2002 4:13 PM
First of all, in a 45 km dead flat race, why is the team leader the guy who can't sprint? That makes no sense to me. You should really have your stud sprinter as the team leader and that way you can use your 8 guys most effectively. Okay, now that I've said that, let's go back to your plan. If the guy you want to win is the best TT'er and this is a flat course, there is very little that you can do as a domestique. The guy has to get out front alone and win. It's as simple as that. He will have to get in the winning break and drop them and solo in. Your only two jobs will be to bring back any break that he is not in and to block as soon as he is off. When you are blocking, ride a little faster than others would like but slow enough that your guy can stay away and keep putting time on the field. When someone tries to bridge, you send a guy to sit on, preferably someone who can sprint. Now let's say that you have done all you can and your TT guy is in a break with 3 or 4 others on the last lap. Is he going to hit the front and hammer as hard as he can to the finish? Hell no, all he will do will pull the rest of the guy to line while killing himself. Is he going to wait for the sprint? I really hope not because form what you said he will get beaten like a dusty mat. Both of those options are going to make your team leader the loser. Here's the only option: In the event that he does not make it to the last 2-3 kms alone, then he has to attack, hard and repeatedly. There is no sense in his saving anything for the sprint because he will lose that anyway. This kind of race is easier to plan as a bunch sprint when you have as many guys as you do and the race being as short as it is so I would rethink your team leader if I were you. If not best of luck the TT guy but make sure he knows that he has to break away alone so tell him to gird up his loins and prepare to suffer like no cat. 4 ever suffered before. If he does things right then he will win. I hope this helps.
My thoughtsweiwentg
Aug 4, 2002 6:57 PM
well, firstly, our best sprinter is me. I weigh 117 lbs. I am NOT going to win a full bunch sprint (although I might win a small one). second, I have been riding with this team for all of 5 weeks (they're a Singaporean team, and I'm only back for summer break). I'll ask them to support me at this race next year, but I haven't really paid my dues yet, so I wouldn't be comfortable asking. besides, he is a hell of a lot better than me at almost everything save climbing (he's slightly better) and sprinting.
but anyway, I think he kind of knows that he has to go in alone, and I'll make sure later. and I can certainly block and chase.
thanks for the advice. will let y'all know how it goes.
My thoughtsSherpa23
Aug 5, 2002 12:27 PM
If you are the best sprinter, then try and time things so that you are in the break with him. You should be protected, too. Get in the break with him, he will drop your group. Sit on in the group and win the sprint for 2nd. If he gets caught on the run-in, win the sprint for first. You will be fresh. And guess what? You won't have to ask to be protected next time.
Blocking is important!Mr Good
Aug 4, 2002 9:36 PM
My advice would sound the same as sherpa23, so I won't repeat it. I'd only emphasize that, if your winner is a TT specialist, you guys really need to control the group with some quality BLOCKING if he's going to stay away to the finish! If the cat 4's in your team don't have experience with aggressive blocking tactics, try to explain to them in detail before the race: go to the front and act like you're pulling, but don't go fast enough to catch your guy. When someone figures out what you're doing and tries to come around you to lead the chase, you must expend the effort to get in front of them and do your false chase again. If one or a few opponents attack off the front, you need to go with them, sit on their wheel, or disrupt their chase by sitting 2nd or 3rd wheel and letting a gap open in front of you. Then if the other chasers come around you, sprint ahead of 'em and do the "slow down" again. When this gets too tiring, sit on their wheels and take a free ride.

Ideally, your main man will breakaway with at least one teammate who can share the work with him, giving him a greater chance of success.
blocking is misunderstood a lotlonefrontranger
Aug 5, 2002 5:00 AM
The whole point after all is to utilize your guys to the best advantage. Too often Cat IV/V guys think that what "blocking" means is riding the entire team on the front, riding 18 mph and wearing them out in the wind.

This is not the case. You want the OTHER teams to do the work, so your team is rested and frisky when needed. When you have a guy in the break, true "blocking" means you *interfere* with other teams' attempts to bridge, by sticking one guy on the wheel of any chase attempt, where he either gets a free ride up to the break (if the guys bridging aren't dangerous), or else disrupts the chase attempt by breaking the tempo of the paceline (if they are). The only reason to put a lot of guys on the front is if another team shows active interest in chasing, at which time you set tempo. Tempo means what Sherpa was talking about, fast enough to discourage anyone else from bridging, slow enough not to catch the break. This is a war of inches, as you merely have to ride one tenth of a mile an hour slower than the break averages.
disrupting a pacelineweiwentg
Aug 5, 2002 5:48 AM
so, aside from what Mr Good mentioned (get on the 'enemy' paceline, and ride slightly slower or let gaps form) what else is there I can do?
depends on the strength of the disruptorlonefrontranger
Aug 5, 2002 6:47 AM
If you feel that the other guys in the paceline might be stronger than you, then yes - you need to break their tempo by riding slower when you get to the front. Do this subtly though so it takes a while before they catch on. Let gaps form in the line; for instance if you're in a 5-man chase, wait until you are 2 or 3 wheels back, then let the gap slowly form. When you get yelled at for doing it, cry and moan about not having the legs; they'll be disgusted but they'll either leave you alone or start attacking you, which will break things up anyway; just make sure that when the attacks go you're able to bridge any dangerous moves. Put on your asbestos firesuit if you plan to do this stuff; you will be roundly cursed if they catch onto you. Don't feel any obligation to these guys and ignore them.

Don't let someone else become a "sleigh driver"; often a more experienced rider will sit at the back of a break and holler instructions; when you're tired, you tend to do WHATEVER THEY SAY, whether it benefits you or not. I tend to be a sleigh driver myself because it is psychologically very easy to get people to do anything you want them to do and I like messing with their minds. One of my best sleigh driving performances was in a flat road race that had a few small rollers and a gentle climb to the line; my teammate and me against a field of a dozen or so that contained a couple trackies that liked to sit in and kill everyone in the final 200 meters. I knew it was going to come down to a field sprint because the course wasn't that selective, and that my teammate wouldn't be able to outgun the trackies unless some psychology was applied. I hollered out to my teammate "don't chase X or Y, they can't climb!". This did 2 things. It totally convinced X and Y that they were dying up every little hill (even if they weren't), and it convinced another strong free agent (who was a solo win danger) to go to the front and attack up every little roller while we both sat in and got a free ride. By the end of the race, the trackies were shot, the free agent got cooked and subsequently dropped in the windup, and my teammate went from 1/4 mile up the final small hill for the win.

If you feel like you're at equal strength with your paceline partners, you can do the former and also mess with the front by "half-wheeling" your relief man as he comes up to pull. Again, be very subtle, but wind it up just a hair each time so that the other guy has to work harder to pass you.

If you feel good, do a "Henk Vogels" - attack the breakaway, just like he did at NYC yesterday; you saw what happened to that break, right? After 3 laps of the Henk treatment, everyone else was whupped and the dynamic completely collapsed, allowing Saturn to easily catch them. BTW Henk races locally and does the same damn thing every race here. For whatever reason he likes to attack the breakaways he's in and try to solo to the win, even tho he's an excellent sprinter from a small group.

When you attack, do it from the back, and go hard, across the road if you are able, or as far away as possible. Attack when everyone else is distracted or looking the other way, or as they regroup after the little climb or a corner.
oh and another thinglonefrontranger
Aug 5, 2002 7:16 AM
Probably the most effective way to "block" the field if you will is to throw one or 2 guys into the rotation at the front and have them do all the stuff that I mentioned; they're less obvious than if you send the whole team to the front to slow things down or ride tempo.

Another tactic I like is "swamping" the team train, and you can do this with as little as one guy if you have to -all you have to do is attack just hard enough to bring the rest of the field around the train and bury them in the middle. Mercury and Navigators did this with devestating effectiveness at NYC yesterday; when Gagg made his breakaway attempt, the Saturn train got swamped by 2 lines of attacks from both Merc and the Navs that buried the Saturn guys in the center of the field; where it takes a LONG time to dig your way back out to the front. Saturn won by sheer luck and determination, not by having their strong leadout train; and the last 2 laps were absolute chaos because of it.
What not to doSherpa23
Aug 5, 2002 11:41 AM
Remember, disrupting a paceline does not mean butting in and busting it up. This is VERY unprofessional behaviour and you will never see this in a pro race. You can try and rotate through and go a little slower at the front and also let gaps open but if the other team is not letting you back in the paceline, do not get aggressive and slam in there and mess things up. That is when being aggressive becomes unsportsmanlike behaviour, just like it is unsportsmanlike to get in front a sprinter in the final sprint and sit up or hit the brakes. Be smart but be a better competitor, too.
Hey, isn't that what I said?...Mr Good
Aug 5, 2002 8:59 PM
...just kidding. Your detailed descriptions are really good lonefrontranger. I can see why the folks on this board praise you for your generous advice--I'm too lazy a typist to explain everything as you did, thanks for the clarification!
Sherpa made an excellent pointlonefrontranger
Aug 6, 2002 5:33 AM
Yes, I do go on and on, and I think I tend to lose the gist of the matter or it gets buried in all the clutter.

I think the crux of the point Sherpa and I were getting at is that the term blocking is EXTREMELY misunderstood by a vast majority of amateur bike racers. As Sherpa said and I've witnessed for myself, some guys will even interpret blocking in cycling to equal blocking in football, meaning ride super aggressive or dangerous, throwing body checks around the peloton and that is not merely poor sportsmanship but unacceptable and liable to get you suspended.

Most lower cat guys confuse "blocking" to mean literally blocking the whole road with your team, which wears out the team and makes for the boring negative racing we see all too often in the lower ranks. So why try to control sixty guys in a field sprint when you have the knowhow and capability to whittle it down to a dozen or less or even solo to the win? This is why I go on and on about evolving the peloton - the goal of tactical evolution is to manipulate the odds to your favor and everyone else's detriment.

True blocking is an extremely subtle dance; a veritable rolling chess match. When well planned and properly executed it is often barely perceptible to the peloton. Masterful blocking pulled off on Cat III or lower amateurs means the opposing teams may never even know they've had the wool pulled over their eyes. In my "swamping the team train" scenario, for instance, they may even think your guys are trying to chase down their own teammates.

If you block clumsily, you'll be able to do it for one race or perhaps two at the most, but everyone else catches on, figures out how to counter your strategy and then where are you? If you're good at it and keep your strategy fluid, you can baffle them for quite some time.
you wanna see...merckx56
Aug 5, 2002 2:27 PM
someone shut down the group? watch the 95 worlds tape. olano is up the road, at the end, and indurain, who was CLEARLY the strongest guy in the field, just chases everything down! it was brilliant! he'd pull guys back and just look at 'em, as if to say, "did you actually think i would let that go?"
you wanna see...Sherpa23
Aug 5, 2002 2:38 PM
I have that tape. olano is brilliant. Do I have to mention that he used to race track?
re: tactics geniuses, some advice, please?merckx56
Aug 4, 2002 8:08 AM
if you have 8 guys in the same category race, you should be able to control it! you should have enough to chase anything that goes up the road and counter it when caught. if you guys want to be really aggressive, send guys up the road from the gun, one at a time. as a guy comes back, send someone else. if it's 9 laps and there's a sprint at 6, send your strong guys as soon as everyone sits up after the sprint. since it's only 45 km, i'm guessing it's a cat 4/5 race? if that's the case, everyone WILL sit up after the prime. as soon as that happens, hit 'em hard, on the opposite side of the road (unless there's the dreaded yellow line rule!). find the three strongest guys in your squad, get together and GO! it'll catch everyone out and allow you to get away. they'll look around for someone to chase but the fact that three of you went will confuse them! the course sounds pretty technical so if you get a gap, it'll be relatively easy to open it up, as three can corner faster than the rest of the field.
even if you lose a man, he's done his job and will get to dice for the field sprint. if two guys can stay away for the last 5 to 10 km, you've won! trust me, it works! F the radios! they do nothing but distract during a crit. if you don't know what to do, where everyone is or aren't strong enough to go with a break, the radio might as well be playing music! someone telling you the break is up the road won't help you bring it back!
only 2 cornersweiwentg
Aug 5, 2002 7:05 PM
gotcha, but it's only 2 corners. I don't know if that qualifies as technical.
Here's a thoughtKerry
Aug 4, 2002 5:03 PM
With this many guys on your team, single file on the front like you were chasing down a break. Have your TTT guy about 3rd back. Have your fifth guy let a gap form while your front guy puts the hammer down. Then the guys in the pack will have to pass all 4 of your team to connect with the hammer group. If they make the gap, fill back in and do it again. You're working them over and they might not even realize it! Start this at about the half way point (maybe a little sooner) and by the time your TTT guy is ready to go, the rest of the pack may be worn out/losing interest.
that's assuming all their guys are strong, thoughlonefrontranger
Aug 5, 2002 5:09 AM
I really like this tactic, it makes a heck of a lot of sense and it's simple, direct and uncomplicated for a bunch of rookie racers to understand. If the team you're talking about is really strong, it will work - believe me I've had it used against me by an excellent team of Cat 3/4 triathlete gals back when I raced in Ohio.

The problem is that you're not talking about U.S. Postal here, or even a team of tri-geek hammers. You're talking about your typical mixed bag of Cat IV/V dudes (sorry weiwentg, but you guys probably aren't all killers, right?). The thing about that IME is that there's often one or two guys who won't even make it to the end of the race, and one or two others who can just barely hang in at the back. In order to use this "pack fodder" effectively, you have to take the approach that these guys are going to be sacrificial lambs to the cause, probably well in the first half.
that's assuming all their guys are strong, thoughweiwentg
Aug 5, 2002 5:47 AM
LFR: correct, this is a grab bag of cat 4/5s, and one guy (our leader) who would probably be competitive in cat 3 minus bunch sprints.
the rest of us? I think I stack up quite well against cat 4s, and there are at least 2 other guys who do as well. the problem is that I don't personally know the strengths/weaknesses of the other racers.
Kerry: LFR is probably right, if we do a USPS, everyone including me will die.
amazing discusssion, years of wisdom in here!! Awesome! (nm)BryanJL
Aug 5, 2002 12:58 PM
sub-scenario: countering a sprinterweiwentg
Aug 6, 2002 2:31 AM
say there's a sprinter in the winning break. how do we counter him, aside from the obvious method of continuous attacks?
sub-scenario: countering a sprinterfeathers mcgraw
Aug 6, 2002 4:53 AM
Try to be in front of the sprinter in the rotation. Open up gaps when he's the last rider, and force him to close them repeatedly. If you're behind the sprinter in the rotation, speed up when he's finished his pull so he'll have to fight for the wheel when he's most exhausted. Make sure he does his fair share of work, if not more. Tell him you know he's the best sprinter in the break and you're not going to tow him to victory.
need some thick skin, eh? :)weiwentg
Aug 6, 2002 5:04 AM
gotcha, especially on that last bit.
sub-scenario: countering a sprinterlonefrontranger
Aug 6, 2002 5:10 AM
This is when what Sherpa said about your guy being willing to go it alone in the final 2-3K becomes most important, and I think that's the only strategy that will counter a sprinter. At that point, it is up to him to have rested enough in the break to do the Henk Vogels thing and bust up the breakaway. He has to be willing to attack full-on - and the problem with guys like this who are TT kinda guys is that they often don't have a hard enough jump. This is where having a teammate in the break can make the difference because #2 guy can soften the break, then the team leader goes off once they've weakened.
Speaking of Vogelsfeathers mcgraw
Aug 6, 2002 5:39 AM
On Sunday he was getting tired of Camponagara sitting in the back of the break (he had another Navigator teammate working up ahead), so he would open up gaps and force him to close them. Camponagara countered by sprinting out real wide to close the gaps so that Vogels couldn't use his draft to get back on, and had to sprint up himself. Vogels also did lots of yelling at Camponagara, too. Talk about needing thick skin. The funny thing is the break got caught before Camponagara got to use those fresh legs.
ahh, it all becomes clear - that would be why he attacked the breaklonefrontranger
Aug 6, 2002 8:12 AM
Unfortunately the production quality of the televised event was so crummy that it was hard to see the details. It wasn't obvious that Camponagara was sitting on. Or that Henk was being a sleigh driver.

Sounds like Henk attacked not out of sheer p*ss and vinegar but for all the tactical reasons detailed above. He's merely a good sprinter, not a great sprinter, and I'm sure he felt that against Camponagara he wasn't going to win.

Sometimes you have to risk losing big to win big, and that's what he did. Usually for Henk it pays off; that day it didn't.
ahh, it all becomes clear - that would be why he attacked the bfeathers mcgraw
Aug 6, 2002 9:44 AM
Camponagara sitting on really destroyed the sense of cooperation in the break, and, combined with Saturn's decision to chase, doomed it. There must be a fine line between saving yourself and ruining the break. Maybe if he were more subtle they would have been able to play their advantage in the end.
It's frustrating that we can discuss strategy here in such detail, but the telecast doesn't communicate this to the casual viewer. If they would explain all the nuances the sport would enjoy a much wider fan base.
Another way...brider
Aug 6, 2002 12:32 PM
If your TT guy is strong enough to follow a lead out, the lead-out guy can bump the sprinter off the TTer's wheel when he pulls off. Do it this way--

Lead-out guy takes off with TTer on his wheel. Sprinter gets in third position. TTer backs off a little, opening a small gap. When sprinter tries to make the pass to get on lead-out wheel, lead out backs off and TTer goes balls-out. Works almost every time to shed sprinter from TTer (at least it's worked for me).
That sounds like...feathers mcgraw
Aug 6, 2002 12:38 PM
the decoy move Mapei pulled on Zabel on the last stage of the 2000 tour that got Zanini the win.
That sounds like...weiwentg
Aug 6, 2002 3:25 PM
... a damn good idea.
That would be tough to pull off with a bunch of 4/5's that haveallervite
Aug 6, 2002 10:17 PM
not ridden together much. I would stick to the putting yourself and the tter in the winning break and getting your tt guy to attack until he can no more.
Aug 7, 2002 10:15 AM
Thanks allervite. I was going to say the same thing but I think I've singlehandedly beaten the topic to death.