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Race tactics when racing alone(19 posts)

Race tactics when racing aloneiamkramer
Feb 21, 2003 11:16 AM
no team...no roles...racing alone...advise on best tactics wanted. Tell me your experiences.

Do you respond and follow the break away right away?
Or do you wait for a chase group and hope there are not too many riders in that group with a team mate in the break away?
anything goes, and don't be the loner in a breaklonefrontranger
Feb 21, 2003 12:00 PM
Riding as a free agent basically means you are at liberty to do anything you want within reason.

In the breakaway scenario you describe, the key is knowing yourself very well. Reading a race well takes years of experience and I'm still not expert at it myself. The best way to go across to a break without taking anyone with you is to let the gap develop just enough so that you can bridge it with a hard sprint then sustained hard (VO2MAX type) effort, but not wide enough that you will die out in the wind before catching. This is a very difficult concept to explain, and it takes a lot of experimentation to get it right. Often you can use someone else's failed bridge attempt as a launch pad for your own successful one. You wait for a bridge to go, sit on them, then as they sit up and die waiting for you to come around, attack and finish the bridge. Yes it's cutthroat, but it's a time-honored free agent tactic.

If it is a tactical group and you know the other teams well enough, watch the strong teams softening up the field by sending constant attacks off the front. Many of these are decoys, and early on in the race are often launched by domestiques whose only role is to wear everyone out as much as possible prior to getting shelled (the Jacky Durand principle). Eventually one of these attempts will stick about the time everyone else gets tired of chasing them all down, and it will typically have their key rider(s) in it.

The prime scenario to avoid is getting caught as the lone free agent in a team-driven break (G. Hincapie vs. Mapei, Paris-Roubaix 2001). This is called the dope-on-a-rope scenario, and unless you are one darn strong rider and a fine sprinter both, you cannot win. The other teammates will just keep attacking you then making you pull until you die.

Another scenario to avoid is getting too eager and becoming a pack diesel. If you're going to try to bridge across to a break, don't do it from the front and drag sixty guys up with you. Not only is this useless and counterproductive because it wears you out at the expense of keeping the sixty guys on your wheel fresh, but it may get you beaten up in the parking lot afterwards by the breakaway victims.

I would keep your eyes open and be opportunistic. If you are talking Cat 4/5 racing, the field will probably pretty much stay together. In this scenario you will want to take advantage of any sprinters and / or leadout trains you know of - if there's a good one, follow him through the field in the final 3k, sit on his wheel through the windup then jump him at the line. Of course this all depends on the course terrain. If there is a crucial hill or other separator within 5k of the finish line, then that is when everyone is going to try to launch something, so you'll have to stick with it, then counter with something else of your own right afterwards. If it's a crit, try counterattacking after a late prime; these are often called "gambler's primes" for this very reason.

There are about ten thousand more scenarios to choose from but these are some of the simpler ones to see and execute.
better to be the loner than not in the break at all!(nm)merckx56
Feb 21, 2003 12:21 PM
clarificationlonefrontranger
Feb 21, 2003 12:40 PM
I was describing being isolated in a breakaway driven by teammates from the same team. If 4th place in a 4-up break is okay, then go for it. I personally find this situation highly frustrating and would almost rather be DFL, assuming series points or something else isn't on the line.
plusDougSloan
Feb 21, 2003 1:40 PM
I agree with all LFR said, but would add that I don't think I've ever seen in a 4/5 race a "team" break. It's nearly always mixed among teams or random unattached riders. So, you likely will be pretty much in the same boat as everyone else. You tend to have "everyone goes" breaks, which isn't a break at all, or a few miserable attempts that peter out for lack of fitness, skill, or cooperation. Welcome to 4/5 racing.

When you have a bunch of solo's, the key is to make your own "team" as you go. Talk to someone. Nothing against cutting deals on the fly, or at least agreeing to work together, even for a while. It will take lots of opportunistic experimenting.

Doug
mentioned that above (nm)lonefrontranger
Feb 21, 2003 1:50 PM
sorry; it's Friday nmDougSloan
Feb 21, 2003 2:04 PM
who says you're gonna wind up 4th...merckx56
Feb 21, 2003 5:55 PM
in a 4-up break. If they keep sending people up the road and you can't cover anymore, sit in for the sprint. You're guaranteed 4th at worst. Or, if you're having a really good day, attack them! They might see it as false bravado and let you ride away, thinking that they can bring you back. 2nd, 3rd, or 4th place $$ is better than a sharp stick in the eye. You get more upgrade points for a 4th than DFL!
Good stuff, free agent 4 this year...noveread
Feb 21, 2003 1:50 PM
Also, may have to steal this post to put on my RBR "knowledge" page! :)

Noveread
LFR, how about race profile and length?5ive
Feb 21, 2003 6:38 PM
I'm in the same situation as the original poster. My 1st race this season will be a very flat and very short (15mi, 2 lap). How do these facts influence the likelihood of the breakaway's success? I thought that it's short enough that just about any decent attempt at breakaways has a good chance of staying away and I should cover everything because of it. What do you think?
I'm not LFR, but ....DougSloan
Feb 24, 2003 9:28 AM
On a flat race that short, I doubt there will be successful breaks. Chancs are the entire field will cover any break, and stay together. With something that short, the speeds will be higher, meaning a break will have to be higher still.

However, a break might have a chance if there are some sharp, slow, corners. The ones in the break will have to work together and really hammer to get away and stay away, though.

In any event, try not to be the guy leading the chase. The pack will use you up and spit you out.

Doug
But you ARE LFR...5ive
Feb 24, 2003 11:58 AM
Lead Fresno Racer, that is... at least I 'think' you're from Fresno area.

Good tips. Thank you.
Doug is correctlonefrontranger
Feb 24, 2003 3:19 PM
In this situation the field is almost certain not to have much if any separation, particularly if you are talking 4/5 fields. A race of this makeup is almost inevitably doomed to end in a field sprint. All hope is not lost, however.

Something you could try is a little collusion with a couple 'strongmen' buddies of yours (I wouldn't use more than 3), especially if they're crit specialists. A tactic I've employed a couple times successfully on flat courses is to artificially manufacture a gap through a corner or series of corners, then have a strong attack immediately follow to help widen the gap. Well, the girls I race with insist I attack into the corners, when in reality all I am doing is not hitting the brakes. Even a 90* bend will work for this if you have the skills to corner safely at speed. How to do this: Go to the front about 2-300 meters before the turn, then carry your speed smoothly through it. Have your buddies on your wheel ready to go when you do this. If it works, and your buddies are skilled enough, they will all come with you, and a gap will magically open up behind as the accordion effect takes hold. As he completes the turn, your strongest guy now does a *real* attack from 3rd or 4th position to increase the rearward gap. Then he goes for a 20 pedalstroke nut-crusher of a pull, then pulls off; the rest of you will have to be on your game to follow this, and the devil take the hindmost. Next strongest guy then repeats the same attack and subsequent nut-crusher, and then you should have an adequate gap opened to allow you to settle in to a normal rotation, maintaining a 20-30 pedalstroke pull tempo and keeping the screws turned down as hard as you can while maintaining a working paceline, but don't wait up for laggards or weak sisters. This tactic can work at almost any point in the race, but the key in earlier break attempts will be to get out of sight of the field. For my attempts, 3K from the line seems to have been the "magic number", as it's often when there is a lull in the action as all the sprinters try to sit in for the sprint. For Cat 4/5 men, if you are 3K from the end and can hold a 45kph pace (a reasonable expectation IME), this means (if my blonde-induced math serves me correctly) that you must only suffer at this pain level for about four and a half minutes, or less than a standard VO2MAX interval. Warning: this tactic represents an all-or-nothing gamble, and if it doesn't succeed, you will be wasted for the field sprint if caught. However, if this scenario does succeed, you will then have to fight it out amongst yourselves as to who wins the sprint, tho I suggest you share the loot :)
You pulled who in the what now?5ive
Feb 24, 2003 6:31 PM
Thank you for that thorough description of breakaway scenario. Sounds a bit complicated for my cat5 head, but I like the theory you put forward. Unfortunately I will be all by my lonesome with no teammates to speak of. Maybe I can bribe a strong looking guy before the race starts (a can of Red Bull for his 'nut-crusher' of a pull). Thx.
Motor or Pack Filler ??MR_GRUMPY
Feb 21, 2003 8:07 PM
It all depends if you are one of the "chosen ones" or if you are just pack filler, like most people won't admit. If you fall into the latter catagory, you have to be very careful. If you get into a break, just work enough not to blow up. Most people don't realize how hard it is to go with a break. If you can't hang with the break, you might blow so bad that everybody in the chase pack passes you and drops you like a bag of doggy doo.
That does it - I'm changing my handle....McAndrus
Feb 22, 2003 1:51 PM
...to PackFill. I've found my calling.
always be aggressive.iml
Feb 24, 2003 8:50 AM
at least that's what i do. it really depends on your goals. me, i race cat 2 on the road, but i'm more interested in mtb races. as an unattached rider, i try to get in every break, do my share of the work, and not let anything get away. i want to do as much work as possible. however, as i implied, i'm not really interested in personal results for road races...one can easily tire racing like i do...i'm often blown at the end, but i get what i need.

a thought: if you're a 3,4 or 5 looking to move up, you'll do yourself a favor and get stronger by racing aggressively. IMHO, there are lots of folks who spend a lot of time sitting in, worried about saving themselves. what fun is that? ;)
thank youlonefrontranger
Feb 24, 2003 4:11 PM
I agree. I'd rather try big, lose big and learn something about myself and my competition in the process than sit in and be an intimidated pack filler. We're not racing for UCI points or big bucks here, might as well have fun.

Hence my hesitation in the responses above to voluntarily stick myself into a dope-on-a-rope scenario. Been there, done that, and it's probably not going to teach me much besides frustration.

One of the things I might point out here is that women's racing often shakes out far different from men's, and women are (dare I say it) often far more tactical for the simple fact that women simply don't consider strength to be one of their primary advantages (as men typically do). IOW the gals aren't out there with the single-minded goal of ripping the legs off the whole field, and are generally more inclined to try to outsmart their competition. Also, by nature of the sizes of the fields and the disparity in strengths, breaks in women's races can and do succeed at all levels of competition.

YMMV
right you areiml
Feb 25, 2003 7:44 AM
and i think your points about women's racing can often carry over to men's 3 and 4/5 fields: seems that much of the time is spent worrying about other people, rather than finding out if you have the legs to do something interesting. even cat 3 races seemed that way for me...very few people were really willing to be truly aggressive, probably because of no real belief that anything would stick.

not really a problem in a 1/2 race :)...which suits this mountain biker just fine.