Bicycle Racing 101 – Hard Lessons
By Mike Burris, USA Cycling Coach and Burris Logistics-Fit Werx Team Director.
I raced Turtle Pond this past weekend. At the beginning of the season I committed myself to doing the Masters 35+ category whenever there was one. This category is an interesting category because you have ex-pros mixed in with cat 1-4 riders. The field at Turtle Pond was about 36 riders. This is small in comparison to the other fields. The more races I do in this field the more I am realizing that success depends much more on tactics than on fitness. Of course you need fitness, but you also need to pay attention.
The 35+ race started fast. I stayed near the front, trying to mark the fliers as best I could. Two teams were present with more than 5 guys, so knew it was a matter of time before the machine gun attacks would begin. Sure enough, one right after the other launched off the front. I chased. I chase again. I chase again and again and again. Then I realized I was the only one doing this. So I stopped. Another guy launched off the front, followed by two more. Then two more. Know one chased them. Their teammates came to the front and blocked. Away they went.
I was too tired at this point to do anything about it. I just watched them ride away. We were only 8 miles into a 57 mile race. I accepted the fact that I missed the decisive move. Then, after about 20 miles it happened again. 3-4 riders broke free and nobody chased. So I did. The peloton followed me. We caught them. Then it happened again and nobody chased. Away they went.
It was at this point I realized there were three types of riders in this field. The experienced riders from the big teams knew they could continue to attack until nobody would chase them. The less experienced or less fit riders were just trying to sit in and survive. The third type of rider in this field was plenty fit, but lacked support and was relegated to doing most of the work to bring back the breaks. This was me and maybe 3 or 4 others. I think I worked harder in this capacity than I would have if I made the early break.
There are more than a few lessons here:
#1. Get 4-5 teammates to race with you. This will allow you to cover more breaks and share the work should you have to chase.
#2. Know who you are racing against. Certain guys have the legs to get away. Be sure to mark them.
#3. Don’t do too much work too early. If no other riders want to work, it will be along day anyway.
#4. Race more. The more experience you have racing in the same field the better you know the competition.
Last but not least, try and have fun even if you get stuck riding with wheel suckers. We’ve all been there.
Mike Burris is the Director of Impulse CYCLEsport. Mike is a USA Cycling certified coach, the Training Director at epicPlanet.tv, and the Team Director of the Burris Logistics-Fit Werx Masters Racing Team. Mike always enjoys working with a variety of athletes. For more information go to www.impulsecyclesport.com