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By: Lorne Falkenstein (offline) on Sunday, May 16 2010 @ 09:58 PM (Read 4213 times)  
Lorne Falkenstein

In our road races and criteriums this year there have been a number of occasions where a small group riders has broken away early in the race from a large field and either lapped the field on a large course, or at least stayed successfully away for the duration. While this has happened, those in the following group have been busy attacking one another. These attacks do not seem to be launched with the intention of breaking away to join the lead group or enticing a few others to form a small chase group. Or, if that is the intention, it is never successful. Most often, the attacker gains 10 or 20 meters on the pack and then gives up, sitting up as soon as he sees someone on his wheel. Then someone else launches a counter-attack. Everyone sprints after the counter-attacker, except for a few who happen to be in a sweet spot in the draft and sit in. When the pack comes back together, one of these drafters launches another counterattack. This continues until everyone is too exhausted to keep it up. Then they rest for a while and the first to recover starts the process all over again. It makes sense that people would ride in this way at the start of a race. I don't understand why they would continue to do so when they have a break away in front of them. These continued attacks within the following group tire the entire group out and ensure that the break-away will succeed. Perhaps I am missing something, but it seems to me that it would make more sense if those in the field who do not have team-mates in the break-away were to get to the front and form a smooth, steady echelon to chase the break down. Even those who want to sit in, I would think, would at least pretend to pull through and do a bit of an effort at the front, if only for a few pedal strokes, in order to encourage others to co-operate. The time-trialists in the group will always work harder when their turn comes up if it at least looks like everyone is doing something. Sitting in only encourages others further back to attack and the few who might be working on the front to stop doing so. Perhaps there is some elementary point about race strategy I don't appreciate. If so, I hope someone can enlighten me why people are racing the way they are in the pack.


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By: Joe Torchia (offline) on Wednesday, May 19 2010 @ 04:30 PM  
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I am not sure I have an explanation for you but I will provide my two cents worth. You are correct Lorne It would be a lot easier to bring back a breakaway group if riders in the pack would cooperate and maintain the speed at a constant rate. However, getting everyone to cooperate, can be quite challenging for a number of reasons. First, there are those that have teammates in the breakaway and simply soft pedal through an echelon in an attempt to slow it down. Then there are the “supermen” who have been sitting in the pack for sometime, are well recovered and accelerate , or attack the main bunch. What many riders fail to realize is that a successful breakaway generally needs to generate 300 to 400 watts consistently and anyone who has worked with a powermeter knows how difficult that can be after only a few minutes. For the inexperienced riders, this is not obvious at the outset of an attack because it takes a few seconds for fatigue to set in. So after 30 seconds, lactic acid accumulates and the rider is caught and speed rapidly drops and the chase is disrupted. Finally, there are those riders that sit near the front of an echelon and don't (or can't) pull through, which again disrupts the chase.
Attacks are an important part of cycling and can make the sport exciting. However, in order for an attack to be successful, it needs to be strategically launched. ie the element of surprise is very important. Generally, attacks are successful when the majority of riders in the group are stressed or suffering. So if you attack when the group is riding at a slow pace there will always be a fresh pair of legs ready to chase. On the other hand, if one is counterattacking (or attacking at the top of a climb), there is a much better chance for success because the riders in the group will be in the process of recuperating and may hesitate hoping that someone else will chase. Often this hesitation is enough to allow a small group to escape. The combination of riders attempting to break away is also very important. Individual riders need to be strong enough and cooperate to maintain a consistently high speed when pulling through. Riders often jump into a breakaway and quickly realize they are unable to share the workload and either fall back or the break is caught.
In Sundays criterium we saw a lot of what I have just described. The breakaway was made up of three relatively strong riders who shared the workload. They weren’t necessarily going any faster than the main bunch but they were able to keep the speed consistent. The speed in the group was constantly fluctuating because there were a number of attacks from the middle of the group that were unsuccessful. Furthermore, we saw a lot of softpedalling as several riders were content to practice team tactics.
Finally, I have noticed in recent weeks short tempers and unsportsmanlike conduct which really which needs to be discouraged. At the end of the day we need to keep everything in perspective and remember that these are TRAINING RACES which, depending on ones agenda, can be used to gauge fitness, simulate aspects of racing, or simply make the monotony of training more fun while at the same time getting a decent workout. Regardless of ones agenda, it is very important to maintain rider etiquette Neutralat all times.


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By: Chris Helwig (offline) on Thursday, May 20 2010 @ 09:18 AM  
Chris Helwig

Given I am no longer racing the weekday series, but my opinion has always been that team tactics, especially blocking should not be used on Tuesday nights. You have one really big team and 2 or 3 smaller teams, it really makes no sense to me to block for a team mate wtih only 3 or 4 teams. That will not make your stronger, bridging across or assisting with the chase will make you stronger. I think the argument is that teams have to practice tactics for weekend OCA races, but working over a small field with only a few teams is nothing like doing it in an OCA race, so the practice just doesn't translate.

My 2 cents is abolish obvious team tactics and blocking on Tuesday and watch everyone get stronger. I don't want to sound like an old timer, but back in the day in the 1990's we had a very good club race scene where everyone wanted to win regardless of what team they were on. We had arguably the best Senior 1/2 team in Ontario, and part of the reason was that we killed ourselves every Tuesday night. Even a few years ago when Brownie and Graydon were racing I wanted to beat those guys as much as anyone else.


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By: Joe Torchia (offline) on Thursday, May 20 2010 @ 12:31 PM  
Joe Torchia

I agree 100% with your suggestion


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By: Patrick Shea (offline) on Thursday, May 20 2010 @ 01:03 PM  
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I also agree that team tactics should not be used in the Tuesday nighter's. I don't believe this is actually happening much though. I believe that most of the races that have had breaks make it to the finish have had a prominant Team London presence and I for one make it a mission to chase them down and to counter attack despite wearing the same jersey. It's all about getting your heart rate up and testing your limits.

The combination of different agenda's, different experience and different strengths with a relatively small field makes it very difficult to chase down a group of committed riders with their heads down in a break away.

I know it can get frustrating with a lack of cooperation but thats club racing. Enjoy the workout.


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By: Carlo Capaldi (offline) on Thursday, May 20 2010 @ 03:15 PM  
Carlo Capaldi

Team Tactics would be nice but you guys are right, we don't have enough teams to make it work the way it should. I do appreciate when guys like pat chase their own guys down. I think it is important to make sure that those of us who know how to get organized to chase do so and encourage others to help in a positive way. I noticed exactly what Lorne was talking about at the first road race this year. David Bouge got away with kees and the chase kept getting bogged down due to silly attacks by guys trying to bridge and not helping. These are the teachable moments the experienced rideres need to point out. I can remember 4 seasons ago being new to the sport, nervous as hell, and having guys scream at you because you were not pulling through or pulling through to hard. Kind words, gentle reminders go much further. Hopefully as the season progresses and individual fittness improves, more guys will have the ability and the motivation to chase and chase properly.

The other option is to re-establish the Australian pursuit for a while. A group chases the B group. Force you to work together to catch or stay ahead. One the catch is made, then its an individual race to the finish.

See you in the break!
Carlo


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By: Chris Helwig (offline) on Thursday, May 20 2010 @ 06:36 PM  
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The problem with the Australian Pursuit is sometimes it worked to well! A few times at Scotland the A's caught the B's just before the sprint which resulted in 40-50 riders all sprinting at the same time and trying to stay on the good side of the yellow line. A mix of experience levels, speed and a big group was just too dangerous, so the Australian pursuit was abandoned mostly for safety issues.


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