Basic tactics in competitive road cycling

Over the past year, I’ve thrown myself into competitive cycling. Whenever I go racing, I try to remember that more than just the physical strength, there are other factors in finishing and winning a race. While I’m yet to chalk up my first win, I’m learning each and every time I get out there. Trying something new, and learning my abilities.

I love the rush of racing, but I’m also a student of this awesome sport. With the Singapore racing season coming to a close, I took the time to reflect on the tips that helped drive my progress.

Now, here are some basic tactics to remember when you’re racing:

  1. Have a plan. The first and might be the most significant tactic you can do can be done before the race even begins. This is to have a plan on how you will race. Study how you are as a rider. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and use those to create your attack plan during the race. Most races this year, I rode without a team, which influences my plan. Often I’d go in with a plan to leverage the efforts of other riders in an attempt to ensure I had a chance of a higher placing.
  2. Know your competition. Part of the plan is more than just knowing yourself but also knowing who you’re competing against. Before the race, you may watch out for the regular tactics that your competitors do and plan your attack tactic based on navigating that. While I was racing in the USA I was naive to the strengths and weaknesses of my competition, but when back in Singapore I was on familiar ground. I have riders that I like grabbing their wheel, and others I avoid like the plague. It’s also a huge help if you can work out the various roles people play in a team. I like to identify protected riders, or sprinters, that way I can position myself to best follow through on my plans.
  3. Conserve your energy. It’s often tempting to just go hard, particularly when the starter is fired. But remember to conserve your energy when it really matters. It often comes down to about four or five explosive efforts throughout the race. It would be better to save your energy during the last third of the race as winning moves will mostly likely come during this period. It’s also great to know your power and fatigue profiles, this helps you plan when to deploy your power. Over time I’ve learnt how long I can hold 500 watts, or 1000 watts, and learnt when and where to use those buckets of power.
  4. Stay in the moment. There are a lot of distractions that can potentially get your mind off of your tactics. During a race, maintain your focus on more than what your body is doing, but also on what is happening in your surroundings. Remember that timing is the key when you are planning an attack or a breakaway while riding. It’s also easy to miss the moment a few racers slip away in their own breakaway.
  5. Evaluate. Finally, when all riding is done and the results are out, evaluate how well you did. How much of your planned tactics were followed? What needs to be improved on? Recognize and adapt into these learning and use them on your next race. Each race is another great chance to learn. So don’t regret or curse, instead focus on what you learnt from that race, and aim to correct in the next.

In the end, knowing how you are as a rider and pushing yourself into doing different tactics will help you improve your skills in racing.

Other than the ones mentioned above, what other basic tactics have you applied while racing? Share it to me below!

References:
http://cyclingtips.com/2012/04/golden-rules-of-road-racing/
https://roadcyclinguk.com/how-to/technique/top-tactical-tips-for-road-racing.html
http://www.active.com/cycling/articles/10-tips-for-beginning-road-racers
https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-basic-tactics-in-competitive-road-cycling

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