Recon missions for competitive cyclists part 1 of 3

I also thought about titling this new series of articles “Or what you don’t know is what hurts the most.” Thought that the alternative title wouldn’t appeal to cyclists or would scare away some our newly minted racers.

We amateur competitive cyclists spend a considerable amount of time and money on all things training and gear, hours on the bike and flashy wheels. These things can help you reach your goal(s) that is for certain. However many of us fail to use our most powerful weapon. Our brain and its ability to reason deduct and recognize patterns.

We are a very focused and dedicated bunch and often ask our selves how can I get better at this or how can I do this smarter. We sometimes lack the experience or the incite to answer our own questions about the matters beyond training and riding. While I am not an expert, elite or a Pro racer I am a researcher by trade. I have been paid well to ask questions, lots of questions. I have tried to apply this to my racing and coaching efforts and sometimes I am rewarded for my inquisitive habits.

The next time you get ready for a race ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are my/our competitors – Know thy enemy
  • What route does the course take – Learning the ups and downs

These two very simple questions if researched thoroughly will result in a wealth of information that might just give you the upper hand.

Know thy enemy!

Most of the sites you register to race in the United States will contain a list of the other competitors you will be racing against and the team(s) they race for. If you do not know whom you are racing against you better get to it and do some research. Go to USA Cycling and look up the athlete in question and take look at their race record. Get on Google and search for and book mark all of your local and regional teams. Many teams will publicly release race reports for sponsors and fans.

  • What races have they been in and how often do they race?
  • What team do they race for?
  • How large is the team they are on?
  • How many of they’re teammates have registered for this race?
  • Have you ridden with any of these athletes in other races or training rides?
  • What are there strengths, weaknesses and how can you exploit them in a race?

Learning the ups and downs

There has been a nasty trend I have noticed in my region and that is the exclusion of course maps or even course descriptions for posted races! My favorite course description is “Gently Rolling Terrain”. One athlete’s course description is another athlete’s nightmare.

It is critical in Road Racing events to know the course you will be racing on. Even though races that are in far away locations or on city streets that may not be accessible until they are closed for a given race you can still learn about the course. All sanctioned races must have race director or promoter email associated with the race. Race directors or promoters are obliged to share with you a map of the course.

  • If you cannot get a map or you get a vague course description from the race director/promoter try these tips the next time.
  • Check out your local race web forum or email listserv and ask others if they can shed some light on the course
  • Go to web sites like, and search for the title of the race. Someone may have already posted the course.
  • Contact the bike shop(s) near the community you will be racing. Many times the bike shops maybe race or team sponsors.

Once you have found the course you need to ask yourself “Do I need to pre-ride the course?” The short answer is yes. However if this is not a priority race or you do not have the time to visit another state or county to pre-ride a course ask your self the following questions.

  • How long is the course?
  • Is this course rural, urban, or a hybrid?
  • Where are will I shine on the course?
  • Where will I struggle on the course?
  • Are there any road surfaces I need to worry about?
  • What does the elevation profile look like for the course?

So how does one answer these questions and use the answers to apply tactics to a given race?

More to come in the next post!

Until then have a great long weekend, hit it hard and keep the shiny side up.

Part 2, Part 3

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