I think a better way to ask this question would be when should I take any action in a race?
It takes time to learn to read a race and for some of us it feels like an eternity.
The first thing I learned about applying any kind of race tactics was to race as often as possible in different locations in different race disciplines.
– experience is the best teacher
– learn who your competition is
– most athletes are creatures of habit
The other thing I learned is that it’s important to prioritize races. Most coaches use the A, B, C ratings. A being important to you and C being reserved for training, recon and experience.
– Use low priority races for tactics and strategy experimentation
– There should always be more C races than A and B combined!
– While “A” races are important do not doubt your intuition
Now that you have scheduled a bunch of races what are you watching for?
– Nothing is too small to recognize
– never ever fixate on anyone thing in a race
– Take it all in
– sounds of shifting, breathing, conversations
– what are you seeing
– look for who appears strongest
– watch for nervous actions
– who has held back
– who hasn’t taken a pull
– who is suffering like a dog
– who is sweating and who isn’t
Now that you have observed who is strong, weak, struggling or killing it what do you do with this info.
– keep away from corner divers and questionable bike handlers
– stick close to those not working
– be ready to jump when mid packers attack from the front
– be ready for when attacks fail and recover FAST
After a handful of C level races and maybe a B or two it’s time to experiment. You will now learn even more about your abilities by trying and failing than if you just wheel suck and draft.
– what happens if you let an attack go unanswered
– what occurs if you attack early or late in the race
– how many times can you attack before you run out of gas
– have you ever tried to break away
– have you ever tried to bridge up to the lead group
– have you ever tried to just sit in
– have you ever drifted back through the peloton and moved back to the front
– have you ever raced in the first 1/3 of the peloton.
So now that you have several races under your belt you find that you aren’t just hanging on for dear life. You can breathe, respond to attacks, attack, lead, follow and most importantly you are in the now with a functioning brain. You are now a very dangerous competitor!
You have had successful and failed experiments, you know who’s who and you know how everyone is going to ride. Be the wildcard or play it safe?
I won’t dare answer that question for you. You need to race through that decision.
No matter the outcome always remember that we are out there to push our selves, have fun, meet like-minded athletes and compete.
Until next tip observe all and dig some courage out of you back pocket.
Have a great ride,