Monday, November 20, 2006

this information could very well make or save your cycling career.
what follows is an article sent to me by the original dr. crankenstein, scott dickson, who terrorized the road circuit back when most of your parents were teens thinking about getting laid. scott started racing when he was five, was a masters national champion by the time he was 17, and has managed for the most part to qualify for a university team his entire adult life. his lifetime winning average of all races entered is around 89%, if you include ragbrai stages. he has ridden more ragbrais than anyone you'll ever know, except me [i've done over 50, at present, while scott is somewhere in the upper 30s]. he's the reason the french don't like lance, as he dominated paris-brest-paris from the late 80s through the end of the 20th century, winning outright four times in succession [while never testing positive], and once in a group of riders who all held hands as they crossed the line. i had the pleasure of training with scott while we lived in ames in the late 80s and early 90s, and our routine of 40 in the morning and 60 at night served us well. it was a bike racing tutorial, i shit you not. every great cyclist has a scott in his/her background, and anyone who aspires to be a great cyclist needs one. but look carefully, because there are a lot of dangerous idiots out there who race bikes. --the reverend
Rules to Race By*
A few simple tips to racing with your brain, not just your legs:

Many competitive cyclists lack an understanding of the basics of road racing. This isn’t a criticism so much as a comment on the lack of organized teaching in American cycling. There are countless books and articles on how to train, but all those intervals are useless if you are riding the entire race on the wrong side of the field and attacking on the downhills. There are also upper category riders who, despite their strength and abilities, could use a primer on racing basics. It’s not uncommon to see a Cat. II racer pull off to the wrong side in a paceline. I offer the information below as lessons that I have learned over the years. I’m not a particularly accomplished racer, but I’ve found this information helpful in getting me through races against better riders, and in adding to my enjoyment of racing. I hope it does the same for you.


First things first: Figure out where the wind is coming from. Then visualize the course and where the wind is in relation to the course. Anticipate the wind, and position yourself accordingly. In many instances, your position relative to the wind is far more important than your fore-aft position in the peloton. Use corners to switch sides of the field. You may sometimes want to ride in the wind temporarily, if it means you’ll have shelter for a longer stretch exiting a turn.


Pull off into the wind. This one drives me crazy. If done properly, the lead rider does his turn, then pulls off into the wind and fades to the back of the group, shielding the riders moving up in the line in the process. If done improperly, the riders moving up in the line are pulling into the wind before their turn and then resting as they slow down – a total waste. It’s very simple: Pull off into the wind.
Do not accelerate at the front. After the lead rider pulls off, he should slightly decelerate. The second rider should maintain pace (watching your speedometer is helpful). It’s the lead rider ending his turn who dictates the pace of rotation. The second rider should not storm past, by sprinting or accelerating quickly. The wind-breaking efficiency of a paceline is ruined if energy is wasted with riders constantly changing pace. You can increase your speed much more effectively and efficiently by subtly elevating the speed as a group.
Draft while going backwards. On a more leisurely ride, or when an attack first goes away, people can take long turns as the front. But once the group has settled in at speed, the paceline should be a steady rotation. This allows for maximum speed at minimum effort. Here’s how it should work: The lead rider (Rider A) should pull just until his rear wheels clears the front wheel of the rider who has just taken a turn (Rider B). The when Rider A pulls off and starts floating backwards, Rider B is getting a draft off of him. Some folks think they are doing the group a favor by taking long, hard pulls. You only accomplish two things with long, hard pulls: You break the paceline’s rhythm, and you completely flick the guy who pulled before you as he has no one to draft. Be smooth. If you follow the rules for pacelines above, your paceline should not consist of a guy pulling super hard and then sitting up and going right to the back. It should consist of guys making efforts just a hair above their limits for the short time they are in the wind, then making long steady efforts a hair below their limits, drafting as they move up the line and drafting as they move back.


Conserving energy is the most important thing that you can do, especially in longer races. Play a game with yourself within each race to see how little of an effort you can make. Think of your body as a bank account with $100. You must pay $1 for every minute of steady riding. But you have to pay $5 for every minute of hard accelerating. Typically, the rider who wins is the one with the most money at the end of the race – when it can all be spent with it counts most. Here are ways to conserve energy.
Look ahead. See what the riders at the front are doing. If they are sitting up, then there’s no reason to charge into the back of the field only to have to slam on your brakes. This is especially true out of corners. Conversely, if you see riders starting to attack and you know the pace is going to increase, you can gradually increase your pace instead of having to rapidly react when you notice the rider in front of you take off.
Don’t brake unless necessary. Braking means one or two things: That you went too hard earlier, or that you’ll have to accelerate after whatever you’re breaking for. In either event, braking usually means wasted energy.
Do not accelerate into dead air. If you need to move up, find a wheel to follow. Pulling out of line and sprinting into a wall of air is a waste of energy.
Ride the wave. You can see patterns in most races, especially circuit courses and criteriums. You see places where the field will accelerate and places where they sit up. Figure out those patterns and take advantage of them. If you know of a section where the pace will likely increase, position yourself toward the front before that spot, then let yourself float back during the acceleration if necessary. This way you can maintain a steady $1 pace while everyone else is spending $5. This theory works well with hills, as you can start a climb in the front, make less of an effort as you float back and arrive at the top still in the field. Conversely, if you know there is a slow section, use that time as a chance to improve your position in the field.


One of the main tactical differences between the Pro/Cat. I-II races and all other races is that no self-respecting Cat. I would take a hard pull without good reason. Conversely Cat. IV races often play out with everyone sitting around until someone attacks, then everyone killing themselves to catch the poor guy, then everyone sitting around again.

Save your big efforts to either attack or to bridge to a break. Don’t make a big effort just to give all the other riders a free ride. Plus, if you want to ever be in a successful break-away, you cannot contribute to the chase-at-any-cost mentality. If there are knuckleheads who want to ride like lemmings, let them. Then when you counterattack, they’ll be too tired to chase you.
Remember that there are more enemies in the pack – and on your wheel if you are pulling – than there are up the road. If someone is going to beat you, at least give a chance to the rider up the road making the effort and not to the passive riders taking advantage of your hard work.


Anyone can attack when it’s easy. Anyone can attack downhill. And anyone can attack in a tailwind. If you feel fantastic and pace is easy, don’t bother attacking, because there are 99 other riders who feel as great as you. The key to a successful attack is to break the will of the other riders. It’s not easy to break the will of someone who’s been coasting for the last 5 minutes. If you are fit, you want to attack when it’s hard. If you’re suffering and you’re one of the strongest riders, they you have to suspect that the others are really suffering. That’s when they’re ripe for the cracking. These opportunities usually occur in crosswinds, on hills and at the end of races. Sometimes, though, it helps to attack when it’s easy – it makes the race harder. You can attack at the beginning of races or when the pace slows, just don’t make a full commitment to those efforts. Jumping and then cruising at 80 percent isn’t that draining, but it can stir up the field and induce counterattacks. Being off the front when that happens also allows you to slip back into the front of the field and into a good position for a counterattack with a real effort.


While a ProTour team giving a sprinter a 3km lead-out is quite a sight to see, team racing at the lower categories need not be so involved. There are a few simple ways though for teammates to effectively assist each other.
Don’t move up alone. If you are going to make an effort, at least bring a teammate with you.
Counter-attack each other. If your teammate is in a break that gets caught and you do not counterattack, it is an insult – their efforts caused the chasing riders to tire while you sat on. That’s exactly the situation you’re looking for as a rider and as a team. Don’t let that effort go in vain. Counter. Even if you get caught, the stage is set for another teammate to attack and hit the pack again.
Give a leadout when it makes sense. Leadouts are often a waste of time at the lower levels. If you have 2 guys strong enough to both be at the front, you’re usually best served by sprinting and getting 2 results. There are exceptions: If you’re both out of position, sacrifice one rider to get the other into position. If it’s a tricky or dangerous finish, or if you are unsure about where to start the sprint, send one teammate – he might win, or if it’s too early, he might deliver his teammate to just the right spot.

Sprint early. Most new riders wait too long and find themselves in the middle of a mess. You’re usually better off going early and avoiding the chaos. Even if you get passed and finish 5th, it’s better than being trapped and finishing 12th. Or worse yet, ending up on the pavement. Also, you’ll never know how far you can sprint until you’ve gone too early a couple of times. Once you’ve seen how far you can go before you blow, then you can make the necessary adjustments based on wind, terrain and circumstances.
Pick the right gear. You are attempting to accelerate as quickly as possible and then hold you speed as along as possible. Unless you are J.J. Haedo, you can do neither in the 11-tooth cog. Sprint in a gear in which you can accelerate and then shift. Also once you are up to speed, do not be afraid to sit down and spin. You are much more aero seated, and in a long sprint you can often get a few more RPM’s out of you gear while in the seated position.

*Article written by & stolen from: Bill Laudien who is the former director of pro team. I suspect he was never really that good, or I'd have heard of him. But he sure writes purty.

1 comment:

Bill said...

Yeah, _I_ wrote it, _you're_ the one who stole it.

It appeared on my site and in VeloNews earlier this year.

I have no problem with you reprinting it, but you should have probably asked first.

Bill " Never heard of me" Laudien