Race Tactics – it’s more than just a lead out

The growth of women’s cycling over the last few years has since a big increase in numbers attending events. Whilst this is obviously a positive for our sport, it also means that there are more challenges in races, as many riders (from junior to veteran) have been brought up racing in smaller numbers, where the best sprinter invariably would win. However, times are changing, and with that comes the need to understand race tactics in more depth.  Admittedly, this is quite a large topic, so I will keep it relatively brief in the first instance.  Here goes…

Bunch sprints don’t work for anybody other than those prepared to sprint

So if you’re not prepared to get your elbows out in the sprint finish, or you don’t fancy sprinting, you need to rethink your options. Which could be any one, or a selection of the following:

  • attack off the front, on your own
  • attack off the front, with other riders (not necessarily your own team mates)
  • slim the numbers in the bunch down by making it hard
  • use the circuit to your advantage

All seem relatively straightforward, don’t they? But hardly anybody uses these tools to their advantage.

(c) Chris Maher 2016

Offence is the best form of defence

Not something you probably hear much within cycling circles – it stems more from American Football, but it is also true in road racing – go on the offensive and you are at an advantage straightaway. This doesn’t mean that you swear and curse at your fellow riders (the beauty of the English language); instead it means that you stay near the front and off the front, so that riders come to you.  And guess what? It really is easier, as you don’t have to keep chasing people down, because they come to you. This lesson is especially important when you are riding in a bunch of over 60 – on the continent, races can have up to 200 riders and you can’t ride from the back to the front if 200 riders are stretched out, so you have to be near the front. I always look out for riders who are happy to sit at the back of the bunch, as the chances are that they are biding their time and conserving their energy for the sprint at the end. But if they’re at the back, that means it’s harder to stay on wheels as the less confident riders tend to drift to the back and they run the risk of getting dropped if the pace goes up.

A race is just that, a race

Which means that it shouldn’t be easy. It’s called “competition” so if you are finding that everybody in the bunch is chatting away, chances are you’re going to end up with a mass bunch sprint at the end of the race. If you know your stuff, you will know that once it comes down to a bunch sprint, you are much less likely to be in control of your own destiny and are at the whim of others. So if the bunch is having a chinwag riding along and you need a result, you need to do as much as possible to ensure that the chatting stops, the pace goes up and your competition start to find it a bit harder, because that is how you slim the numbers down and swing the finishing result in your favour.

MuleBar Tour of Northumberland 2016 | Stage One

Know your competition

This is two-fold: you want to know who to avoid (for example, riders you know who struggle with corners, or brake excessively) and you also want to know who probably knows what they’re talking about, who’s up for a race, and who you would want in a breakaway with you. If you’re not sure who that should be, look at the list of riders entered and see who’s good at time trialling, as chances are they will be pretty strong. At the same time, remember that anybody who knows what they’re doing, regardless of what they look like or how old they are, will know which wheel to follow and how to sit in. The rule is, don’t underestimate your competition.

When an attack isn’t an attack

There is a time and a place to attack.  You can also attack more than once in a race, but if you’re going to do so, make sure that your early attacks are feints rather than full on attacks.  The idea with this is that you are seeing who is up for the race and who isn’t on form.  Make sure you attack in different places, but choose the timing.  For example, most attacks happen either just after the brow of a hill or a corner when, in actual fact, the attacks which have the most effect tend to be when people least expect it.

Keeping the pace high

I’ve been in races when a discussion has been had pre-race that we would try to keep the pace high to slim the field down.  The only problem is that you have that discussion with riders and then they don’t necessarily understand that it just means you do through and off at the front of the race at a fairly high speed; instead when it’s their turn to come through they attack. This tactic doesn’t usually work if you’re trying to keep the pace high. And regardless of what you may think, it’s generally a good idea to keep the pace high because the race is then safer and you don’t end up with people riding into the space underneath your armpit and encroaching on your dance space.

Lead out trains only work from the front

If half of your team is sat near the back of the bunch, it’s not going to work is it? You need rider numbers, speed, nerves of steel and lots of confidence to effect a successful lead out, so if you think your team mates are going to be hanging around the back of the bunch, pick another tactic to win your race.

Use the circuit to pick your moment

Watch your competition as they go through the finish line – if the finish is slightly uphill and people are struggling, knock it into your little ring and roll up and see whether you can ride past people as you go through the finish. When it’s not the final lap, nobody will notice that you’re watching other riders. If the finish isn’t your ideal finish, pick somewhere else to make your move – it may be a tight corner that you’re better than others at riding, or there may be a descent when you can press home your advantage – look at areas as you go around and work out what will work best for you.

Tour Of The Reservoir 2016 | Elite Spring Cup & Women's Road Ser

Don’t be a sheep – negative racing is literally the WORST

Don’t follow every single attack that goes up the road, unless there is somebody in it who you want to be in a break with (the potential race winner, perhaps?). Also, don’t just mark people because you don’t want them to win. It makes a race really really boring. If you’ve got the ability to chase somebody down why not continue and do a real attack?

MuleBar Tour of Northumberland 2016 | Stage TwoIf you’re there for the photographs, you really need to be off the front

Why do you think professional riders launch random solo attacks 200km from the finish? Not because they’re mental (necessarily) but because it gives your team/sponsor(s) exposure. So if you’re in a sponsored team, do your sponsors a favour and attempt some attacks, because sponsors want exposure of the positive kind. Thanking you in advance!

Enjoy yourself

Funnily enough, if you want to be there, you will probably surprise yourself. Don’t pressurise yourself into getting a result, just enjoy it for what it is – a bike race.

 

Check out Heathers previous guides:

Womens Cycling Planning Ahead

 

Click below to read:
Part One – Where Do I Start?
Part Two – What Do I Enter?
Part Three – What training should I do?
Part Four – Practice! Practice! Practice!
Part Five – Are You Ready To Race?
Part Six – Race Day
Part Seven – Circuit Racing

 

Tickhill Grand Prix Time

It’s Yesss Tickhill GP time! With just over an hour to go to today’s event where we will see over 450 riders take to the streets of the small South Yorkshire town of Tickhill the atmosphere is hotting up.

Tickhill GP organiser Rich Stoodley has worked his socks off to make sure this event brings equality to the men and women riding providing them with the equal status and value of prizes, the largest prize fund awarded on the UK racing calendar. With the race day in it’s third year; this is the second year the women have been given this status, and the quality of riders attending proves Tickhill GP is an outstanding success.

WATCH LIVE - DATE tgp-watch-live-button-2The racing kicks off with the youth and junior riders leading up to the elite category of riders including Team WIGGINS in the mens race, the women are represented by teams like Les Filles RT  and our very own Racing Chance Foundation and Team Jadan amongst others. It’s unusual for such a large event to give riders of all levels a chance to race the same circuit and mingle with their rivals and cycling stars.

The whole village and surrounding area get into the spirit of the day with local pubs serving the official Tickhill Grand Prix Ale, you can pick up a race programme with all the information you need; riders, teams, sponsors, food and attractions. Riders will be available to sign autographs and there is a merchandise village and you can test yourself against the clock or other spectators and riders at the Rollapaluza stand. The whole event is shown on large screens around the circuit with a full commentary of the action. This year Anna Glowinski will join Matt Stephens for commentary.

The racing starts at 11.30am on the closed race circuit, get yourself down to Tickhill for a great family day of street food and top notch cycling if you can’t make it down then don’t fret, Cycling Shorts.cc are proud to be official sponsors of Tickhill GP and you can watch it live all day here on CyclingShorts.cc! Just pull up a chair, click on the link and tuck in to your Sunday lunch while you watch the action unfold.

You can find more details at: www.tickhillgp.com

 

Race Programme

11:30 U12 (Mixed) 15mins
11:55 U14 Boys 30mins
12:35 U16/U14 Girls 25mins
13:20 U16 Boys 40mins
14:10 Cats. 3/4 Women 50mins
15:10 Cats. 3/4 Men 50mins
16:25 E/1/2 Women 1hr
17:35 E/1/2 Men 1hr

WATCH LIVE - DATE tgp-watch-live-button-2

Andre Greipel wins Stage Seven in Ipswich

Andre Greipel sprinted to victory in Ipswich, Suffolk at the end of the Aviva Tour of Britain’s longest stage, a 227-kilometre leg from Fakenham in Norfolk.

The Lotto Soudal rider headed home Team Sky’s double stage winner Elia Viviani and IAM Cycling’s Sondre Holst Enger by the narrowest of margins

The win was Greipel’s fourth Aviva Tour of Britain stage win, adding to the three victories he took in the 2010 edition of the race.

MTN Qhubeka’s Edvald Boasson Hagen took fifth to maintain his thirteen second lead over Wout Poels and the Aviva Yellow Jersey heading to London and the final stage of the race.

Team WIGGINS’ Owain Doull finished safely sixth to keep his lead in the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey, as well as remaining the Premier Inn Best British Rider thanks to his fourth overall.  Only a Boasson Hagen stage win in London will deny the Welshman the Chain Reaction Cycles jersey, providing he finishes the stage.

Peter Williams clinched the SKODA King of the Mountains competition, with no climbs on the final stage London circuit, the ONE Pro Cycling rider took maximum points on the final SKODA King of the Mountains climb of the 2015 race at Brantham Hill in Suffolk to win by two points from Madison Genesis’ Tom Stewart.

Williams also maintains a seven point lead in the YodelDirect Sprints competition.  Nine points are available on the London Stage presented by TfL, so only An Post Chain Reaction rider Conor Dunne can defeat him.

Starting in damp conditions from Fakenham’s racecourse, the original four man break consisted of Chris Opie, Alistair Slater, Johnny McEvoy and Tom Stewart, before that was reeled in and another all British group of Alex Dowsett, Gabriel Cullaigh and Graham Briggs went away, with the latter going on to win the Rouleur Combativity Award for Stage Seven.

With the battle for the final SKODA King of the Mountains points at Brantham Hill a priority, Madison Genesis worked hard to bring back the break, catching first Dowsett and then the other two escapees.

Williams took the points at the top of the ascent, with both Zdenek Stybar and then Rob Partridge attempting to go clear in the final kilometres.

Lotto Soudal and Team Sky worked hard on the front to set up the sprint for their men Greipel and Viviani, and it looked briefly like the Italian had claimed the victory on the near side, but television replays confirmed it was the German who crossed the line first.

On the Aviva General Classification there was no change at the top, with Boasson Hagen preserving his lead, but fifth placed rider Dylan Teuns, from BMC Racing, did crash out as the race passed through Wattisham Flying Station, which provided a unique home to the day’s final YodelDirect Sprint, flanked by Apache helicopters of the British Army.

For full results and standings from Stage Seven, please click here.

The 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain concludes in central London with Stage Eight from 3.30pm on Sunday 13 September, with a 14-lap circuit race starting and finishing on Regent Street St James, and taking in the sights of Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Regent Street.

Riders will contest three YodelDirect Sprints on the start/finish line on Laps Three, Six and Nine, with the final points and time bonuses of the available.

Highlights of Stage Seven will be on ITV4 at 8pm on Saturday 12 September with a repeat at 09.55am on Sunday 13 September.  Highlights of all seven stages so far are also available on demand via the ITV Player.

Edvald Boasson Hagen defends Aviva Tour of Britain lead in Nottingham

Edvald Boasson Hagen extended his lead in the Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing second on Nottingham’s Forest Recreation Ground behind Etixx Quick-Step rider Matteo Trentin, who took his team’s third stage win of the week.

The Italian outsprinted Boasson Hagen in a two-up sprint at the end of the 192-kilometre stage after the Aviva Yellow Jersey had bridged across to him in the final kilometres through Nottingham, going on to describe the stage as the hardest he had ever ridden.

The two riders were just ahead of a chasing bunch of 28 riders, all that remained of the main field at the end of a hard day’s racing, which saw aggressive riding from the start in Stoke-on-Trent.

The sight of a 75 strong grupetto coming home 45-minutes and 47-seconds behind the stage winner – on a 192km stage of less than five hours and featuring no long climbs – would appear to back up Trentin’s claim.

That the Etixx Quick-Step rider had contributed massively to the main break of the day while still having enough energy to outsprint Boasson Hagen was testament to his good form.

“For me and probably 99% of the field that is the hardest race I have ever done,” said Trentin. “It was full gas right from the beginning we never really stopped. You just have to look at the numbers, I was averaging 365 watts for four hours and 45 minutes. That’s tough. In the break we were never more than one minute or so ahead, the race was always on and never slowed. Even when it was flat at the start we had cross winds and then think about riding the climbs in the cross winds

“When Edvald attacked off the front of the group and came up to join me I thought that would be it because somebody was sure to chase the yellow jersey. But when he joined me we looked back and everybody was on the limit. Edvald was riding for the bonifaction and GC so I took a rest in his wheel and went for the stage win. And then I just sprinted as hard as I could.

“That is the mentality of this Etixx team whether even when we have injuries or crashes. We have a winning mentality, we always race for the victory, we are never here to be just part of the race. Sometime it works sometime it doesn’t but we always try.”

The Etixx Quick-Step team have now won three stages of the race, although both previous stage victors – Petr Vakoc and Fernando Gaviria – have dropped out through injury, and were today joined by Mark Cavendish who crashed, causing his abandonment.

With two stages to go, Boasson Hagen now leads by 13-seconds from Wout Poels, with Rasmus Guldhammer third at 43-seconds and Britain’s Owain Doull fourth, one second back and keeping hold of both the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey and Premier Inn Best British Rider Award.

In both the YodelDirect Sprints and SKODA King of the Mountains classifications there was no change with ONE Pro Cycling’s Peter Williams keeping hold of both jerseys, with neither Williams or his nearest challengers collecting any points towards either competition on Stage Six.

Boasson Hagen and Trentin had both been among a leading group of 30-riders that over the course of the stage from Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham, through Derbyshire and the Peak District, that chased a lead group of varying different combinations.

Initially a strong eight man group of Trentin, Ian Stannard, Zdenek Stybar, Stefan Kueng, Steven Kruijswijk, Sebastian Langeveld, Tao Geoghegan Hart and last year’s winner Dylan Van Baarle forged ahead, but on heavy rolling roads the race was a constantly changing picture, until a six rider group built a small group.

Kueng and Trentin remained clear coming off the hills and into Nottingham, with the latter taking a slender lead into the final three-kilometres before being joined by Boasson Hagen.  The MTN Qhubeka rider jumped across the gap that had been reduced by Sky duo Stannard and Ben Swift, but couldn’t defeat Trentin in the sprint.

“It was a really hard day but I am happy with that result,” said Boasson Hagen afterwards. “I would have happily settled for that before the start of the stage. Sky applied the pressure and eventually the break went and when Stannard came back I had to try and cover the moves and hope for the best. 

“Stannard asked me to ride at one stage and that is natural of course but I didn’t want to do that before the final intermediate sprint because I could have lost time there or they could have attacked me there. I wanted to wait as long as possible before I stated to work but it was always my plan to try something about five kiloetres out. I looked over and Wouter seemed to be on his own so I went.

“I didn’t feel my form was that good at the start of the race but it feels like it is getting better every day now. We will see tomorrow for sure. A lot of people are very tired although perhaps the riders in the grupetto are not quite so tired. I need to stay focussed for two more days now and hope that the team have been saving a lot of energy for the long day tomorrow.”

Coming home in third place on Stage Six four seconds back was the in-form Owain Doull of Team WIGGINS who now moves into fourth place overall with power to add in the final two stage.

“I’ve been taking it day by day, it was very hard from the off but I made the selection and was very happy with third place.  I’m a bit surprised at my form although I have always targeted this race and the Under-23 Worlds later this month.

“We will be trying to get onto the podium, there are three intermediate sprints tomorrow with a total of nine seconds available so if I could grab a few of those it would be pretty good but I need to keep contesting the finishes as well and try and get it that way as well. We will give it a good go in the next two days.”

For full results and standings please click here.

Stage Seven sees the race return to East Anglia for the first time since 2012, with Norfolk hosting its first stage start, at Fakenham, since 2010.  At 227-kilometres riders will face the longest stage of the race to Ipswich, including a YodelDirect Sprint on the runway of Wattisham Airfield, home to the British Army’s Apache helicopters.

Edvald Boasson Hagen moves into Aviva Tour of Britain lead on Hartside

All images ©CyclingShorts.cc / www.chrismaher.co.uk

Wout Poels, who did so much sterling work for Chris Froome at the Tour de France this Summer, grabbed his own slice of glory with a superb win on the queen stage of this year’s Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing at the top of the Hartside climb in Cumbria.

The Dutchman, who put in several attacks on the ascent of Hartside, eventually overtook leader Edvald Boasson Hagen in the final 200-metres, to put himself just one-second behind the Norwegian, who took over ownership of the Aviva Yellow Jersey with three stages to go.

The eight-kilometre climb to the 1,902-feet summit of Hartside re-shaped the GC, with Boasson Hagen and Poels, who started the day second and third respectively, doing battle with Lotto NL Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk for much of the ascent up the Cumbrian Fell, one of the longest continuous climbs in England.

Cannondale Garmin’s Ruben Zepuntke had been the first to put in a serious effort to go clear, before Kruijswijk broke away, being joined by Poels, who had been led into the foot of the climb at high speed by Peter Kennaugh, flushing out the serious challengers.

But the powerful Boasson Hagen was not deterred and bridged across to Poels and Kruijswijk and then attacked strongly with 1.5km to go looked clear and set for a stage win.

Poels though is immensely strong and durable and had paced himself well, knowing that the finale was tough going as it turned into the strong Helm Wind which blows off these Cumbrian Fells no matter how benign the day – indeed it’s the only mountain wind in Britain that has a specific name! It was blowing gently by its own standards but it was still enough to have an influence on the race.

Gradually, and then quickly, Poels reeled the tiring Boasson Hagen in and with 150m to go passed the MTN Qhubeka rider and headed for the line and Team Sky’s third stage win of the Aviva Tour of Britain. Boasson Hagen however kept going bravely to limit his losses and was rewarded with the Aviva Yellow Jersey, with overnight leader Juan Jose Lobato being one of the first riders to be dropped after passing through the village of Melmberby at the base of the climb.

Behind Boasson Hagen and Poels, Denmark’s Rasmus Guldhammer of the Cult Energy team lies at 30-seconds, with Movistar’s Benat Intxausti a further three seconds back.

Team WIGGINS’ Owain Doull lies fifth overall, the Premier Inn Best British Rider and also the Chain Reaction Cycles Points Jersey thanks to his consistent top placings.

With a classic tough day around Derbyshire and the Peak District in prospect on Day Six the race between first and second couldn’t be closer and Boasson Hagen, the overall winner of the Tour of Britain in 2009, and his team are certain to come under severe pressure.

In his favour however will be the inside knowledge he has on the Team Sky riders and their tactics after five years spent racing with the team and the fact that if any of the remaining three stages end in a sprint he might be better equipped to challenge for bonus seconds. It’s going to be an intriguing battle all the way to London and time bonuses could yet prove vital.

Wout Poels Stage 5 Winner Interview Aviva Tour Of Britain by Cycling Shorts

CyclingShorts.cc writer Chris Maher caught up with Stage 5 winner Wout Poels after his hilltop victory. Wout Poels, who did so much sterling work for Chris Froome at the Tour de France this Summer, grabbed his own slice of glory with a superb win on the queen stage of this year’s Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing at the top of the Hartside climb in Cumbria.

“It was really close.” admitted Poels.  “At 500-metres to go when Edvald attacked really strongly I thought I was going to be second but then he slowed down a little bit so I took my chance. I knew there was going to be strong cross winds in the last 500-metres, in fact it was quite rough for the last 3-kilometres.

“Riding in a wind like that can be real difficult so I went back at one stage to try to work together – there was a group of about four of us – but everybody was looking for the stage win and also I had the GC in my mind. Then Edvald attacked and he looked very strong but I still felt strong and I knew how hard it was out there in the front riding on your own.

 “It’s always nice to go for your own win and GC occasionally. I don’t get to win a lot of races but I really enjoyed today. You know when you go to the Tour de France with Team Sky you are working for Chris Froome that is your job.

“It’s going to be difficult to get past Edvald now because he is a good sprinter. He is looking strong but I am going to do my best. Tomorrow though is going to be a very hard stage also so perhaps there are possibilities.” 

Boasson Hagen meawhile acknowledges that perhaps he went a little early but it was a risk worth taking.

“I knew the wind was going to be really hard but my hope was to build enough of a gap when we had the tailwind but Walt was too strong. When he went past I tries to ride for seconds and I am happy to have the jersey.

“Sky rode very strongly today and every stage is going to be hard from now on. They have been taking a lot of responsibility in the race every day. They have already won three stages and want to win the GC so we will need to ride smart to defend the jersey. We will fight as hard as possible.

“This race is on another level from when I won in 2009, it has become very hard. It’s also a bigger race with the crowds and Team Sky have done a lot to make that happen, and encourage the interest in the British crowds.”

ONE Pro Cycling’s Peter Williams departed Prudhoe in Northumberland on Thursday morning wearing the YodelDirect Sprints Jersey, but after another day spent in the break through the packed crowds of Northumberland the Skipton based rider also had possession of the SKODA King of the Mountains climb.

Joining Williams in the break was Madison Genesis’ Mark McNally, who won the Rouleur Combativity Award, while thanks to the performances of Intxausti and Ruben Fernandez, the Movistar Team move into the lead of the Aviva Team Classification.

For full results and standings, please click here.

The Aviva Tour of Britain resumes in Stoke-on-Trent on Friday morning for Stage Six, getting underway in the city centre at 1030, before heading for Leek and the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The route heads into the Peak District National Park, including 3,500-metres of climbing during the 192-kilometre stage that finishes in Nottingham’s Forest Recreation Ground after passing through Buxton, Bakewell, Matlock, Belper and Ilkeston.

Highlights of Stage Five are on ITV4 at 8pm with a repeat on Friday 11 September on the same channel at 11.55am.

Wout Poels Stage 5 Winner Interview Aviva Tour Of Britain

Wout Poels Stage 5 Winner Interview Aviva Tour Of Britain by Cycling Shorts

CyclingShorts.cc writer Chris Maher caught up with Stage 5 winner Wout Poels after his hilltop victory. Wout Poels, who did so much sterling work for Chris Froome at the Tour de France this Summer, grabbed his own slice of glory with a superb win on the queen stage of this year’s Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing at the top of the Hartside climb in Cumbria.

CyclingShorts.cc writer/photographer Chris Maher caught up with Stage 5 winner Wout Poels after his hilltop victory.
Wout Poels, who did so much sterling work for Chris Froome at the Tour de France this Summer, grabbed his own slice of glory with a superb win on the queen stage of this year’s Aviva Tour of Britain, finishing at the top of the Hartside climb in Cumbria.

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