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Road Racing Tactics and Strategies

by the FasCat Coaches

Here are our core road racing tactics for the Category 3/4/5, Collegiate and Masters racer.

Allen:  If you have never been fed in a feed zone before, practice how to do it. Make sure your feeder also knows what to do and plan ahead with them before the race where in the feed zone they will be (For Ex. at the top of the hill at the end). Also, use bars, gels, drinks, etc. that you have used in training. Gagging on your food in the middle of a road race is not fun.

Nadia: Be sure you have researched the course map! Check Strava, look for Garmin files, etc. These days there no reason not to know what you’ll be racing over. Keep moving forward in the pack or else you might find yourself yo-yoing at the back without realizing it. On a rolling course, try to move up toward the front at the bottom of climbs to let the pack help suck you up the climb and put you in position to counter any attacks. If you fall off from the pack, look for other riders behind you to help you bridge back again before you commit yourself to a costly TT effort.

Jake:  Always know where the winds are coming from! The wind can be harder than any hill. Know the course so you can plan ahead for corners and know when you’ll have a head, tail or the dreaded crosswind.  Before you make a right hand turn into a left to right crosswind, position yourself on the right side of the peloton so you have a nice draft and buffer from the crosswind.

Know your ability and style of racing. If there is a hard climb you know you cannot get over with the leaders, look for a breakaway to start the climb early, or at least make sure you are positioned at the front for the start of it. Just don’t waste your energy riding 10 seconds in front of the field, if you’re in a break make sure it’s worth the effort.

Hydration and Nutrition During the Race: Use the easy nature of a road race to make sure you stay on top of hydration and fuel. Know the course – if there’s a hill at mile 15 and then again at mile 30 but flat & straight in-between, plan to eat and drink on the flat section after the first climb and before the 2nd.  A 50-60 mile road race still requires proper nutrition. Drink and eat every 15-30 minutes and even go so far as to use a Garmin alarm as a reminder to eat and drink!

Isaiah: Be towards the front for ALL expected difficult or power sections like gravel, hard hills, crosswinds, or anything of that nature. When it comes to taking a feed, make sure to think far in advance for these longer races. If you are going to need someone to be in the feed zone, make sure they know what to feed you and how to do it well in advance. Make sure you check the race bible on this as there can be restrictions on when and where feeding can occur.

Frank:  If the course is hard, the cream will rise to the top. One tactic for a hard race like that is to draft in the pack, conserve energy and don’t let large groups > 5 riders get up the road.  Don’t chase down every move that gets 50 meters on a hill, let the peloton bring groups less than three or four riders back. Conserve your energy, let the difficult nature of the course do its damage to the peloton and get ready for the final crunch time to get a result!  If the course is easy, then crit tactics apply with about 500m to go!  But watch out for large breakaways to escape with all the major teams represented.

Be a student of the sport and know the history of the race – how its won (sprint or breakaway), what type of rider historically wins and like Coach Nadia said above, know the profile of the course.  Every hill, crosswind section, etc… Study the results from previous years and talk with your coach and/or teammates about the game plan going into the race.  Afterwards review with them what happened and learn from that – for the next weekend’s race and the very same race next year.  Learn from mistakes and turn them into experience you can capitalize on moving forward.

We also like to review the athlete’s power data with them after the race to identify ‘matches’ that they burned asking “why, was it necessary – what did you gain from that effort?” or “here’s where you it got hard for x minutes and then this happened”.  Power data tells a lot about what happened in the race and is extremely helpful to learn from.

In summary, do your homework: know the course. Also plan and talk to your feeder about the feed zone, beware of crosswinds, be at the front for critical sections of the race, don’t forget to eat and drink, and use your power data.

Copyright 2017 , FasCat Coaching

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To talk with one of the FasCat Coaches about outsmarting the competition in your next road race, please call 720.406.7444 or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Otherwise use these tips above to race smart and check out our $49 six week interval training plans!


Criterium Race Tactics and Strategies

by the FasCat Coaches, March 2016

Every week the FasCat Coaches get together to discuss and share ways to help out our athletes.  We cover a variety of topics like off season and resistance training, indoor trainer workouts, TSS, the Performance Manager Chart, intervals, sweet spot training and weight loss to name a few.  Last week with the race season upon us, we put our heads together to talk about race tactics and strategies. Right away we broke our tips up into Criteriums, Road Races and Time Trials for the Category 3/4/5 and Masters racer.  Stay tuned for our road and time trial tactics tip and until then here are our criterium race tactics and strategies:

Allen: Learn how to “surf” the riders in the front but never actually be the rider in the front. It takes some work but it is a whole lot easier than trying to ride in the back of the pack and eventually getting gapped.  If you do find yourself on the front, take a short pull and let someone else come around.

Nadia: Ride a gear lower than you think you need and accelerate with your cadence – this will save you tons of energy. Get the rhythm of the course- when the attacks happen, where the pack rests. Use that to plan your attacks! Primes are there to make the race more interesting, be careful about getting suckered by them, save your matches.

Jake: If you are not passing a rider moving up, chances are you are being passed and moving backwards. Follow wheels up (see ‘surf’ above) and don’t use your own energy.  Use an early prime or mid race sprint to gage the finish and how to take the last couple of corners. You don’t need to give it your all to show everyone, but feel it out. Don’t wait for others to start the sprint. If you wait someone else will get the jump. Know how far the sprint is from the last corner. Think about how long the effort will be and when YOU should go. You won’t be able to come around more than 1 or 2 riders in a sprint.

Carson: Rather sitting in the middle of the pack, try to draft on the outside of the bunch. This allows you to slot in behind riders as they pass you (see Coach Jake and Allen above ‘surf’) to move up and prevents you from being boxed in so you can follow attacks if they happen. You also have a safe place to ride in the event there’s a crash in front of you.  However, beware if you are on the inside of a turn, because you’ll be more likely forced to brake which sets you up to accelerate hard out of the corner.

Isaiah: Play your strengths. If your kick(sprint) is your weakest link, then don’t wait for the sprint on the last lap. Follow wheels and/or attack when the field takes a breather to try to get away solo or with a group. Remember though, once you are out there you have to be able to hold it.  If you find that you don’t think you can do the work to stay away, there is no shame to sitting up (or not working if in a break) and going back to the field.   With enough practice, experience and attempts, eventually you’ll have the strength to hold a breakaway all the way to the line provided you commit to the effort.  If the course is ‘fast’ or the peloton’s average speed is high be aware that a breakaway attempt may take 4-5 strong motivated riders all sharing the work.

Frank:  The race begins on the last lap. Until then, sit in.  With 5 laps to go, ‘get to the front’ – aka not on the front but at the front. Use wheels coming by you to jump on and take you up to the front. Ideally you are in top 3, top 5 at least with 1 to go and the 2 riders in front of you are going for it.  If they aren’t, plan on riders from behind coming up and you hoping on their wheel. Don’t get swarmed. Whoever exits the last corner first usually wins.  Also race with a teammate or friend: one teammate sells out for the other chasing down attacks and on the last lap leads you out.  Then the next race swap team work roles and you lead him/her out!

And there you have it: learn how to surf wheels to stay positioned at the front of the race. Wait for the last lap if you are a sprinter and don’t if you aren’t and implement team work. Oh and cornering skills are a must so be sure to practice at home!

Copyright 2016 , FasCat Coaching

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For more information about criterium training, check out this “Watts UP” training tip. Or to talk with one of the FasCat Coaches about your upcoming criterium and training, please call 720.406.7444 or email for a New Athlete Questionnaire.  Otherwise use these tips above to race smart in your next criterium!