Racing Strategy and Tactics: Bike Racing 101
Preparing your team's strategy, roles and tactics to win as a team.
When viewed through the eyes of non-competitive cyclists, bicycle racing
looks like an individual sport. Bicycle racers and fans of bike racing know that
this is not the case at all. Bicycle racing is like a chess match on wheels
where teams will use strategies such as blocks, attacks and sacrifices to help
increase their team’s odds of winning. This is perhaps best illustrated via a
Pro Tour team competing in Grand Tours. However, by following and implementing
some basic guidelines and tactics any team or club can race strategically and
increase their odds of winning the race.
Team Members Roles: Know Them!
The most valuable thing your team can do is to have a meeting and
discuss roles for the event. Your team should meet prior to warming up to
discuss tactics for the race. Once your team gets into the habit of having these
meetings, these pre-race meetings will not take much time at all.
One of the key aspects of the pre race meeting needs to be, to establish each
racers role for the event. Each team member should have a specific and detailed
role for the race. Although these roles need to be clearly outlined and defined
they can still be flexible. When each rider leaves the team meeting he/she
should very clearly understand their role as well as other team member’s role
for the day within the context of the team’s objective.
By assigning roles you can address each rider’s strengths and weaknesses and
factor them into the game plan for the day. By dispersing roles your team will
increase their chances of winning! Be sure to factor in that the team needs to
cover important moves in the race and work to have a “man up the road” if the
group up the road looks like it could stick to the finish. Factor in attacking,
counter attacking, climbs, wind direction and speed, as well as other elements
that can affect the race’s outcome.
Have A Rider In The Break: Be selective and
Do not go with every breakaway attempt. Be selective
in the moves your team chooses to cover and be aggressive if the opportunity
comes to attack and put other teams into difficulty.
Use Your Head in the Breakaway !
If you are the one on your team that made it into the breakaway, use
your head! Can you ride this break all the way to the finish line? More
importantly, if this break goes to the line can you win the race? Usually,
racers are so excited to be in the breakaway that they work too hard and
effectively ride themselves out of the break! The worst thing that can happen is
you get dropped out of the winning break. Imagine explaining that to your
teammates. Look up; look around. Is one of your teammates trying to bridge the
gap? How far to the finish line? Are there stronger riders in the break? How are
you going to win from this break?
If your team has more than one team member in the breakaway you have
decisions to make. Are you going to start one, two-ing the break as the finish
nears, or can one of you win the sprint and ride with that goal if the breakaway
comes to the line together?
In the Peloton: The day is not over!
Blocking is perhaps the most misunderstood term in bicycle racing. If
you have rider (s) up the road and a team wants to chase, then let them. If teams
want to send attacks up the road, follow the attacks but do not work unless it
benefits you and your team more than another team. Teams do not need to gather
on the front of the peloton in an attempt to slow the race down. Sometimes you
might be on the front and open a slight gap for a teammate who is trying to
escape, but never get in the way of sporting competitors who want to chase or
bring the break back. In the same breath, never use dangerous or “sketchy”
riding to disrupt the flow of the race or slow racers down.
What you can do though is set a false pace or tempo on the front of the field
where your competitors think you do not like the odds of your teammate in the
break and are actually working to bring the break back. The reality is that you
are not making time on the breakaway but rather allowing it to increase its gap
on the peloton.
If your team missed the breakaway be prepared to chase or attempt to create a
chase group to get team members up the road. Again, riders should know their
roles. Do not let anyone rider work to the point of “blowing up” by taking one
big pull. Spread the workload around. Even communicate with other teams to
encourage them to help. Another point to keep in mind is not to start the full
on chase until all your riders are at the front ready to work. The worst thing
is to have half of your team chasing and the other half still trying to get to
the front. In this scenario you will have too many racers in the wind at the
Your team will need to have a plan to work to bring the breakaway back
should your team miss the it. Is it more effective to work/pull as a unit to
pull the break back or to have guys continually attacking to keep the pace high
to bring back the break? These two different methods both can be effective
and you should know which one fits your team’s strengths the best.
Is the race coming to a pack sprint finish? If so, again everyone should know
his/her role and be prepared to start a lead out. To effectively execute a lead
out, the racers doing the lead out need to be aggressive and patient at the same
time; being ready to take charge at the exact time and not a moment too soon.
The racers conducting the lead out need to also be at least as strong as the
sprinter, ramping the pace up and “dropping” the sprinter off at a pre-appointed
spot (last turn, 200 meters to go, etc). The sprinter, in this scenario, has a
great responsibility to communicate and direct the lead out.
Racing is a dynamic event. Not one strategy is a perfect formula all of the
time. However, if you and your team know your roles, communicate clearly and
implement some simple guidelines you can increase your team’s chances of
Guidelines for Team Tactics Success
• Know your role: Each rider should have a clear understanding of the
team’s goals and how he/she fits into these goals
• Always have a rider in noteworthy breakaways: Do not put your team behind the
8 ball. Place a rider or riders in key breakaways.
• One team member in the wind at a time: No more than one team rider should be
working in the wind at any given time. Share the work and be aware of what is
going on around you. Do not push the pace in the breakaway if you have a rider
bridging and trying to make contact with the break.
• Work benefits you or your team: Never do any work that benefits someone else
or another team more than it benefits you or your team. Do not ride in the wind
or pull for no reason.
• Know when to attack the breakaway or peloton: Is everyone tired or feeling
fresh? If you attack is it to win? What is the purpose of the attack?
• To chase or not to chase: Know when and why to chase. Is it better to bridge
or to chase?
• Practice Lead Outs: Know how to effectively lead out and take charge of field
• Communicate clearly: Be sure to communicate with your team members as the race
changes and changes to your team’s strategy are made. Don’t whisper. Talk
clearly and loudly enough for your team to hear you. Even if others hear you
they still have to stop you and your plan.
• Do not get clumped up: As a team, do not ride all together. Spreading out will
increase your chances of following attacks and decrease the odds of more than
one team member being involved in the same crash should that occur.
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