by Paul Ozier, Peaks Coaching Group Elite Coach
2012 has come and gone, and I hope everyone is staying motivated as we think about the 2013 season. How was 2012 for you? Did you meet your objectives? Think back to your best performance, or your worst. What could have been different? Not just in that particular event, but what could you have done differently before the event to have a better result? If you won your event, I imagine you’re pretty happy. If the event had a worse-than-expected result, what was the cause? Do you need a stronger and faster sprint? Higher FTP? Better VO2Max?
Or could it be something most athletes overlook in training: Better race tactics. Click through to find out why this is such a key point that a lot of riders miss in training….
We all go out and perform the intervals, long rides, and whatever else we’re told to do by our coach, teammates, or whoever is directing you toward that path to glory. In my years of coaching and racing, I have seen time after time that the rider with the most horsepower does not always see the results that the training numbers indicate he or she should receive. How many times do you go out and practice winning a race? How many times do you go out and train to win? What data do you look at to see how you performed and why you just could not pull off the race results you hoped for? I upgraded to category II, and I am definitely not the strongest rider around. Race smarts, experience, and having a game plan (and goal) were my keys to success.
Two race tactics that are often overlooked are cadence and conservation of energy.
If you’ve trained all year and timed everything just right for your “A” event, you will most likely be feeling very good on the bike. You’ll feel unstoppable. You may feel like hammering away to show everyone you are king. But the only time you can claim the title of king is when you’re standing on the top spot of the podium. Your “A” event is not the time to make senseless attacks or efforts. You need to know your competition, conserve, and let other riders make the unsuccessful attacks and moves. Why waste all your skills and abilities by showing off today?
How many times have you seen the race come back together in the final few miles? You need to stay in the shelter of the peloton as much as possible. Be alert to everything around you. This is your “A” event, and what matters most is achieving the goal you set for yourself months ago. Save your legs for when things really start to heat up, like the last breakaway with 10 kilometers to go or the final climb before the finish—whatever you have determined to be the deciding moment. Many of the riders who did the earlier work, attacks, and moves will fall by the wayside as the race progresses. If you know the competition (and you should; after all, this is your “A” event), keep an eye on the riders who have a history of placing well, or, better yet, try to learn why they’re racing today. What are their goals? Watch the riders who always seem to make moves that stick. These are the ones you will need to go with if an early move is made.
Do you know the race course? Is the course one that always ends in a field sprint, or is it the course that has that key 1km climb 5 kilometers from the end? Plan for the race, train for the race, make a game plan, and stick to it as much as possible. Game plans are great, but sometimes you have to be aware that the plan needs to be adjusted slightly if circumstances warrant. Think, be smart, and do not react senselessly. This is a race, and things most likely will be unpredictable. Be aware of the environment around you—wind, course conditions, road surface, other riders, cars/traffic, etc.
I’ll touch briefly on cadence. Ask your coach to help you research all your racing data and key training files, and compare cadence in training to cadence in racing. So many times I see riders train at X watts and Y cadence. In a race they still race at about X watts, but the cadence is higher than in training, usually by 15-20 rpm! This excessive cadence variation, if not trained, can cause a higher respiratory rate, increased heart rate, a higher perceived exertion (which I’ve often heard destroys a rider’s mental focus), and a different level of fatigue that many times spits a rider out the back. The key is to know your cadence and stick to it in training and racing. Watch cadence in a race just like you watch watts and heart rate. If race data shows you always exceed training cadence by 10 or 15 rpm during a 30-second blast out of a corner or a 2-minute effort to close a gap in a criterium, then you would benefit greatly by training at a similar cadence and power as you plan for your racing block. We must prepare the body during training for the demands of racing.
Now is the time to look back to educate yourself about the previous race season and get a grip on what you need to be doing right now so that 2013 has a happier ending. Now is not necessarily the time to do months of only long, slow, and low-intensity riding. The fall and winter hold the keys to a successful race season ahead. This is the most important time to work properly to move to the next level in the coming year.
What do you need to do to make the coming season a success?
Paul Ozier is a Category II road racer and has been passionate about cycling for 25+ years. Coaching for the last ten years has allowed Paul to share the wealth of knowledge learned in 25 years of racing so that others don’t waste years with ineffective training methods and discouraging results. Paul is a USA Cycling Certified Level 2 Coach and an elite coach at Peaks Coaching Group. Paul can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.peakscoachinggroup.com and www.highpowercoaching.com.