In this blog we will be focusing how you can, with a simple race plan and a bit of homework, improve your results. These tips will come handy whether you do lots of races or if you just ride your local club race once per year. Many athletes tend to have a race pattern, so in the end we will be also focusing on a post-race summary. In this blog we will not discuss about training or nutrition but only about the factors that can make a big difference during the race.
Course recon is becoming more and more vital part of cycling. In pro peloton you see teams send their core team to check the vital stages of the race. For example in Tour of Flanders riders tend to know each corner or important part of the parcour. Knowing the course can be a big factor because you understand when to save energy and when you have to give it your all.
How can you do this? Well if the race is near you can go and check it yourself. Even for a simple local TT course this can make a big difference, for example you can check the corners and ideal line. For a longer event you can dissect it in a few key parts if you don’t have the time to see everything.
What about the events that are further away? You can come a day earlier and check it or if you don’t have the time just use Google maps and see the starts of a climb or last km. This will come handy when you will be fighting in sprint with others.
Study the pattern of the race
Some races are more predictable and some are less. If you check when and where the race was decided in the last couple of events you will be ready in the crucial sectors. This doesn’t mean that that the race will develope like years before but it will give a sense of direction in which the race normally goes.
If you are fighting for the win or a good result you have to know your nemesis. Normally you are always surrounded with racers that are in your level. To improve your result aim a bit higher. See what guys slightly better than you are doing. Try to spot how you can take to your advantage their strong and weak points. For example, if you fight for a placing with a rider that you know is slower than you in the corners use this to gain on him. In the opposite the direction if you know that a guy is brutally strong on short climbs try to follow him and make his strength your own.
Know your limits
A lot of riders tend to do the same mistakes. They put their cards on the table too early. Learn to listen to your body look at your power data and all the tips above. If you go too early or do too much from the start you will find yourself on the back end when the things will really heat up.
This is where you might make the biggest gains. Be and the front at the crucial point and you can surprise yourself with your end result. If you stay closer to the front there is also a smaller chance of getting stuck behind the crash. You also avoid being on the elastic and sprinting out of corners. There are two major factors that positioning in the pack can save you. First one is a surviving a climb with guys that are potentially much better climbers than you. Second one is racing in crosswinds. Staying on the front can save be a difference between racing for a podium or coming home 30 minutes after the winner.
Passing a guy in the corner or gaining 20 positions is a big deal. There are a lot of riders who are excellent in riding uphill but tend to lose 2-3 min on the downhill, especially in the rain. This happens not only with recreational riders but also the guys in the pro peloton. This is something you can obviously improve. If you have the chance try riding a bit of cyclocross or MTB during the winter, you can test the limits there much easier and the grass is softer then the asphalt.
Second thing you can do you can make yourself a track made of cones or bidons and try to finish it as fast as you can. This can drastically improve your bike handling and even your position on the bike. Last thing is to just watch the tapes of good riders or even better if someone is living near you just ask him for an advice.
After the race is finished and you ate your bowl of post-race meal it’s important to dissect how the race went. Try to figure your good points and what you did wrong. Discuss this with your coach. Maybe a simple tweak of your training plan will make all the difference. Also ask your fellow teammates or other competitors what they think. Maybe you could get something useful from that. Each rider tends to race in a way that he feels most comfortable for him. Maybe there is a pattern inside that is actually hurting you.
These are a few tips that can potentially improve your results. I will be posting more race situations in the next blogs and how to be prepared for them.
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