Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Podium Preparation: Tips for Strong Racing

by Marianne Holt, PCG elite coach
Peaks Coaching Group Marianne Holt Racing Tips Podium Preparation

Have you ever tried moving up through a large field in a crit but just couldn’t find your way to the front? Maybe you get halfway through the pack then get gapped off by other riders and fall off the back. One way to avoid this is to know the course ahead of time and find the best places to move up. The straightaways typically give you the most room to move up, but sometimes it takes less energy to move up in the turns when other riders slow. Give yourself objectives to achieve during a race, such as passing one rider in each turn. Talk to your teammates or other racers who have raced the course before and ask them about the best places to move up. It’s also especially important to pre-ride the course so you can determine the best, fastest lines in the turns and know the wind direction in the straightaways.

Another thing to consider is staging or lining up before the race. If there’s a large field, be sure to line up on or near the front. If you start a crit in the back of a large field, you create additional work for yourself. It’s easier to stay at the front than to fight your way up through the field to get there. You’ll need enough fitness to be able to stay near the front, but that’s easier than working your way to the front around dozens of other riders. That takes not only fitness but great handling and often nerves of steel. Remember, in criteriums with large fields, if you’re not moving up, you’re moving back!

In early-season, longer road races, the pace sometimes slows to a very “recreational” pace. This often happens when most riders don’t have the fitness to put in the work at the front and are happy to let others do it. But don’t let down your guard; just when the pace slows and riders start looking around at each other, an alert rider will attack and a break will likely go. Instead of hanging with the slackers, make the attack yourself! You just might establish the winning break.

If you do miss the break, rather than going to the front and dragging the entire field up to them, attack and bridge up to the break by yourself. You increase your odds of having a good finish if you’re in the break rather than sprinting with the entire field.

As always, you must train for your races. Build up your fitness to the level necessary to win. Buy a training plan, hire a coach, work hard. If you know you don’t have the fitness to go after the win with confidence, you’ll probably be happy just to sit in and wait for someone else to do the work. And that is not the path to the podium.

Good luck out there!

Marianne lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, where she enjoys all types of riding, including criterium races, road races, gran fondos, mountainous centuries, time trials, and the occasional cruise on her mountain bike or cyclocross bike. She is a Category 1 racer with the PainPathways Women’s Team and a USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach. She has extensive road racing experience, including NRC and International Stage Races, UCI races, and elite and masters nationals championship races. She is a former masters nationals time trial champion and has numerous silver and bronze medals from masters nationals criteriums and road races. Marianne can be contacted through info@peakscoachinggroup.com or www.peakscoachinggroup.com.