This is a bit of a rant or maybe start of a discussion of race tactics in P/1/2 races as we see them in the Southeast. If you have any thoughts, leave a comment. Our spam filter requires comments to be approved before they appear on the blog, so it might take a few hours for them to appear here.
I am continually confused and amused by individual’s and team’s actions in the main group, once a breakaway is established. So picture this, a breakaway group has comfortable lead of 1.5 or 2 minutes, what should the main group do? In the P/1/2 fields, we typically see several teams that have 4-7 guys in the race (or at least they are wearing the same kit). In the situation I described above, I would expect the teams who are not represented in the break to send one or more of their team to the front to contribute to bringing back the break. In this way, the work load is shared by many in a steady but fast pace that efficiently drags the main group back up to the break.
In practice however, what actually happens is that people in the main group just randomly attack and then everyone else in the group chases them down. The resulting fast/slow pace actually causes the gap to up, not down. When the group gets into this mode, no-one is willing to take an efficient turn on the front because they are afraid that the next attack is going to gas them. Once this year, when a prominent team in the SE missed the break, someone pointed out to them “it’s up to your team to chase. Send some riders to the front to help pull” and the response from their team leader was, “we don’t pull, we only attack”. I don’t understand this at all.
Ok, I have to add that I have seen some exceptions over the last few years in the Southeast, a few shining examples of times when riders from different teams have organized on the front for a common cause, or even times when a whole team has gone to the front to do the work. However, these occurrences are rare.
I suspect that this situation occurs for a couple reasons
1. True teamwork, where some members of the team expend energy for the good of others on their team is common in professional racing, but not common in amateur racing. I get the feeling that even in the P/1/2 ranks of the SE, even when a group of guys is wearing the same kit, that most everyone is really looking out for themselves more than the team goals. So, just as if you had no teammates in the race, it might make the most sense to attack to try to force a small chase group, rather than dragging the whole field along with you. I believe this symptom comes from lessons improperly learned in lower category racing where any functional team work is very rare and you really only look out for yourself.
2. The best teams always have someone in the break. This gives a free ticket to the rest of the team in the main group to sit in and do as little as possible. When these attacks happen, a good team with representation up the road just has to follow these attacks, making sure that if a chase group does form, that they are in that group also. So, if the best teams all have representation up the road, then the responsibility of closing the gap falls to the weaker teams and individuals who may not have the ability or knowledge to make it happen in an organized fashion.
So, my call to P/1/2 racers in the SE and across the nation – Think before you attack and if the main group is in this pattern of Attack/slow/attack/slow, maybe you should just go to the front and put in a steady pull while encouraging others to do the same.
Josh Whitmore – Globalbike Team Manager