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Loosing my position in the bunch while racing

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Loosing my position in the bunch while racing

Old 06-03-19, 12:09 PM
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StodaD
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Loosing my position in the bunch while racing

Hi guys im back racing this year and first thing i notice is that in a race i cant really race and ride the bunch.

I have plenty of power and fitness for my catehory but when it comes to racing i always seem to loose my position in the bunch and will drift from the front to the back rather quickly. Then i am doing more work out of the corners to get t myself up to speed with the front of the bunch and eventually im tired and can't get to the front where i need to be.

I know i have to stay in the front but i cant grasp it and stay there and i cant get placed in any race which is frustrating when putting in the time training. Positioning is everything and im poor at it.

Any advice greatly appreciated.

Thanks
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Old 06-03-19, 12:20 PM
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How long was your break from racing?

How long (and consistently) had you raced before?

Without knowing any more, my advice is to just do it more and re-acquaint yourself. It takes some nerve and assertion to hold your position especially when the speed isn't super high. But it's important to do it gracefully and not aggressively. So it takes some practice.
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Old 06-03-19, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by TMonk View Post
How long was your break from racing?

How long (and consistently) had you raced before?

Without knowing any more, my advice is to just do it more and re-acquaint yourself. It takes some nerve and assertion to hold your position especially when the speed isn't super high. But it's important to do it gracefully and not aggressively. So it takes some practice.
Im racing about 5 years. Went from category 4 to 3 first year racing and have been stuck in cat3 since. I havent raced in about 1.5 years and started back this year and have done 2 races finishing in the bunch. I just find it hard to stay near the front. When others come from behimd the bunch i drift back too far and have to make big efforts to get back up again and then i fatigue and stay where i am at the back of the bunch.

I cant seem to be able to improve it at all.
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Old 06-03-19, 12:43 PM
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Without knowing anything about your training, I would guess that some of it is fitness. Even when I have decent aerobic fitness, it takes me a lot more to get that snap that allows you to hit those micro-bursts you need to stay near the front. And I'll bet a lot of it is just getting back your pack sense. You said you've done 2 races since coming back. That's not a lot. I think if you're patient and keep at it, it will come back.
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Old 06-03-19, 12:48 PM
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Old 06-03-19, 01:06 PM
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@StodaD do you train with power? Do you know what your w/kg is? Body weight? If it makes you fatigued to move up in a cat 3 crit, you need more fitness and/or skill. Riding on the very back of the race should be easier than the middle as you can "tailgun" by leaving a gap and taking corners faster. Practice moving up using a minimum of energy. Be patient.

Another solution is to attack! If it makes you nervous to be in the pack, go of the front. But really I think you just need to be patient and do it more. It's OK if it takes you a few races (or a whole season) to find your groove.
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Old 06-03-19, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by TMonk View Post
@StodaD do you train with power? Do you know what your w/kg is? Body weight? If it makes you fatigued to move up in a cat 3 crit, you need more fitness and/or skill. Riding on the very back of the race should be easier than the middle as you can "tailgun" by leaving a gap and taking corners faster. Practice moving up using a minimum of energy. Be patient.

Another solution is to attack! If it makes you nervous to be in the pack, go of the front. But really I think you just need to be patient and do it more. It's OK if it takes you a few races (or a whole season) to find your groove.

Thanks for the reply. Yeah I train with power using quarq powermeter. My weight is 74kg and ftp is 331w. 6foot 2 in height. Definitely can improve the fitness and skill. I reckon my skill in the bunch is poor. I get a bit nervous when a bike gets too close to my side.
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Old 06-03-19, 01:17 PM
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Well I think you have enough fitness for it, it's just getting back into the swing of things is taking a while. Do some more group rides and races!
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Old 06-03-19, 01:20 PM
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Do you have weeknight training crits in your area that you can race? Like Caloso said, 2 races back from a break is not much and more racing is going to help you more than anything else. Your fitness should be more than plenty to stay with the group and move up in a Cat 3 race.
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Old 06-03-19, 01:33 PM
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Someone once told me if you're not moving up in the group, you're moving backward. In my experience, that has pretty much always proven true. So, if you want to hold a position near the front, you really need to be constantly working to move up in the field.
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Old 06-03-19, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Someone once told me if you're not moving up in the group, you're moving backward. In my experience, that has pretty much always proven true. So, if you want to hold a position near the front, you really need to be constantly working to move up in the field.
bingo
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Old 06-03-19, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Someone once told me if you're not moving up in the group, you're moving backward. In my experience, that has pretty much always proven true. So, if you want to hold a position near the front, you really need to be constantly working to move up in the field.
This.

Was scrolling through just to make sure it had been posted.

Another way to say it is "if you're not passing, you're being passed"

Get used to moving up IN the field, so you don't have to do it in the wind.
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Old 06-03-19, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Someone once told me if you're not moving up in the group, you're moving backward. In my experience, that has pretty much always proven true. So, if you want to hold a position near the front, you really need to be constantly working to move up in the field.
+1 Every rider who comes up the far side of the field and slots in somewhere ahead of you has just pushed you back a rider.

This is the head game of racing. You have to keep you eyes open for opportunities to move up. Sometimes my gut said "move up" Sometimes I did it and had good races (and once, I felt a nudge on my rear tire a minute after the move. My club vets said that rider was a crash waiting to happen and not my fault at all. Without that little internal nudge, I''d have been part of the pile-up. And another race I didn't listen, the break went away on that long hill (my home territory) and I missed an excellent chance to qualify for the Nationals. All I had to do was be there.

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Old 06-03-19, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro View Post
Someone once told me if you're not moving up in the group, you're moving backward. In my experience, that has pretty much always proven true. So, if you want to hold a position near the front, you really need to be constantly working to move up in the field.
This.

And to go with this, you don't move up from the middle of the pack. You surf the sides, ideally behind other dudes as they're moving up. It's easy to get stuck in the middle when you start hurting as it gives the most draft, but when you're in the middle everyone else is moving up the sides and then you're quickly at the back again. It's a vicious, race-ending cycle. Once I finally figured out how essential that was in large crit fields it took me from getting dropped and not even finishing to being in the money, with little change in actual fitness. It was probably the most significant thing I've ever learned in racing.

You have to set yourself up on the outsides of the group to continue to surf towards the front. Get yourself in that "blob" of the first 15-25 riders and you'll be coasting while the rest of the field is strung out and dropping 500 watts out of the turns. Game-changer.
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Old 06-03-19, 09:09 PM
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Thanks guys for some great tips and advice.

I hope to try out some of these useful tips next time im racing. Im a bit green with racing but just hoping to try a few things to see can i get myself near the front and maintain my position in the bunch.
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Old 06-03-19, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by StodaD View Post
Hi guys im back racing this year and first thing i notice is that in a race i cant really race and ride the bunch.

I have plenty of power and fitness for my catehory but when it comes to racing i always seem to loose my position in the bunch and will drift from the front to the back rather quickly. Then i am doing more work out of the corners to get t myself up to speed with the front of the bunch and eventually im tired and can't get to the front where i need to be.

I know i have to stay in the front but i cant grasp it and stay there and i cant get placed in any race which is frustrating when putting in the time training. Positioning is everything and im poor at it.

Any advice greatly appreciated.

Thanks
This is my 6th year of racing, and I have the same problem. I see the lines to move up through the pack, my nervousness gets the best of me and I rarely do it. As a cat.4 it was manageable, but now as a cat.3, it's killing me, can't even finish in the top half.
I asked this same thing of my first coach a couple of years ago, and he did have a drill for this. He lined up 3 guys going down the road, and you then had to get through or around them somehow. Going around the outside in the middle of the road wasn't permitted, but you could go around the outside on the edge of the road if the opportunity presented itself. The idea was to make a gap and go through the middle. I think we only did it twice for about 5 minutes each. His philosophy was if he showed you, and you did it once, that you are now an expert, and we don't need to do that drill anymore. I did it, but it didn't sink in. I figure that if I could get a few guys together and do this for an afternoon that it would help greatly, to just do it until it becomes second nature. Unfortunately, I live in a place where asking to do anything like this is considered sacrilege, and asking about it will get you the "don't be so serious" speech. If you can get a couple of friends to do this with you, I think this is the quickest and easiest solution to give you the base skills to move around in the pack to where you want to be.
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Old 06-03-19, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by StodaD View Post
Thanks guys for some great tips and advice.

I hope to try out some of these useful tips next time im racing. Im a bit green with racing but just hoping to try a few things to see can i get myself near the front and maintain my position in the bunch.
You should also attack! You have some decent power. At your height, a lot of it may be about focusing on being aero so you can maximize your speed. At your level you should already be able to spend a couple (or a few) laps off the front and not have it end your race if you get caught. Learn how to attack by waiting for subtle changes in momentum and utilizing course features to your benefit. Some people will eventually realize that you're good to drive some pace and you might get a break going!
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Old 06-04-19, 03:14 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclinganomaly View Post
This is my 6th year of racing, and I have the same problem. I see the lines to move up through the pack, my nervousness gets the best of me and I rarely do it. As a cat.4 it was manageable, but now as a cat.3, it's killing me, can't even finish in the top half.
I asked this same thing of my first coach a couple of years ago, and he did have a drill for this. He lined up 3 guys going down the road, and you then had to get through or around them somehow. Going around the outside in the middle of the road wasn't permitted, but you could go around the outside on the edge of the road if the opportunity presented itself. The idea was to make a gap and go through the middle. I think we only did it twice for about 5 minutes each. His philosophy was if he showed you, and you did it once, that you are now an expert, and we don't need to do that drill anymore. I did it, but it didn't sink in. I figure that if I could get a few guys together and do this for an afternoon that it would help greatly, to just do it until it becomes second nature. Unfortunately, I live in a place where asking to do anything like this is considered sacrilege, and asking about it will get you the "don't be so serious" speech. If you can get a couple of friends to do this with you, I think this is the quickest and easiest solution to give you the base skills to move around in the pack to where you want to be.
this is where experience and racing lots gets you ahead. Try being concious of these opportunities and taking them, gaining confidence doing this is a huge energy saver. Especially in big bunches moving up 1 row of guys means you are now maybe 10-15 spots further up the pack, mostly for free.
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Old 06-04-19, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
This.

And to go with this, you don't move up from the middle of the pack. You surf the sides, ideally behind other dudes as they're moving up. It's easy to get stuck in the middle when you start hurting as it gives the most draft, but when you're in the middle everyone else is moving up the sides and then you're quickly at the back again. It's a vicious, race-ending cycle. Once I finally figured out how essential that was in large crit fields it took me from getting dropped and not even finishing to being in the money, with little change in actual fitness. It was probably the most significant thing I've ever learned in racing.

You have to set yourself up on the outsides of the group to continue to surf towards the front. Get yourself in that "blob" of the first 15-25 riders and you'll be coasting while the rest of the field is strung out and dropping 500 watts out of the turns. Game-changer.
What he said! It took forever for it to click for me but I'm finally starting to get the hang of it.

I turn it into a game sometimes, see how little I can hit the brakes. When others slow down I use momentum to surf up the sides. Or when the pace is a bit higher and things are a bit strung out you can sometimes slingshot forward using the draft. You can read people's body language a lot of the time too and see they're intending to move forward, so you hop on their wheel and let them do the work for you. People can also read your body language and will realize if you lack the confidence to protect your position. So, act like you belong, and yeah if you're not moving up you are proooobably filtering backwards.
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Old 06-04-19, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by TheKillerPenguin View Post
What he said! It took forever for it to click for me but I'm finally starting to get the hang of it.

I turn it into a game sometimes, see how little I can hit the brakes. When others slow down I use momentum to surf up the sides. Or when the pace is a bit higher and things are a bit strung out you can sometimes slingshot forward using the draft. You can read people's body language a lot of the time too and see they're intending to move forward, so you hop on their wheel and let them do the work for you. People can also read your body language and will realize if you lack the confidence to protect your position. So, act like you belong, and yeah if you're not moving up you are proooobably filtering backwards.
The next race i will stay to the sides of the bunch and move up behind a rider that is moving up and continue the process each time someone is moving up. Il try it and see can i improve what i mormally do.
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Old 06-09-19, 09:36 PM
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This is a familiar question/problem. The issue here is usually being uncomfortable with others around your front wheel and bars. I call this the "Sphere" as the old timers in the forum will know. I've posted about this here before but I think one post on red*** I've done explains it well. I use the same username on red***.

https://www.red***.com/r/Velo/commen...flowy_courses/

*edit: I suppose I can c/p it since I wrote it.

1. Reduce Sphere.

2. Learn to take wheels.

3. Move up when it's single file or spread out.

Whenever I hear of a rider that has problems surfing the front of the field, one scene pops up immediately. It was a Junior in a Cat 3 race. He was strong but he stayed a few feet off the wheel in front of him. In that Cat 3 race were a number of Masters National Champions (former and present), former Olympians, former Cat 1s, and probably a total of 30 national jerseys spread across 5 or 6 shoulders. Plus the regular aggressive 3s and former 2s.

I watched as the hapless Junior would move up hard on the outside, move in, and move back so quickly it was like his brakes were one.

At one point he cried out, "Why is this happening to me!?"

It must have been incredibly frustrating.

The problem was that he couldn't get too close to the wheel in front. He felt uncomfortable when someone moved into that "close area". I call that area your Sphere, the "personal area" around the handlebars that you need clear to feel comfortable. His Sphere was huge, probably 5 feet in front and maybe a foot to the sides. In a tight, experienced Cat 3 field that size Sphere was an invitation to move in, as if the Junior was backing off the let someone in and waving his hand to encourage the movement.

In contrast my Sphere is probably 2-3" to the sides and maybe 6" up front, meaning I'm not panicking if someone is that close. I prefer not to have any contact so I'll say 1" to the side and 2" up front for close quarters work, and I generally stay much further away than that, maybe a foot to the sides and a foot up front.

(All the above numbers are in the middle of the field where I don't know the riders well. If in a tight paceline with known riders then it's more like 1-2" up front - I'm okay with a lot of overlap - and next to known quantities I'm comfortable with side/shoulder contact for a second or two at a time.)

So first, reduce your Sphere. Do so by practicing bumping side to side, which reduces your side to side Sphere. Practice touching your front wheel into another rider's rear wheel (I detail elsewhere in r/Velo), keeping in mind that you will fall and therefore you need to be prepared. I did drills on grass/lawn wearing heavy clothing and keeping speeds down to a minimum.

Second, learn to take wheels. It is infinitely easier to take a wheel than defend one. Therefore do not try to defend wheels as much as take them. I can defend a wheel pretty ferociously but it requires very dirty riding and I'll lose the wheel in a minute or two of very intense battle, and probably make a lot of enemies doing it. In contrast I can take a wheel in about 15 seconds, gently, smoothly, with no choice on the other rider's part. Learn to take wheels rather than trying to defend your spot.

The trick to taking wheels is to back into the spot. If you want to take Rider A's wheel, get up sort of next to or slightly behind him, then move over a bit. Start with your knuckles about 1" from A's hip (small Sphere makes this possible). Then sort of drift back a bit while your knuckles move so that they're close to his rear wheel plane. You've only moved over about 6" but there's virtually no way someone can keep you off A's wheel. This is one of the absolute secret to racing effectively. It's mindblowing how effective this move is, how impossible it is to defend against it, etc. I have a couple hundred pages of racing tactic stuff written down but if I condensed it to one page this concept would stay on it.

When I run into someone that knows this then I just take the wheel back. Or, more often, I wait, because it's almost never so critical to have that wheel. It takes so little time to take the wheel back that you can put it off for 100 or 300 meters on the last lap, or for 5 laps if it's 5.5 laps to go. Etc.

Third, move up when it's strung out or starting to get spread out. The former requires some solid fitness. The latter requires having a smaller Sphere than those around you.
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Old 06-15-19, 10:35 AM
  #22  
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I don't road race much (just a crit and a road race this year and CX doesn't require the same skill lol), and usually ride solo so my group skills are sorely lacking. I want to be able to hang on fast rides but find myself losing wheels so easily, usually when the road pitches up, I try to keep up with the acceleration but just seems like people just go over inclines with ease while I'm struggling to hang on, and I'm no slouch fitness-wise (although my over threshold repeatability really sucks more than usual right now). So before I know it I'm way off the back and would have to do a herculean effort (for me) to catch back on (luckily stop lights help me). Of course, I always think it's an equipment problem (riding a 22lbs Allez with box section wheels vs all the guys with aero gear) but I know that's only partially true at best. As much as it hurts the ego, I'll keep trying!
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Old 06-15-19, 02:27 PM
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I raced last Thursday evening in a handicapped league race. Cat 4s with a 3 min head start over the cat 3s and cats 3 having a 3 min headstart over the cat 1 and 2 riders. On lap 1 i got myself into a break of 3 ridera and stayed away for 30km of the 42km race. Some of the cat 1s caught us with 2 laps to go and the pace went up feom there. I finished 9th but i was impressed that i got on a break early and almost stayed away. Another 2 riders in our break and i say we wouldnt have been caught. Sometimes you need luck in racing. Its a start anyway and i got stuck in this time unlike my last race.
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Old 06-15-19, 06:05 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
This is a familiar question/problem. The issue here is usually being uncomfortable with others around your front wheel and bars. I call this the "Sphere" as the old timers in the forum will know. I've posted about this here before but I think one post on red*** I've done explains it well. I use the same username on red***.

https://www.red***.com/r/Velo/commen...flowy_courses/

*edit: I suppose I can c/p it since I wrote it.

1. Reduce Sphere.

2. Learn to take wheels.

3. Move up when it's single file or spread out.

Whenever I hear of a rider that has problems surfing the front of the field, one scene pops up immediately. It was a Junior in a Cat 3 race. He was strong but he stayed a few feet off the wheel in front of him. In that Cat 3 race were a number of Masters National Champions (former and present), former Olympians, former Cat 1s, and probably a total of 30 national jerseys spread across 5 or 6 shoulders. Plus the regular aggressive 3s and former 2s.

I watched as the hapless Junior would move up hard on the outside, move in, and move back so quickly it was like his brakes were one.

At one point he cried out, "Why is this happening to me!?"

It must have been incredibly frustrating.

The problem was that he couldn't get too close to the wheel in front. He felt uncomfortable when someone moved into that "close area". I call that area your Sphere, the "personal area" around the handlebars that you need clear to feel comfortable. His Sphere was huge, probably 5 feet in front and maybe a foot to the sides. In a tight, experienced Cat 3 field that size Sphere was an invitation to move in, as if the Junior was backing off the let someone in and waving his hand to encourage the movement.

In contrast my Sphere is probably 2-3" to the sides and maybe 6" up front, meaning I'm not panicking if someone is that close. I prefer not to have any contact so I'll say 1" to the side and 2" up front for close quarters work, and I generally stay much further away than that, maybe a foot to the sides and a foot up front.

(All the above numbers are in the middle of the field where I don't know the riders well. If in a tight paceline with known riders then it's more like 1-2" up front - I'm okay with a lot of overlap - and next to known quantities I'm comfortable with side/shoulder contact for a second or two at a time.)

So first, reduce your Sphere. Do so by practicing bumping side to side, which reduces your side to side Sphere. Practice touching your front wheel into another rider's rear wheel (I detail elsewhere in r/Velo), keeping in mind that you will fall and therefore you need to be prepared. I did drills on grass/lawn wearing heavy clothing and keeping speeds down to a minimum.

Second, learn to take wheels. It is infinitely easier to take a wheel than defend one. Therefore do not try to defend wheels as much as take them. I can defend a wheel pretty ferociously but it requires very dirty riding and I'll lose the wheel in a minute or two of very intense battle, and probably make a lot of enemies doing it. In contrast I can take a wheel in about 15 seconds, gently, smoothly, with no choice on the other rider's part. Learn to take wheels rather than trying to defend your spot.

The trick to taking wheels is to back into the spot. If you want to take Rider A's wheel, get up sort of next to or slightly behind him, then move over a bit. Start with your knuckles about 1" from A's hip (small Sphere makes this possible). Then sort of drift back a bit while your knuckles move so that they're close to his rear wheel plane. You've only moved over about 6" but there's virtually no way someone can keep you off A's wheel. This is one of the absolute secret to racing effectively. It's mindblowing how effective this move is, how impossible it is to defend against it, etc. I have a couple hundred pages of racing tactic stuff written down but if I condensed it to one page this concept would stay on it.

When I run into someone that knows this then I just take the wheel back. Or, more often, I wait, because it's almost never so critical to have that wheel. It takes so little time to take the wheel back that you can put it off for 100 or 300 meters on the last lap, or for 5 laps if it's 5.5 laps to go. Etc.

Third, move up when it's strung out or starting to get spread out. The former requires some solid fitness. The latter requires having a smaller Sphere than those around you.
Don't give out all the secrets!
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Old 06-21-19, 06:52 AM
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cyclinganomaly
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Originally Posted by carpediemracing View Post
Second, learn to take wheels. It is infinitely easier to take a wheel than defend one. Therefore do not try to defend wheels as much as take them. I can defend a wheel pretty ferociously but it requires very dirty riding and I'll lose the wheel in a minute or two of very intense battle, and probably make a lot of enemies doing it. In contrast I can take a wheel in about 15 seconds, gently, smoothly, with no choice on the other rider's part. Learn to take wheels rather than trying to defend your spot.

The trick to taking wheels is to back into the spot. If you want to take Rider A's wheel, get up sort of next to or slightly behind him, then move over a bit. Start with your knuckles about 1" from A's hip (small Sphere makes this possible). Then sort of drift back a bit while your knuckles move so that they're close to his rear wheel plane. You've only moved over about 6" but there's virtually no way someone can keep you off A's wheel. This is one of the absolute secret to racing effectively. It's mindblowing how effective this move is, how impossible it is to defend against it, etc. I have a couple hundred pages of racing tactic stuff written down but if I condensed it to one page this concept would stay on it.
I've had this explained to me before, but I still have a hard time doing it. What do you do about the person whose spot you are trying to take that cries out "on your left (or right)"? I don't want to cause a crash, but should I let them crash? I know if they crash it is their fault, because if they have time to call out then I have made my intentions clear to them and they have had time to react, and they reacted by crying out and expecting me to move out of their bubble! Still, I usually back off. Is it just a matter of my not being mister nice guy anymore? Or is this just a lack of confidence on my part?
This was notorious in the cat.4/5's here, and it is the reason I upgraded to a 3. I rarely hear it in the out of state cat.3 races that I do, but I still hear it often in the local cat.3/4 fields. I have never heard it in the P/1/2/3 races that I have done, but of course there it is those guys taking my spot!
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