The idea of 'blocking' is taken to extremes all too often when people hit the brakes, swerve, or otherwise pull those bone head moves that have come to define lower category racing. Don't be a bonehead! Trailing off in the final corner is as simple as letting a small gap open and softening your pedal stroke a little. We are generally talking about an advantage of half a bike or less, so it doesn't take much to tip the scales in your favor.
The Form Up
Getting your riders together can be surprisingly difficult in a race. Some may be in front, some the back, right, left, center, they will be all over the place. Designate one rider to set the train in motion. During your pre-race meeting (yea, you should have one!) decide who and when the team will organize.
Typically the designated sprinter will have another teammate in attendance throughout the race so that rider is the most likely candidate to start the paceline. The rest of the team must quickly slot in around this duo. Initially you can simply surround the sprinter as your team moves into their designated place in the rotation.
Once you have a cohesive formation it's time to do your thing. So do YOUR thing—get out in the wind, away from the rest of the field, or at least on the periphery. Don't play games with position, execute your strategy and dominate the finish.
Team vs Team
Want to know who the fastest, strongest leadout riders are? Why not race for it! Split your team in two, or three, small trains and race each other to the line. It's also a great time to practice some tactics and handling skills, but ultimately the point is to practice fast group riding and see what the order of the leadout might be.
Try it on different courses, in different conditions and with a differing mix of riders to see how things change and what the fastest combination truly is.
MotorpacingIf you can find an experienced driver, then pacing behind a scooter or motorcycle is another step up in realism. Though most often used for individual training, group motorpacing is the best way to simulate the speed, and requisite high speed handling demands, of a race finish. Practice rotating through the draft at race speed. Jump from the back of the group to the front, or drop to the side of the draft and try to hold the same speed for as long as your riders can—then sprint to get back on!
SummaryField sprinting is a blast, and it's even more fun when it's a true team effort! These are just a few of the myriad ways to improve your team's execution, cohesion and results. The most important lesson to remember is that almost nothing you do as a group will be counter productive to the team's development, so long as you are willing to work hard, try new ideas, learn from your mistakes and keep pushing the envelope. Watch and wonder at the professionals and amazing abilities, then go out and find your own. It's why we ride.
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Matt McNamara is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach with over 20 years of racing, coaching and team management experience. He is the President of Sterling Sports Group and races road, track and cyclocross in Northern California. Sterling Sports Group is a growing company focused on creating a seamless interface between athlete and coach, technology and personal attention. Visit us online to learn more at www.sterlingwins.com