So Now What?So let's say on a given day, you're one of the three Pawns and you do get into a break. The decision making process is far from over.
If you get into a break with a weaker rider, you don't necessarily want to do too much work. What's the point of wasting precious energy on a doomed attempt? The only reason to stick with a break like this is to give your teammates a chance to sit up and rest. As long as they've got a rider up the road, the most they will have to do is to ride in the slipstream of a chase.
However, this does not mean the rest of the team should sit up and admire their shiny shaved legs. You still need to have several racers at the front to follow riders attempting to bridge across. Every time someone jumps you should have someone right on their wheel.
When an opponent attacks, attempting to bridge across to the break, several things may happen. First, if the attacking rider sees you sucking their wheel, they will often just give up the chase, knowing that they will have to do all the work themselves (because you have a teammate in the break). They know you won't help them bridge so why should they give you a free ride? However, if you are lucky, they will continue their pursuit and you can rest in her draft all the way up to the break where you can then you're your teammate.
Speaking of free rides, sometimes this next point seems too obvious to even mention, but time and again, I see newer riders doing it. You should almost never take a pull when you are bridging up to a teammate or while you are in the pack with a teammate up the road. You have the advantage in those situations. Why would you help an opponent or the pack catch your own teammate? All you have to do is suck wheels and let yourself get pulled up to the break.
However, there are exceptions to every rule. Your teammate is in the break with a much stronger rider and you are concerned that he might get dropped. In those cases, when you follow an attempt to bridge, let the chaser open the gap on their own and once you feel that you are comfortably out of the grasps of the bunch, you may decide to help the chase.
Of course you would never do this if a potential race winner is in the chase group with you. In that case, you might be better off leaving it up to your weaker teammate to get the job done. All of this should be discussed well before the start of the race so there are no bad feelings afterwards.
Never work yourself out of a break. I've often seen a sense of pride or excitement overcome a rider. Lost in the moment, he takes just one too many pulls, blows up and goes back to the pack. Trust me, when your teammates think they've got the race locked up and suddenly in the distance, they see a familiar jersey floating back towards them, they will not be happy.
If you're tired and you have to sit in for a couple turns, do it. Getting yelled at by your breakaway partners is not nearly as bad as letting down the team. Of course, the ideal situation is to get your strongest rider into a break with their strongest rider so this never even becomes a concern.
Josh Horowitz is a USCF certified coach and an active Category 1 racer. For more information about his coaching services and any coaching questions you may have, check out his website, LiquidFitness.com.
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