This past week I had the opportunity to serve as the Head Coach for the USAC East Coast Junior Mountain Bike Talent Camp in Maryland. One of the subjects that came up several times was that of strategy. While we spoke mostly in terms of planning a race strategy, the concept of strategy can be applied to any ride or event that a person is looking to complete.
When most cyclists ask about cycling strategy, the most common question usually concerns how to go about developing a strategy for the day of the race. The oversight here is that strategy begins well before the actual race, and should be planned months in advance.
Strategy starts the moment you sit down to decide which races you'll want to do over the course of a season, and which ones you'll want to target your training around. These important decisions should never be made without a few key considerations. Before you can develop a winning strategy during a race, you need to think about what's going on in the bigger picture.
Do a Self-Assessment
First, you need to know yourself. Every cyclist needs to do a good self-assessment to determine individual strengths and weaknesses. It's very important to be honest and really consider what you do well and what you struggle with.
Some cyclists are going to be great climbers. Others may be great at sprinting. Some riders might have the endurance to ride all day long, while others may have a hard time with even short distances. The key is to realize what you need to improve on and what strengths you already have.
Make a Race Schedule
Now that you've done the assessment, it's time to look at the type of events that you are going to schedule. If you've determined that you are a good climber but you don't have much of a kick, you should look for events that feature a lot of climbing.
Likewise, if you're a great bike handler, look for events that feature technical courses that will highlight your strengths. Consider your endurance and pair that with events of an appropriate length. This isn't to say that you can't choose to do events that don't line up with all your strengths.