The beauty of bike racing is that no single race is the same in terms of how it plays out. One thing is for certain; you can never predict what is going to happen.
The reason is quite simple. You cannot control what other teams and individuals have planned as their strategy and although we want to think we can control their tactics, it's just not possible.
A successful bike racer needs to be fit, be able to risk some things and most importantly be ready to make game time decisions on the fly. As a slightly different way of addressing this issue, let's approach a bike race with a series of questions you and your team can ask before, during, and after the race.
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For clarification, I am not providing answers, just good questions to get you thinking about how to approach a race with a good checklist.
More: Bike Racing 101
? What is the course like? What (hills, turns, pavement quality) and where (location) are the important points on the course? Are there any "out of sight, out of mind" features like narrow roads that take a rider or break out of sight quickly.
? Where do you want to be in the field at the critical locations on the course? (Start of hills or climbs, corners, tricky descents, etc.)
? How has the race been won in past years or weeks? How has the race played out recently, e.g., solo break, sprint finish, group breakaway, etc.?
? What are the wind conditions on the course? What direction? What strength? When in the race? In other words, a stronger crosswind at a certain location earlier in the race will do less damage than the last part of the race, when riders are more tired and there is less room for error.
? What does the finish line look like? How do the last few miles look going into the finish? What visual markers can you look for as you approach the finish line, so you know where you are on the course, assuming you don't know the course well?
? How important is it to be near the front during the start?
? Did you plan enough time to get to the race, register, change, relax and warm up properly?
? Where is the feed zone and what is the course like around that point? Is it chaotic? Is it a place where riders are getting dropped? Where is your feeder? Did you setup a position for your feeder and is he/she visible with your team jersey?