With race season in full swing, now is an appropriate time to discuss the intricacies of attacking. Whether you are a serious racer or just want to put the hurt on your friends during a weekday group ride (or Sunday morning coffee shop ride), it is critical to remember a few key points in order to increase your chance of success.
The main goal of any attack is to create initial separation between yourself and the rest of the group. You have to create enough of a gap to make the other riders question whether they are able and willing to regain contact with your wheel. Sometimes even a moment's hesitation by the peloton is sufficient time for you to get away. At the very least, this makes any riders attempting to bridge up to you work just as hard as you did originally.
Here are 8 tips for making a successful breakaway.
Don't lead the Peloton
Don't attack from the very front. It is generally best to be rider number two through five. Depending on how large the group is, you could potentially be a few spots further back but not much further than 10 riders. You want to be near the front, but not on the front. This allows you to use the element of surprise, and you won't be fatigued from pulling the peloton from the front.
Timing is Everything
Pick an appropriate place on the course to attack. Immediately coming out of a turn is often a good place to attack if you are near the front because the riders behind you have to slow down through the turn and must accelerate to catch back on to the front, leading to the "accordion effect." A hill or other defining feature is also generally an ideal place to attack because the group will be going at a slower pace, there is less draft benefit, and many riders may already be at their limits.
Take Note of the Wind Conditions
It is usually inadvisable to attack into a headwind because the added resistance makes it more difficult to create separation. Similarly if there is a cross wind, you'd want to attack from the side more sheltered from the wind. The strong wind makes it more difficult for you to create separation, and if anyone is able to get on your wheel, they save an incredible amount of energy by drafting.