Bridging The Gap
It seems that lately I’ve been writing about everything else under the sun except for the cycling tips that I’ve mandated to myself. What I find funny is that I’ll spend hours writing some posts and doing checks in research journals to make sure I have my facts straight, meanwhile the posts that get the most attention are ones with little furry koalas, spraying champagne, victory salutes, and poking fun at commuters. I’m not a comedian at heart but I have fun writing those posts. However, for the most part I’ll write about what I know and stick with the TIPS.
Anyway, here’s a ‘cycling tip’ of the day…
The two common circumstances where break-aways occur in criterium or road racing are:
1. Riders dropping wheels and opening up a gap because they are not well positioned or strong enough to hold on
2. Someone attacks the peloton and gets away – usually with a few others that follow. To be successful this usually needs to be done at a difficult section of the course when no one can (or no one is willing) to chase.
I’ve written multiple posts on both of these topics and I’ll put some links at the bottom of this as a reference. The one thing that I haven’t covered is how to bridge the gap and be in one of those break-aways if you missed the initial move. Let’s face it, the initial attack fails more often than it succeeds, so it’s often a better strategy to wait to see if a move looks like it’ll stick and bridge across to it at the right time.
Many times a break-away starts off by one rider attacking the bunch and hanging himself out in front for a while. Once that rider is seen to be a possible threat another rider will join him. Next you’ll see a couple other riders get up there, and in a minute or two that group will be working so effectively together they’ll be outta site. Then you think to yourself “damn..there goes the race. I missed the winning move again“. Unless you’re extremely strong you probably won’t be able to bridge that gap alone. I’ve found that in crit racing with the faster speeds you won’t often be able to bridge a gap of more than 150-200 meters if you try to do it alone. I can’t anyway.
Who and What: What you need to do to successfully bridge one of those gaps to the break is to do it with another rider. You can do one of two things: 1) quickly chat with another rider and ask him if he wants to bridge with you, or 2) get up close to the front, wait for a strong rider to attack, and follow him. Your chances of getting across are almost certain if there are two of you working together giving 100%. If you try to do it alone you run a very high risk of getting stranded in no-mans-land. If a group of any more than 2 or 3 riders try to bridge up to the break the pack will probably get excited and chase you down.
When: Don’t attack the bunch and try to bridge the gap when the speed is 50km/hr. You’ll never get away. Time your attack for when there is a lull in the pack’s speed and no one is taking any responsibility for working up at the front. Usually no one will respond when this is the case and you’ll make it across to the break-away.
A few previous TIPS on Criterium Tactics, Break Aways, Attacks, etc: