ATTACKimage from www.cyclingweekly.co.uk

Have you ever noticed the times in a bike race when someone attacks and everyone hesitates expecting each other to chase it down?  The ebbs and flows of the peloton is something that you can use to your advantage if you know how to read it.

I was racing the other night and remembered one of the golden rules of attacking: Attack on the lull.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “lull” as : A pause during which things are calm or activities are diminished.

The further a race goes on and the more fatigued the riders get, the more pronounced the surges and lulls of the peloton are.   There’s no use attacking when the pace is at 50km/hr. That means you’ll have to be riding at 60km/hr just to get away. Fat chance.

Instead, wait for the pace to calm down.  There is usually a lull when the riders at the front of the bunch who have been doing all the work either shut a breakaway down, or give up on it.   This is the perfect time to counter-attack.  Preferably closer to the end of a race when everyone is tired, the finish line is near, and everybody is thinking about their own chances of winning.  Everyone will expect the riders who have been doing all the work to chase you down, but it’s unlikely since they’ve just put a big effort in.  This works much better with small groups as everyone will be tired.

A teammate of mine orchestrated this to perfection last week.  We were in a break away group of about 20 riders.  He unleashed a massive attack in the last 3 laps of a criterium.  He was never going to get away, but sacrificed himself to put the hurt on the bunch.  Everyone was strung out gasping to get back onto the wheel in-front.  My teammate kept the pressure on until he couldn’t do anymore damage.  Once everyone regrouped there was a big lull in the pace as everyone needed a rest.  This is when I hit them – HARD.  I was still hurting but I knew it was now or never.  Only 2 others followed and everyone looked at each other expecting someone else to chase us down.   We had a 200m gap in no time and they couldn’t bring us back by the time they sorted out who was going to do the chasing. 

Note: I didn’t win, but the attack worked like a charm.  I’d better go back and read my Top Sprinting Mistakes post.  Also my teammate here is Duncan Smith who’s won the Tour of Valencia and 3rd in the Tour Down Under – WOW!