Team tactics 101
Every week, Alison Powers and her fellow ALP Cycles coaches — Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager —share their experience, stories and advice with Ella readers in a ‘Weekly Wisdom’ training tips column. Additionally, once a month, Alison responds to your training, riding or racing questions.
Got a question for Alison and her team? Simply post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.
– Anne-Marije Rook
Bike racing is a team sport. In road racing, specifically, smart team tactics, a dialed in race plan and execution will win races.
Just as in other team sports (football, hockey, basketball), the team must come up with a game plan and the players are held accountable to do their part for the success of the team. This same idea applies to bike racing. The team comes up with a race plan (a pre-race meeting is very important), the riders on the team are given jobs to do in the race, and everyone is expected to do their part for the success of the team- or in cycling’s case- of getting one person to the line first.
Before starting any bike race, a race plan must be made, discussed with all racers on the team, and everyone needs to understand their ‘job’ in the race. A specific race plan will not only keep the team focused during the race, it also increases everyone’s chance at success.
A few things to think about before coming up with a race plan and team tactics:
- What is the team’s goal of the race?
- What are each rider’s strength’s and limitations when it comes to the specific race and course?
- What are the best chances of attaining the team goal?
Once you know these things, you can come up with a race plan. For example:
- Goal: To get on the podium
- Strengths: We have 3 riders- a descent sprinter, a good climber, and a strong TT’er.
- Forming a specific race plan that suits our riders, for example: The climber and TT’er will be patient the first half of the race, then they will start to look for opportunities to either attack or follow attacks. The climber will attack on the 2-mile climb. If she is caught, the TT’er will counter attack. They will take turns counter attacking each other until one of them is away in a breakaway, or it is obvious that the race is going to come down to a sprint finish.
While all this is happening, the sprinter is in the pack, out of the wind, taking care of herself and saving her legs for the sprint finish (if there is one). If it is a sprint finish, at 2 kilometres to go, the three riders will get together near the front of the race. Then at the mailboxes that are ~600 meters from the finish, the sprinter and the TT’er will get on the climber’s wheel as she starts the leadout. The climber will go as hard as she can for as long as she can. Once she starts to fade or stop accelerating, the TT’er will come around her with ~300 meters to go. At that point, the TT’er is riding as hard as she can with the sprinter on her wheel. As the TT’er’s speed starts to slow, the sprinter comes around her and sprints for the win.
This example is a specific race plan. The teammates know exactly what to do, when to do it, and each are held accountable for their race actions. Just like a coach holds you accountable for your training, recovery and nutrition, you hold yourself and your teammates accountable on race day.
Most importantly, there can be no team tactics if there is no team. A team must communicate with each other, plan together, help each other, push and challenge each other and race for the goal and success of the team- not the individual.
Your questions for Alison or any of the other ALP Cyles coaches don’t need to be limited to the topic at hand. Ask them anything! Post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtags #weeklywisdom or #askalp.
ALP Cycles Coaching is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.
Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Roading racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.