To what extent is a fast drop-ride a race?

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Kurt1980
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Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:41 am

by Kurt1980

Nereth wrote:
Thu Jun 15, 2023 2:27 am
So honestly all of the points I'm reading seem pretty well-rounded and I'm forced to agree. I can't even reasonably play devil's advocate to push for deeper conversation, since no one is swinging too extreme the other way either.

In retrospect, most of the issues raised with the groupie are absolutely in-line with my own experience (people take more risks then don't get punished, different people having different ideas of the goal, sitting in being shameful instead of smart, etc).

Maybe a more productive question would be, what concrete things have you been able to learn from racing that you would never learn from an aggressive group ride, or group riders would never realise they were missing? For example, not :
"Oh you get an intuition for how the pack moves and surges and responds to attacks" (true but wishy-washy) or ,
"you learn how to control your bike in a tight pack" (can totally learn that on a groupie)

but rather,

"you learn how to deploy XYZ method to get other guys to work",

For example in my case, the races I have done;

1) You certainly take more bike handling risks, e.g. corner harder, and therefore learn the limits of traction etc faster (or just crash). You can learn this in a groupie but I don't think most people ever push as hard, as consistently, because unswept surprise sand is a thing.
2) I learned how easy the back of the pack was far more in a real race than in groupies as the packs were larger and my ego didn't demand me to stay near the front and pull turns. And then the amount of rubber banding is also lower as I think people's cornering speed is closer together on a race than a group ride where one guy is risk averse and slows the whole peloton up at the back.
Good thread.

Group rides: go hard and be a team player. Use it as a training tool for fitness, and to get used to the mental space of going beyond. No real consequences for making mistakes. Be a gentleman and take longer turns at the front, it will help with your fitness.

Racing: be selfish. Sit in with a plan to position yourself for the final sprint. But... scope out the fast peeps, watch for team tactics and be ready to chase down THE (not just any) break away.

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TobinHatesYou
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by TobinHatesYou

As someone who almost always races as a team of one, waiting for “the” breakaway is often the wrong move. The vast majority of the field has the handful of fastest guys marked and will suffocate any of their break attempts.

My thing is to either go up the road myself or follow the decoys of the big teams. They give us a long leash and my break partner’s team will help disrupt chase efforts. I also try to be sneaky with my attacks…I almost never sprint to initiate a break because that triggers Pavlovian drooling in some riders. I like going right up the middle of the group when there’s an opening at a steadily increasing pace. Half the time the back of the field doesn’t even realize I’m off the front until I’m already 10 seconds up the road. Either a small break stays away, the fast guys snap the elastic and bridge up from the main field, or we get caught and I try again…

Ironically this doesn’t work as well in lower categories because everyone is too eager to chase everyone else.

Also while sit-n-sprint works well at first, most will quickly discover that they aren’t actually sprinters and are the most generic of generalists/rouleurs once they get past (US) cat3 or regional equivalents. That’s not to say being a generalist is bad. You can do very well if you can sprint a little bit, climb a little bit, TT a little bit, etc. It just means you have to be a bit more wiley.
Last edited by TobinHatesYou on Sun Jun 18, 2023 2:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Kurt1980
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Joined: Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:41 am

by Kurt1980

TobinHatesYou wrote:
Sun Jun 18, 2023 1:27 am
As someone who almost always races as a team of one, waiting for “the” breakaway is often the wrong move. The vast majority of the field has the handful of fastest guys marked and will suffocate any of their break attempts.

My thing is to either go up the road myself or follow the decoys of the big teams. They give us a long leash and my break partner’s team will help disrupt chase efforts. I also try to be sneaky with my attacks…I almost never sprint to initiate a break because that triggers Pavlovian drooling in some riders. I like going right up the middle of the group when there’s an opening at a steadily increasing pace. Half the time the back of the field doesn’t even realize I’m off the front until I’m already 10 seconds up the road. Either a small break stays away, the fast guys snap the elastic and bridge up from the main field, or we get caught and I try again…

Ironically this doesn’t work as well in lower categories because everyone is too eager to chase everyone else.

Also while sit-n-sprint works well at first, most will quickly discover that they aren’t actually sprinters and are the most generic of generalists/rouleurs once they get past (US) cat3 or regional equivalents. That’s not to say being a generalist is bad. You can do very well if you can sprint a little bit, climb a little bit, TT a little bit, etc. It just means you have to be a bit more wiley.
I agree with a lot of this, and probably my different experiences/outlooks are more to do with the level of racing we're talking about. Sounds like you're doing national level races?

I've only raced local and state level, and most of my experience has been at C grade, recently moving to B grade. Races are typically 50-100km. In this case, I've found that in the cohort of say 30 - 40 people, most will just want to participate (which I actually totally support), so they're not willing to take turns at the front, let alone participate in a break. In the same cohort, there's also a few heroes who attempt a break from 5km in, regardless of whether anyone will go up the road with them. I've previously made the mistake of chasing down every perceived break, only to burn through a bunch of energy. Now I'm a little wiser with who and when I chase, and I've also realised most in this category aren't strong or experienced enough to successfully launch a solo break early on.

Sneaky attacks are good, extended climbs are a good place to launch them. Never thought about going up the middle, that's something to think about...I've also never tried to break with a sprint, totally agree with it triggering Pavlovian drooling, and putting a target on your back.

Sit-n-sprint has worked well for me. I'm not a bad sprinter and have caught a few on the line for 2nd a few times and one 1st . It's also part of the bigger picture of correct positioning coming into the final bit of the race. Prior to this I would see most of the pack launch a sprint 400m from the finish line, which is a loooong way for amateurs to sprint with good power. Most would invariably blow up at 200m (about where I'm going to start, generally) and clog the road, preventing me from getting through. That's happened in road races and crits. So now I guess it's sit-position-sprint?

TobinHatesYou
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by TobinHatesYou

Kurt1980 wrote:
Sun Jun 18, 2023 2:52 am

I agree with a lot of this, and probably my different experiences/outlooks are more to do with the level of racing we're talking about. Sounds like you're doing national level races?

I've only raced local and state level, and most of my experience has been at C grade, recently moving to B grade. Races are typically 50-100km. In this case, I've found that in the cohort of say 30 - 40 people, most will just want to participate (which I actually totally support), so they're not willing to take turns at the front, let alone participate in a break. In the same cohort, there's also a few heroes who attempt a break from 5km in, regardless of whether anyone will go up the road with them. I've previously made the mistake of chasing down every perceived break, only to burn through a bunch of energy. Now I'm a little wiser with who and when I chase, and I've also realised most in this category aren't strong or experienced enough to successfully launch a solo break early on.

Sneaky attacks are good, extended climbs are a good place to launch them. Never thought about going up the middle, that's something to think about...I've also never tried to break with a sprint, totally agree with it triggering Pavlovian drooling, and putting a target on your back.

Sit-n-sprint has worked well for me. I'm not a bad sprinter and have caught a few on the line for 2nd a few times and one 1st . It's also part of the bigger picture of correct positioning coming into the final bit of the race. Prior to this I would see most of the pack launch a sprint 400m from the finish line, which is a loooong way for amateurs to sprint with good power. Most would invariably blow up at 200m (about where I'm going to start, generally) and clog the road, preventing me from getting through. That's happened in road races and crits. So now I guess it's sit-position-sprint?

Nah, US state-level racing mostly, but the competition in California is pretty deep and I can mix it up in the flat/rolling road races with the guys who do race amateur nationals.

My teammate and I both love going for the break from the gun, lol. It's not necessarily meant to make it to the end. The two of us can basically saturate the race with break attempts that either one of us will end up in the winning move.

maxim809
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by maxim809

There are certain tactics and skills that apply only to bike racing and not fast group riding. For example:

Grabbing nutrition at the Feed Zone. Feed Zone "Etiquette". Or not, because you have to cover those guys who always attack in the final lap of a 4 hour road race.

One nice thing is you get to use the whole road in crits, and in some road races where Centerline is not enforced. This completely changes the type of lines you can take, compared to a group ride where you need to be mindful of your surroundings while at most only being able to use half the road.

Wheel pit strategy. Sometimes, flatting or crashing can be a blessing in disguise. When a real crash happens in front of you, some guys caught behind it but didn't actually go down, will roll their bibs up and go to the wheel pit pretending they crashed too, just to take a breather. Whether this is beneficial or hurtful, totally depends on the size of the field, where you were before the crash, and the difficulty of getting back in from a dead stop.

Actual Team Tactics. Or not.

Actual Team Drama. The group chat topics before and after a race is something you normally would never experience or even discuss amongst friends you ride with in a fast group ride.

Course Recon and Line-Up strategy. Simply lining up properly can sometimes be one of the biggest influencers of how well your race goes. I've seen some extremely fast and talented guys, who should easily have finished the race, get pulled within minutes on courses that have no room for moving up. You get caught in a split or three, and it's race over.

I think the biggest overlap between fast group rides and racing, is both require ability to handle your bike around others. There are sketchy riders, safe riders, and people deliberately being risky in both scenarios. With racing maybe having more of that last category. Your ability to identify when to move up or when to stay put, and having the resilience to not let sketchy or risky people around you affect your mental constitution plays a role in both scenarios.

joesch
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Location: Germany

by joesch

usr wrote:
Wed Jun 14, 2023 8:06 pm
The race is about not getting dropped before the finish with the lowest relative investment. If somehow you manage to barely turn a crank before blasting them all to the line, congratulations, you found perfection. Chances are even the first loser will love you, hoping that some of the glory will rub off.

In the drop ride, if you show off at the last town sign after carefully avoiding to spend more than the absolute minimum to not get dropped before, nobody will love you for it. The "winner" is whoever dealt out the most pain along the way but still made it. If your last attack is your first and you beat them all with surprisingly fresh legs, you're the guy who refused to play along. Some might politely hide their disappointment in respectful statements like "as in a real race!", but if some day the meetup location or time changes for some reason you might be among those who hear about it last.

But please don't read this as if I was claiming that races are easier. Perhaps they are, if your abilities are so far ahead of most other participants that you are only a coin toss away from winning and spend the day cruising with your few peers gently pushing it to weed out some but not too many (purely speculation on my part), but if you come to your limits they will be very different from the limits you come to in a drop ride.
That's probably the most accurate description - plus a) riders taking unnecessary risks in race-like group rides, like sprinting for a city sign in traffic, and b) a lack of team cohesion. It is a unique experience to ride as a cohesive team with clear tactics and actually "shape" the outcome of a race... For me, it has often felt more rewarding to control a bunch when your team mate is up the road or set up a sprint leadout and have a real impact on how a race turns out rather than to be a team of one and just try to break away (I suck as a sprinter, sitting in is not an option 8) ).

That's not to say I don't like group rides with sprints and breakaways. They are fantastic workouts and you can hone some of your skills, but the overall dynamic is just very different. And anecdotal evidence shows that the guys who are "strong" on these race-like group rides tend to suck at "the real thing." Either because they burn their matches way too fast, or they lack the positioning and/or the bike handling.

I think both are cool!

Bruiser2
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Joined: Fri Apr 28, 2023 2:25 am

by Bruiser2

If you're trying to simulate a kermese race and there aren't many neutral zones, bunch rides can be a chance to learn tactics for bunch positioning for example.

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