Knowing your opponents

A group of five racing cyclists climbing a hill

Postion, position: recreational cyclists can learn from pros who's wins depend on being in the right place at the right time.

Getting to know your opponents in cycling is helped when we recognise we all have external opponents and there are some that have the monkey on the back as well they can’t shake that are ingrained habits and thinking less of themselves.

Speaking with one of Bendigo’s competitive cyclists recently about the skills and art of racing and growing an increasing knowledge of the strategic tactics required, to celebrate success. Not to sound too much of a simplistic view the basic knowledge of racing can be summarized with the Real Estate Agents favourite words at an auction “the real estate you hold on the road in a race is position, position, position till the end.” 

In the circles of competitive racing a cyclist might not be the best sprinter or hill climber but can be a better strategic rider and create an advantage through knowing their opponents and well be in the mix at the end to savour a podium finish. There are many variances that can impact riders in a race and bring out the best and the worst of even the most renowned riders if there don’t have their wits about them.

There would hardly be a ride now where through technology that we cannot see the ride circuit profile and these are now becoming more expectation in a race or ride allowing riders to be prepared and take account in a training schedule to replicate similar conditions of hills and gradients so riders can draw comparisons and get their mind around what lies ahead. A well prepared rider knows where the going can get tough and will get in the right position to match their ability and strengths and weaknesses.

Most variances are what can come from within other riders, such as what team strategies they may have in place to create false competition, who are the domestiques and who they are working for and spending their energy on wearing out others teams riders or when is a breakaway a genuine tactic or a red herring to break up the opponent’s tempo and set plans?

The other variances that can shatter a good day in a race are strong winds, particularly cross winds and when you get strong riders on the front of the peloton that know how to shut down the road from being any advantage to riders trying to get a draft and a rest.  This tactic results in a long run of single file that winds its way along the road with survival become more the agenda than planning for a finish in the top few.

Any rider is only as good as the race they are in and the last race is only a platform of memories when the pressure is on to recall what you were capable of but your opponent may well have found better form than previous understood.

What can we learn as recreational cyclists from the competitive cyclist? There is much as they have spent more time learning the craft of cycling and know the benefits of conserving and persevering when the tough time are ahead and know that if they are hurting then a large percentage of their opponents are in a similar position and it may well come down to who can out last the other.

The right selection of tyre compound for the road conditions we face some roads have large aggregate and are not very lively at the best of time but if you have a hard compound tyre and wrong tyre pressure this can extenuate the circumstances.

Knowing how to sit on a gear and sustain the cadence and sustain the speed and conserve energy is all head knowledge and conditioning that recreational rider’s may not find easy to add to their cycling repertoire.

Some of the opponents that recreational cyclists face are things yet to be experienced such as distance, group speed, hills and consistent strong wind.  Recreational cyclists mostly compete against themselves and getting time on the bike learning what training regime for the time on the bike returns the greatest benefit and not leave all the good work in training but peak for the set event.

Getting the right intake of foods that convert to energy and knowing when to eat that will not reduce but enhance performance. There is much to learn, ask and listen to competitive cyclists to share their on bike wisdom and meeting opponents head on.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing

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