Coaching multiple members from the same team while commonplace in team sports, is a rare occurrence in cycling. With an ever growing emphasis on team cohesion and teamwork, it seems logical that a single coach work with an entire team to help the organization and athletes see the individual performances assembled together much in the same fashion as I’m going to share with you. It also enables the same type of professional analyzation and fitness-form synchronization across teammates previously reserved for the upper level UCI professional teams. In a previous article, we discussed the difference in relative intensity between riding in the break away and rolling along in the peloton. Now we’ll look at how proper application of teamwork and strategy that can be used and leveraged into a team victory. Game Plan: I was privy to the game plan and the meetings are always interesting to observe and be a part of. With the exception of a small number of strategically important course features, the discussion is largely strategic. For this race, the key bullet points were simple in concept: 1. Keep the race difficult. 2. Force the peloton to react to the team’s actions. 3. Maintain pressure. 4. Win out of the break or split by leveraging favorable numbers of quality riders. However, things are often more complex than they appear at first glance. Such a simple game plan requires a group of riders that know each other and trust the decisions and actions of their teammates while constantly adjusting their own actions based the decisions and efforts of their teammates. This is standard at the elite level of all sport and cycling is no different. Each rider will make a number of tactical decisions during the race in order to meet the four strategic goals above. With 3 riders on the same team, it was interesting to see the race unfold through the power files. As a note, I’ve scaled each file equally for ease of comparison. Also, the power files are smoothed to 5 minute average. This means you’re not seeing any of the sharp accelerations and hard jumps. I do this so that you have a strategic view of the race to gain a better understanding of how these strategies unfold. The yellow line is power (w), yellow dotted line is each rider’s independent Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Blue line is speed (mph) and the dotted line is average speed for the day. As we all know, the beginning of the race is a key point, just as in any sporting event. It’s important to establish some sort of control or presence in the race. At least, you don’t want to get caught on the back foot and forced to react (violation of strategic point 2). It’s always more fun to be the hammer, not the nail. However, that should be balanced with wasteful use of energy as everyone is fresh, excited, and willing to chase in the early phase of the race. As the race starts, the Rider 1 immediately finds himself in a small group. Knowing that this will likely not succeed, but also knowing that he has a unique opportunity to fulfill strategic items 1-3 (above), Rider 1 puts his head down and helps to drive the move, producing an effort at FTP +6%. The move is neutralized, but not without taking a toll on the peloton. You can see that even though Riders 2 and 3 were able to sit in, there was definitely a strong reaction to the early move. With Rider 1 already committing to the early aggression, the tone was set for that pattern to start early. Once the early move was neutralized, there were numerous sharp accelerations which keep Rider 1 average power elevated relative to his teammates, until finally he escapes again. While shorter, the cumulative efforts add another 20 minutes. In the first 60 minutes, Rider 1 has been on the attack for virtually the entire race while spending 36 minutes in threatening break away groups. But the effort has taken a toll. Never after the 75minute mark is Rider 1 able to effectively mount any offensive and race changing efforts. However, at around 60 minutes, Rider 2 enters into the fray. In much the same fashion, he continues to fulfill items 1-3 from the game plan. For a solid 26 minutes, Rider 2 goes on the offensive with those very intentions. However, now the 4 th strategic point, creating a favorable break away group, will become more of a possibility now that the peloton has accumulated a fair amount of fatigue on the day. But, again, these efforts come at a cost. Following his 26 min of racing at FTP + 8%, Rider 2 was unable to muster more than a couple short efforts at a high level for the remainder of the race. Without a doubt the efforts from the first two riders would contribute to the effectiveness of the one extreme effort by Rider 3. Towards the end of the race, Rider 3 was able to capitalize on the efforts of the team while simultaneously and strategically “missing” early moves and conserving. When he decided to engage, it came down to a single 6 minute extreme effort to get clear, followed by an 18 minute solo cruise to the finish line. After the race, it’s important to immediately have a team debrief and discuss what and why the race played out the way it did and also to discuss how the team was able to manipulate the race in its favor. These are the bullet points from that conversation with respect to the race strategy and how the riders executed the plan in textbook fashion.
- Keep the race difficult
- Opponents under duress will tend to make more poor decisions.
- The higher the intensity, the less riders will be able to react.
- Force the peloton to react to the team’s actions.
- Continue to send riders up the road and into break away situations.
- Opponents under duress will make more decisions that are less fundamentally sound. The consequences of those actions will compound and become more severe over time.
- Maintain Pressure
- Win out of the break or split by leveraging favorable numbers of quality riders.
- Riders not “in play” will take every opportunity to conserve energy until an opportunity presents. Do not allow those riders “in play.”
- Continue to split and re-split the groups until favorable situations develop.
- Modulate break away efforts if there are not numbers present.
- Look for teammates coming across.
Overall, it was a great day for the team and a great display of teamwork. 1st and 3rd on the day and some great data to share.
Read the other parts of our breakaway series here.
About the Author: Adam’s true talent comes with his ability to combine his vast experience with his knowledge of sport. He is indeed a student of science, sport, athletic performance, strategy, and tactics. He continuously educates himself by keeping up to date with current trends and methods in sport. Adam is able to incorporate these attributes to help his clients reach and exceed their goals whether they are a beginner or a seasoned professional. Source Endurance is available to work with you and your team to recreate results similar to what you read today. Learn more about Adam.