The essential advice you’ll need to make your mark at your next road race…
1. Know your strengths
Do the tests that show you when to attack and when to sit in the pack
All cyclists have strengths and weaknesses, and knowing them will help you attack or conserve energy at the right times. They include endurance, solo speed, strength, sprinting, tactics, hill climbing or any combination of these attributes. This knowledge comes from experience and through “power profile” testing. To do this you need a power meter or any indoor trainer that measures power. Do a maximal 5 second, 1 minute, 5 minute and 20 minute test. Then compare your average power across a population of cyclists by using the tables in the book “Training and Racing With A Power Meter” (VeloPress) or by searching for them on the internet (http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/power-profiling). This will tell you where your strengths lie relative to other riders. Play to your strengths on race day, and you’ll have more chance of staying away from the pack.
2. Train to win
Prepare your body specifically for the key moments during a race
Road races are won and lost in key moments, and you need to prepare your body for them. If you’re aiming to contest sprint finishes you need to train like a sprinter, by including sprints and weight training in your cycling training plan. If you’re aiming to make a lone breakaway you need to include long steady miles and regular cycle time trials into your training. To make your mark in the hills you need all of the above, as well as low body fat and the ability to descend fast. Whichever method of attack you choose, you need to train specifically for it. A structured and expertly-written training plan could be designed to increase your FTP or be targeted at a specific race, like a century ride training plan.
3. Don’t be a sheep
Have the courage to make your mark, rather than hiding behind the masses
In one-day road racing it’s better to attempt to win and fail, than it is to sit in the bunch from beginning to end and finish mid-pack. The vast majority of riders won’t aim any higher than this. So make it your target to attempt at least three winning moves during a race. They might not succeed, but you won’t know unless you try. Either way, it’ll be exciting, you’ll get a good workout and you’ll gain experience that might help you win next time. It is a race after all, and you’re not there to make up the numbers.