Closing gaps of less than 50 yards
Okay, you got dropped and the group is pulling away. Assess the situation. Do you have to chase? Sometimes when a small gap opens you burn precious energy to get back on, then realize that the group had to slow for an intersection or railroad crossing. You could have rolled up to them with a lot less effort. Don’t chase hard if it isn’t necessary.
If the group is humming along, bridge as fast as possible. Don’t let a small and easily-closed gap become a yawning chasm. Even if you’re tired, sprint across the space that separates you from the group. It’s better to suffer for a few seconds than to dangle behind, working hard but not hard enough to regain shelter quickly. Or worse, see the gap refuse to shrink.
Closing gaps bigger than 50 yards
Gauge your strength. If you’re completely blown, let them go. Don’t waste strength in a futile chase if you have to finish the ride by yourself. If they’re a steady 400 yards ahead and you have some reserve strength, it’s probably worth the effort to try and bridge.
Get aero. If you decide to chase, go into full time trial mode. Get as aero as possible by holding the handlebar in the drops and putting your chin just inches from the stem. Or stretch out along the top tube and put your palms over the tops of the brake lever hoods. Don’t emulate some pros and rest your forearms on the bar top. A small bump can create havoc.
Get help. It’s a lot easier to mount a successful chase if you have help. Look behind. Maybe another rider or a small group is coming up, intent on catching the same group you’re chasing. If so, soft pedal to recover, then jump on and help them. As coach Chris Carmichael says, “If there’s a wheel, there’s a way.”
Another possibility: Maybe another rider or 2 are being dropped by the group. Ride easy enough to recover as they come back to you. Then form an efficient alliance to chase or reach the finish.
Imbed yourself in the group. Okay, you’ve made a successful chase. Don’t be content to merely latch onto the back of the group. Look where that got me in my Colorado race I talked about last week! Move up several places in the bunch.
If there’s another acceleration, you won’t be the last rider, in danger of getting dropped again. Tuck in the pack to get as much draft as possible and concentrate on recovery. If there’s still a ways to go and conditions allow, eat and drink to regain energy.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.