Question: My first road race this season had two 25-mile laps. On lap one, my teammates and I chased down two breaks. We didn’t chase the third break by two guys, and they stayed away. Their teammates blocked the entire pack by riding three abreast. Because of the centerline rule, no one could pass them and chase. When the road finally widened, the break was four minutes ahead. When one of us would chase, the same guys would latch onto our wheel, making us do all the work. What should we have done? — Allan C.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Sounds like those guys played their cards very well, Allan. You got a great lesson in team tactics.
Obviously, you should have gone with that third break! But, of course, you never know which breaks to infiltrate and which will be caught by the pack with little effort on your part.
Once the break’s teammates started blocking, you and other riders could have verbally intimidated them with insults about their negative racing. You’d probably have gotten big smiles in return, though.
You could have watched for a wider place in the road or a good section of shoulder. By being on the right side, you could have slipped through before they blocked you. Of course, that’s risky — and it’s hard to maintain speed on gravel, grass or rough pavement.
Even if you were successful, they probably would have caught you and sat on your wheel as you described. But the turmoil might have allowed one or two of your teammates to escape.
As for them latching on when you finally could chase the break, that’s just good team tactics, too. The only way to prevent it is to attack strongly enough to open a gap that opponents can’t close.
If you and a teammate are chasing but have a wheelsucking member of another team with you, try to “gap” him.
When he’s in the third position and you’re in the second, let a gap of about 10 meters open, and then sprint back up to your teammate’s wheel. The wheelsucker will have to do the same. You and your teammate can take turns working him over like this. But you each need to be at least as strong as he is.