What's The Plan?

By: charlie@racelistings.com
Posted: Jun 18, 2002

As competitive cyclists we take what we do very seriously. We train methodically, eat right, get plenty of rest and for half a year we live and breathe racing. We do this so that we can race our best. So when race day arrives, what`s your pre-race plan? You do have a plan before each race, right? If your answer is `no`, you mean to tell me that you are going to do all that training and make all those sacrifices and moments before the start you have no idea how you are going to race the race?!?! Does that make any sense? Trust me, I learned everything in cycling the hard way so I know what it`s like to race clueless. Over the years I have learned that in EVERY race you enter you must have a plan. That`s right – every time I have a number on my back I have a plan in my head. Even races that you are using for training must be thought out. For example, there is a Tuesday night race series that I compete in for training. Usually on Tuesdays I`m not fully recovered from the weekend and since I am not psyched up for this race my plan is to stay in the back and get a good speed workout. If my teammate, who likes to win these races, is there I will help him out but only if it comes down to a sprint. I tell him before each Tuesday race `You will not see me the entire race unless the field is still together with 2 laps to go. Then, if I am feeling good, I will go to the front and give you a hand in the sprint`. Before the race even starts I know exactly what`s going to happen, what kind of effort I will make and how I will feel. I never deviate from my Tuesday night plan and I take pride in saying that I have never placed in this series or been in a breakaway. OK, so what about races you want to do well in. Same thing – have a plan. The plan you come up with should be determined by a host of factors including: The importance of the race. Your current fitness. Competition. How the course suits your riding style. If you have teammates at the race. It`s important to be honest with yourself. Don`t say `My plan is to save everything for a fieldsprint` if you are a lousy fieldpsprinter. Now let me be clear about something. I`m not saying that at the start line I have a plan for every part of the race. What I am talking about is having a general overall plan of how you will tackle the race. Without that you are lost. Once the race starts you may need to change your plan and introduce on-the-fly strategies but for the most part you should be sticking to your pre-race plan. There will be races where your plan backfires. Let`s say your plan was to sit in the first 10 laps of a criterium. You have done this criterium before and you know it`s very fast. You have never seen an early breakaway last and the race is usually decided in the last 10 laps, not the first 10 laps. Two laps into the race there is an attack. The field does not react right away and the group gains 10 seconds. Then 20. Then 40. You try to remain calm and you say to yourself `I`m going to stick to my plan and not do anything the first 10 laps`. After 10 laps, you start to race hard and you are feeling great. The breakaway`s lead is holding steady at 30-40 seconds. Maybe another group goes and you`re in it. You chase hard but at the end of the race the breakaway hangs on for a 10 second lead. For the first time in the history of this criterium the early break stayed away. Did you screw up? Absolutely not. You used your best judgement, you played the odds and you lost. You showed maturity by not panicking and I`m sure next year the early break won`t last. Once in awhile the early break in Paris-Roubaix or Tour of Flanders gets 20 minutes and stays away until the end of race. Does that mean the field screwed up? Having a plan at the start of the race either as an individual or as part of a team`s plan will leave you more relaxed and focused at the task at hand. Without one, you will be chasing every break the entire race.