Nothing is more beautiful to watch then a bike race won by tactics. When I raced, I had the pleasure of learning from some of the best. Riders who, with surgical precision, dissected a race piece by piece until they carved out a victory that left the rest of the field shaking their heads. I watched, learned and got my ass kicked many times but with each race I became smarter. Wiser. More surgical. Then I too became the surgeon and it was my time to dissect. A competitor once said “Charlie makes two moves in a race: the first is to warm up, the second is to bridge to the winning break”. They were not that far off the mark.
So watching last night’s Cat 3-4 win by James Joseph at Floyd Bennett Field was a pleasure. James went into the series leading the overall competition by 1 point over Aaron Katin. With 2 laps to go there was a breakaway of 4-5 riders with about 25 seconds on the field. Aaron was in the break, James was not. It’s no secret that James is a true sprinter and as such his go-to tactic is to sit in and wait for a sprint. However, James is also a fierce competitor and first and foremost he is a bike racer. That means he does what it takes to win even if it means going out of his comfort zone. If I had to go inside James’ mind for the final laps, here’s what I picture him saying to himself:
Aaron is in the break.
Some guys are trying to bridge solo. They are not getting across.
There is no organized team chase.
The break’s lead is increasing. I need to get across.
Start thinking when to attack.
I’m going to attack out of the last turn. Hard and fast. On the inside.
I will have a tailwind. This will help.
The bridge across will be a 30-40 second effort.
It’s all or nothing. If I don’t make it, my race is over.
OK, let’s do this.
Out of turn 4….GO!
Come on - all out! GO! GO!
Quick look behind, nobody is with me. Perfect.
You are cloing fast. Halfway there!
Come on - a little more…
OK, sit on. Recover!
If they yell, screw ‘em. I just bridged solo. Show some respect!
OK, one lap to go! Pull through and off. Show them I’m working so we stay away.
Start thinking of the sprint. Anybody to watch in this group?
OK, you got this.
Go with 250 meters. All out.
Finish is coming up….
GO! GO! GO!
The only part I could be wrong about is if James pulled through in the break. It doesn’t matter if he did or not. There was no obligation for him to do so. The others knew who he was. They know his tactics.
For those who are new to cycling watch and learn from this surgeon and other experienced riders. Today’s cyclists are often distracted by watts, power meters and lots of flashy carbon. All serve a purpose but in a 1 hour race where everybody is pretty much on a level playing field it’s the racer who truly understands tactics that will come out on top most of the time.