Successful bike racers try to find any type of advantage, however small it may be, to get a competitive advantage over their adversaries. That’s what makes bike racing so unique, in that you don’t necessarily have to be the fittest athlete in the peloton, but a combination of fitness and smarts will put you in position to win time and time again.
Like the Borg entity from Star Trek, individuals and organizations grow only by constantly absorbing and sharing information. A lot of companies that put out software products have something called a “knowledge base.”
A knowledge base represents a place where users can record their experiences of problems and solutions, so other users of the product can have somewhere to access this information, as problems and solutions often repeat themselves. (I would be willing to bet that Microsoft probably has the largest knowledge base in the world).
We can take this same idea and apply it improving your racing where you and your team create your own personal knowledge base. The knowledge base can be used as a “central storage location” for a variety of information to help you succeed when going into events. You can create the KB in any of number of formats, like a notebook, spreadsheet, or if you are a computer whiz, create your own team or club database full of information to be utilized by a large group of athletes.
Let’s look at a few of the many ways to populate this KB. For starters, make sure you have a simple notebook and pen to record key information after the race. It’s amazing how many things go through your mind right after the race is complete. This is the prime time to record this valuable information and having the ability to do that is crucial:
The basics - Just like looking at key things before the race, like wind direction, weather, course terrain characteristics, and who is competing, do the same thing by debriefing after the race. Record important additional information like where did the break get away or better yet, where did break attempts go from? Who was in the winning break? Where was the race super hard for you or where was it easier? It’s much easier to analyze after the race, to add to the KB, than it is to try to predict what will happen, as there are too many variables to consider. The key here of course is to record this detailed information for future use. The more you record, the more useful it can be in the future.
Post-Race physical necessities - You’ve taken the time to drive to a far-flung location to race, gotten there in time to warm up, and then raced. Give yourself additional time after the race is over to do an effective warm-down ride (which can also serve as a further reconnaissance of the course for next year.) Then, be sure to change out of your bike clothes, freshen yourself up to the greatest degree possible, and then it’s time to eat and drink. Many riders do no fully use the opportunity of the post-race fueling “window of opportunity” to correctly rebuild their glycogen stores. Have a high quality small meal (e.g., sandwich) within 30 minutes of getting off your bike, and remember, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Team meetings - You’ve taken care of yourself, now it’s time to focus on the team. It’s very important to have a team meeting after the race is over to discuss each other’s experiences and views, of course assuming your team or a teammate was present. A lot of teams meet before the race and come up with a race strategy (that usually changes), but few get together and talk about what transpired when things are fresh in their minds. I highly recommend this be done in person and not via email. Email can be used as a follow up. Getting together in person, face-to-face while things are fresh is the best way of going about it. No one is excused. After the race, do a cool-down, get changed, and then get together and talk about what happened. Make sure that it’s an honest but non-accusatory meeting, where everyone gets an equal opportunity to talk about their experiences and by all means, be honest with no excuses! This is a perfect opportunity for all riders to learn and improve their bike racing skills. Perhaps each week, a different rider can be assigned to take notes for future reference or to add to the KB.
Talk to the winner - If you’ve been racing for any length of time, there is one thing for sure; bike racers like to talk about their race experiences. If there is one of those riders you should listen to, it’s the winner. It’s important to first show sportsmanship and congratulate the race winner, and then if there is an opportunity, ask them how they went about winning the race. Chances are they will give you some keen insight about their thought process that enabled their victory that you can use in the future.
Top 10 - List down the top 10 riders and if you know them or knew what they were doing during the race, write down key characteristics of each rider. Knowing your competition is absolutely key to battling them in the future. Also make note of how their teams operated during the race. I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn about your opponents. As your race career continues, you will truly start to understand the necessary components to reading a bike race.
Annotate those power files - Not only annotate those power files with significant events that happened during the race like, “Break begins here”, “where I attacked” or “where I lost contact,” but include detailed comments about those events like how you were feeling at that point and anything that you would find useful for future reference. Try to create some type of documented story that will be easy to read and comprehend in the future for you, other teammates or your coach.
Certainly, there is a lot of important information that can be added to this knowledge base. There should be no limits, the more creative you can get the more helpful it will become in the future. Amongst teammates, communication is vital. Take that extra time to do this type of homework. It may not provide immediate results, but over time, it’s sure to help you be more tactically successful in the sport.
Ride safe, ride strong.
Bruce Hendler created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com and check out the AthletiCamps Blog.