Coaching 101 – Group Riding

I love team time trial TTT season. I have been doing it for about 20 years since I joined in with the Powerbar boys who were seen as the pinnacle of the sport back when I first started. There is nothing better than getting with your mates and just smashing each other over a 30-40km course to see who is the last man or woman standing.

As I have mentioned previously- sporting performance is made up of physical, mental, technical and tactical components. Yes how fit you are and what your FTP is will be vital in how you survive these rides but there is so much more to it. For me number one of the list is the tactical aspect.

In any aspect of racing they talk about matches. You only have so many matches you can burn before the box is empty. So in a TTT ride I use the first part of the ride to work out where I am sitting amongst everyone else. Am I the strongest or weakest? How is everyone else riding? Are they surging, how long are their turns, and how hard are they breathing when they pull off?

I don’t go to the well too early, especially if I am the weaker rider. Rather I conserve my energy, get the stronger riders to spend longer blocks out in front and make sure that I am ready for the hard stuff that comes over the back end. For me it is all about controlling my ego that wants to go as hard as it can versus playing the tactical game which will get me the most benefit. There is no point going hard early and then drop of with half the ride to go. I want to be there at the end. Sometimes if I am the weakest rider I will just sit on the back for a few turns letting the others work themselves over.

When the group functions well we shouldn’t see any deviations in speed. Basically we lock in a pace and the group rolls around consistently holding that speed. If you can’t then peel off and let the next one take over. This way we shouldn’t have any surging and everyone should do the right amount of time at the front for their ability.

if you don’t get it right and you spend too long at the front and the pace drops, the second rider fully refreshed is now ready to go hard and you will be in all sorts of bother trying to get back on to the bunch when they surge back up to speed.

As we get closer to the finish the speeds go up and the time everyone spends at the front gets shorter and short. I basically get to the front choose a landmark in front (it might only be 200-400m down the road) go hard to that point and then pull off always trying to maintain the speed. 

The wind on the weekend obviously made it a little tricky to keep an even speed but as we have long straights it is easy enough to judge what is happening.

Also when we ride back to Trimmer the aim is for the group to ride as one organism. We don’t spread all over the road we ride back as a tight bunch within the bike lane. For this you need your technical skills up to scratch. This is all about riding next to the person beside you. We don’t half wheel them as sneaking a half a wheel ahead throws the whole bunch out. If the person next to you isn’t comfortable riding as close to the wheel as you are you must ride next to them, regardless of whether you can ride closer to the wheel in front.

Roundabouts are a bit of a challenge but it comes down to everyone holding the right lines and not cutting through the apex, we have to stay two-abreast as we ride through.

Likewise if the front pairing signals the next group to ride through then we all move as one organism with each group sliding up in front of the pair that is dropping back holding the same distance to the wheel in front.

This week we have a 30km TTT and again the opportunity is there for A and B riders to join in. With some short course racing coming up this is a great way to boost your fitness. Last week we had four groups of 4-5 and while some did get spat out the back on the whole it was well done.

The challenge this week is to ride tactically and make sure you are still standing at the end as this week the pace goes up again.


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