Develop your Race Plan (Teams)

PowerCranks Contender ultra endurance bicycle race

An Introduction to Ultra-cycling Team racing Strategy

Developing a logical, safe and efficient race plan is an essential element of competing in an ultra-endurance cycling event. To create your race plan, you need to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and do your best to maximize your strengths while minimizing the later. Serious consideration and planning are critical to developing a race plan that allows your team’s best efforts to become realized.

Elements to be considered:

1)     Objective – what do you hope to accomplish?

2)     Safety – nobody wins or accomplishes anything when safety is compromised.

3)     Resources – can your funds and support crew support your plan?

4)     Adaptability – lots of race plans look great on paper, but things change quickly out on a course so be prepared to adapt.

5)     Experience – whether you have it or not, find ways to acquire it before you race.

powercranks150Objective

If you are racing to complete the course in the allotted time specified plan a race plan that keeps you 6-18 hours ahead of that cut off and expect the unexpected.

There are certain “luxuries” involved in racing only to complete the race, such as less tension. the ability to have individual riders perform longer splits which lessens the amount of rider exchanges easing the workload on your support crew members and  allowing your riders more time off the bike between splits.

If you are racing to win or to finish as fast as possible then the importance of your strategy becomes magnified significantly as every second counts. Yes, every “second”! While most ultra-cycling races are not decided by seconds, time wasted has the same result as a pebble’s ripples in a pond they grow! Seconds become minutes and the minutes become kilometers lost. No single activity is more likely to cause avoidable time loss than rider exchanges. They must be performed with an extreme safety first priority followed by efficiency. Practising rider exchanges should be mandatory for every team as they involve riders, drivers and support crew.  The other aspect of the ultra-team race which can cause significant time loss is navigational errors. So make sure you know where you are going.

For teams truly racing there are numerous strategies to consider. For this discussion

One of the most commonly used strategies is to divide your team in half and send one half of the riders up the course to rest, shower, eat, etc. With an 6 person team this means 3 riders are “live” and 3 riders are resting. The 3 live riders now limit their on-bike splits to 15 or 20 minutes to allow each rider to perform at maximum capacity. They continue this process until they catch up to the resting riders who are now awake, dressed, refreshed and ready to relive their team-mates. The same thing applies to your escort crews as they require their rest time as well, (very critical to safety) and this system is replicated until the race is completed.

Some 6 person teams send 2 riders to rest and keep 4 in rotation, the advantages of this are that the 2 riders will get a longer rest period and the live riders will have longer breaks between their splits.

Instead of timed splits, sometimes race teams will use predetermined distances for each rider to complete to allow the rider who will replace him to move up the course and prepare for the rider exchange.

Another, rarely if ever utilized possibility, for teams is that in ultra-racing there is only one exception that allows riders to draft (other than in bulk starts riders are closely bunched with other riders where it is tolerated but can be penalized for if rider’s appear to be taking advantage of the close collection of riders) is a team may choose to put more than one rider on the course at a time and have them draft off of each other. This can be a very useful consideration at various times in the race. When conditions of strong or moderate headwinds prevail or when your team wishes to either extend a lead or close a gap.

Safety

Safety must be kept foremost in everyone’s mind. The safety of racers, support crew, event staff, cycling fans, and the general public – EVERYONE must always be at the forefront of consideration. Inexperienced crew members may think that they are signing up for a nice cruise but the reality is while they are not pedaling the bicycles they are still exerting a lot of effort which tires them out and they need to kept fresh to allow them to function with a clear and attentive mind. Laziness caused by being tired can make for bad decisions and inadvisable actions. Everyone involved in a multi-day challenge will become champions at sleeping upright, power-napping and teamwork. Just keep in mind, if something can go wrong it just might, don’t put anyone in a dangerous situation.

Resources

If you have a six person team and you plan a 12 person support crew make sure you have the budget to get them to and from the finish line, to feed them rent the support vehicles they will require and the funding to run those vehicles and for motel or other accommodations. Ultra-cycling can be enjoyed on a bare-bones budget or a more lucrative budget  it just depends on each team’s situation An 6 person team requires at least 2 support vehicles but 3 or more mini-vans or SUVs plus a motor home are most commonly used.

Figure out your proposed budget early and perform fundraising activities to support your team. Some teams recruit people who are possess specific talents in this area via either creating fund-raising events or securing sponsorship or both.

Adaptability

The secret to success is a willingness to adapt to race and rider conditions. A couple of obvious situations would be:

If you are on a seriously long downhill segment of the course one rider might cycle the entire section as it makes no sense to stop a rider moving at 50 or 60 kilometers per hour.

Rainy or extremely winding conditions may alter the rider’s split time either lengthening or shortening their split duration depending on whether the condition is favourable or limiting.

A rider sustains an injury and must be taken out of rotation either permanently or for an extended period to allow for recover.

A rider’s bike sustains a flat or breaks a chain; you might just switch to the next rider up instead of repairing problem.

A crew member becomes belligerent and you either need to give them extended time off active participation or drop him or her at a bus station with enough money for a ticket home. Good people can become someone different under stressful conditions. An unruly crew member is not good for team spirit and moral and must be dealt with; just remember everyone is there to help and most people ordinarily just need a little rest, nutrition and reassurance to become excellent contributors once again.

Support vehicle breakdowns can be a serious problem but rarely do they end someone’s participation.

Experience

If you don’t have it – get it! Engage someone with experience to be your crew-chief, read books on other people’s experience, watch videos, ask established riders or our staff for advice. Go on test rides for 2 nights and learn firsthand. Encourage your crew members to join other team races in other to learn firsthand. You need to know what the challenges are and how they might present themselves. No one knows everything and everyone always learns something new but you must have a good expectation of what you will encounter.

The benefits of participating in an ultra-cycling race are directly tied to how much you put into your effort. Learn, plan and train for your event and your efforts will be rewarded in ways that you can’t even imagine.

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