Malliot Blanc Column by Toby Miles - Breaking away
PUBLISHED: 14:25 11 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:25 11 June 2018
Read Toby Miles’ Malliot Blanc Column as the 18-year-old aspiring professional cyclist explains the tactics of breaking away.
In two races this weekend, I suffered the frustration of watching the winning breakaway disappear out of sight, while sitting helplessly in the bunch as the race was lost.
I was stronger than I’ve ever been but racing is as much about tactics, decisions, mentality and a little luck, as it is about how many watts you can stomp through the pedals.
How do you miss a breakaway?
The race followed a familiar pattern as early attackers wasted their energy on short-lived solo escapes. I saved energy, while keeping tabs on the front by ‘meerkating’ – stretching up to look over the bunch.
I felt strong. I was confident I could challenge. The course suited me.
When the race is ‘on,’ the pace goes up, forcing everyone to focus as the stronger riders start attacking.
The winning move usually forms when riders at the front start to tire and hesitate to follow attacks around the halfway mark– much earlier and everyone’s still too fresh, much later and the bunch is less likely to hesitate.
Once you’ve missed an initial acceleration, there’s a tiny window where you can sprint across and join the move – but sitting around 25th it wasn’t an option.
With an eight-man leading group holding 20 seconds, I forced my way to the front. You either sit tight, hoping the leaders don’t work together and the bunch can bring them back, or you bridge across yourself.
I quickly realised the latter was my only option. A rider attacked hard and I followed. We tried to hammer across but the bunch caught us quickly, as everyone was desperate not to miss a free ride across.
The gap had extended but I had to give it a last shot. I set a harsh tempo on the main hill and dropped all but three riders. We needed a few more seconds to break the elastic and allow us to form a chase.
We couldn’t find the seconds and when we were caught, the pace plummeted. The race was lost.
I was strong enough but hadn’t reacted fast enough. I should’ve reacted as soon as there was daylight and attacked to encourage a reaction.
It was a frustrating day but I’ve learned from this. I’ll be much better equipped to go for the win next time.