Towards the end of the neutral section of the Sea Otter M35+ Road Race I decided to try something I'd never done before. It just kind of came to me. Less than five minutes after the official start I put in a dig, got a gap and settled in for a long ride alone.
In 1987 I raced for the Avocet Team. One of my team mates, Calvin Trampleasure was legendary for his long range attacks. Both solo and in small groups. He once told me that the key was to get your gap and then ride at a tempo that you could sustain until the end. If that was fast enough to stay away from the chase, good for you. If not, get caught and try again later.
Twenty-three years later I got to try his advice out. The hard truth is that nobody wins a race in one of these long range attacks because they are stronger than the field. They win because they don't fall completely apart and the field either misjudges or gets discouraged.
You CAN do a few things though to maximize you chances of succeeding though.
1. Ride the SHORTEST DISTANCE POSSIBLE! You'd think that this is a no brainer, but sadly it's not. At Sea Otter we had the whole road, but even if you only have one lane, you should ALWAYS think about the line you are taking. Don't blindly follow the path of the lane like you would in a car, ride straight lines from apex to apex. This may not seem like much of a differnce, but go out to your local high school running track and look at the start lines for the 400m race to get an idea of how much further the outer lane travels in one lap. Over three hours of racing this can add up BIG TIME.
During my day out, I was religous about taking the shortest line. EVERY TIME the road curved I was heading straight for that next apex.
2. Ride a steady tempo that you can sustain for the remaining distance. Pretty straight forward I think. Don't treat a 60 mile solo attack like a 10 mile time trial.
On this one, I could have done better. My first hour average power was 30 watts higher than my overall race average power. Part of that could be put down to just generally falling apart towards the end. I probably should have ate and drank more throughout the race. But part of that was probably a pacing issue. It's easy to go a bit too hard when you are still fresh.
3. Wheel choices. I left my Zipp 404's in the car because I thought that the light 202's would be better for this hilly race. About 5 minutes into the race I realized that was a poor choice.
4. Most importantly, have good team mates in the field to stymy the chase. Without team mates disrupting the chase it would be just about impossible to pull something like this off.
5. If it works, enjoy it as much as possible, becuase there is NO WAY they will ever let you get away with it again! :-)
I like to "listen" to music in my head when I'm riding. 80's "hair metal" is good for a ride like this. Ratt, Night Ranger, Dokken, Y&T, etc. Alanis Morrisette, not so much...