Races are often won not by the strongest rider, but the cleverest rider, and there’s a lot to learn for those new to the peloton.
“Keep your eyes open as much as possible as to what’s going on and the bigger picture,” says Spragg. “It’s no good just staring at the hub in front of you as you’re not going to learn. Try not to get overawed by everything that’s going on.”
Spragg says the best position in the bunch is about a quarter of the way back from the front. “You can see what’s going on in front of you, but you haven’t got your nose in the wind,” he says. “Try and get to the front and see what’s going on up there. See what the wind is doing or think about what the course is doing to the bunch. Try getting to the front before a climb so you’ve got some slipping room through the bunch. Try and see the bigger picture.”
That’s easier said than done for a new rider, he admits, but those caught at the back of the bunch are more likely to waste energy. “If you sit too far back, then when you come out of a corner there’s an accordion effect,” he explains. “The guys at the back are going much harder, for much longer, than the guys at the front. In your first race, chances are you won’t have that race fitness that the other guys who’ve built it up over the years, so you don’t want to give them that advantage of you having to go harder.”
Learn from your mistakes
Spragg admits the best way to learn is through experience, but there’s also plenty of common sense involved. “It’s obvious – if you sit down and think about it – that it’s not a good idea to attack into a block headwind. You’re not going to get very far and you’re going to use a lot of energy, but a lot of people will make that mistake in their first races as they take their brain out of the equation.”
But everyone makes mistakes and there’s nothing to be afraid of, says Spragg. “Remember that it’s a learning experience and anything you do, even if it’s completely wrong, will give you something to learn from and build upon,” he says. “Everything is a positive.”