In any group race, there is constant action near and off the front.
A bunch finish is always risky as it’s a numbers game and there is always the element of chance with a mass of riders sprinting for the line.
Without a lot of skill and pace it can be difficult to ensure you are in the right place at the right time to stay out of trouble and produce your final effort, so it is often in the interests of the majority to thin out the field into more manageable groups before the finish. Also if sprinting isn’t your strong point, you are likely want to use your strengths to split the field before it all comes together at the end.
Jumping clear of the group into and out of corners is a well-known trick that gives the individual an advantage over the group
‘Breakaways’ and ‘attacks’ help separate the stronger from the weaker riders for a more representative final placing, reducing some of the chance elements. Once you have the hang of staying with the group in a race, it’s time to try to separate yourself from the collective and put your individual ambitions first.
Jumping for freedom
To escape the bunch or create a break you need to be able to accelerate out of the saddle at the right time to make it count. All the elements associated with correct gear selection and cadence become critical here in order to be able to step on the gas at exactly the right moment. Timing is everything, and a well-timed ‘jump’ will take advantage of your existing speed and position and/or the deceleration of your opponents. ‘Attacks’ and ‘jumps’ are so called because they need the element of surprise and speed to be effective.
Often where there is natural movement up one side of the bunch and a slowing more generally, there will be a window of opportunity to take advantage of this momentum, whilst other ‘parts’ of the group are slowing down. If you happen to be moving up on the sheltered side of the bunch this will work even better, adding to your ‘free speed’ advantage.
To have an effective ‘jump’ you don’t have to be the most powerful rider in the group, but you do need to know when to throw the right punch. Sensing this natural flow and movement and taking advantage of it to attack is a great way to start to practice these kinds of efforts.
Using corners and hills
Features of the course can also provide advantageous points from which to try ‘jumping’. Jumping clear of the group into and out of corners is a well-known trick that gives the individual an advantage over the group, which will have to manage its speed and acceleration more carefully than a lone rider through the bend. Hills are another point of natural selection where riders who feel they have more climbing power and punch can attack to force a split while they have an advantage over those not so well designed for the incline.
A leap of faith
Many riders who are new to racing don’t have the courage to try to make a move because there is an increased risk of getting dropped if the attempt fails, since there may be counter attacks and an increase in the pace in the bunch as you re-join it. However, unless you are a pure sprinter, if you want to progress as a racer, you have to be willing to give it a try. When a move succeeds it is often much easier to ride in a smaller working group than manage the change of pace associated with a larger bunch, and ultimately you are then guaranteed a higher placing.