GROUP RID­ING SKILLS

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - BIKE -

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WHILE ELITE ATH­LETES have been com­pet­ing in draft-le­gal events for more than 20 years, last year was the first time our Cana­dian Na­tional Cham­pi­onship of­fered a draft-le­gal sprint triathlon. This is due to the In­ter­na­tional Triathlon Union’s move to make the sprint-dis­tance race at the world cham­pi­onships draft le­gal for age group ath­letes. Age group ath­letes don’t have to get the same draft-le­gal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that elites and ju­niors have to get in or­der to race, but it cer­tainly won’t hurt to spend some time work­ing on draft-le­gal skills if you’re plan­ning on com­pet­ing in a draft-le­gal race. But, even if you’ll only be rac­ing in non-draft­ing events, it might be worth work­ing on your abil­ity to ride in a group and draft other rid­ers. Why? Be­ing able to ride with a group is a use­ful skill that can re­ally im­prove your triathlon times. Here are a few rea­sons:

BIKE HAN­DLING SKILLS. As you get bet­ter at rid­ing with a group, your bal­ance will im­prove and your abil­ity to han­dle the bike will be­come that much bet­ter. When you’re down on your aero bars, you’re ba­si­cally steer­ing with your el­bows – the more com­fort­able you are rid­ing a bike with your hands on the bars, the bet­ter you’ll be when rid­ing on your aero bars. That will also help you keep the bike mov­ing straighter on the road, which can save valu­able sec­onds, too.

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CO-ORDINATED EAT­ING AND DRINK­ING. One of the big­gest ben­e­fits of im­proved bike han­dling skills is that you’ll be­come much more com­fort­able mak­ing ba­sic move­ments while you’re rid­ing. Re­mem­ber how hard it was to reach down for your wa­ter bot­tle the first time? The next time you’re watch­ing the Tour de France, check out how the rid­ers will put on, or take off, a jacket (amongst other things) while they are cruis­ing along on the bike. The more pro­fi­cient you be­come, the eas­ier it will be to eat and drink with ease on race day.

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PAC­ING. Learn­ing to hold a wheel, or ride side by side with some­one, with­out hav­ing your eyes glued on your cy­cling com­puter, will pay huge div­i­dends when it comes to main­tain­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate pace on race day. Rid­ing in a group will also teach you how to con­trol your tempo and ef­fort on vary­ing ter­rain. The en­tire group won’t hold ex­actly the same speed go­ing up and down hills, but will main­tain a sim­i­lar ef­fort through­out. That’s what you want to do in your race, too.

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LEARN­ING PROPER CADENCE. In ad­di­tion to help­ing with your pac­ing, rid­ing in a group can re­ally help you work on your cadence – the num­ber of pedal rev­o­lu­tions you make ev­ery minute. Typ­i­cally road rid­ers will have a faster cadence than triath­letes or time trial spe­cial­ists. Think of it like driv­ing a sports car at a higher RPM. When you ride in a group you’ll quickly learn to find the most ef­fi­cient gear – if you’re ped­alling too slow you’ll find your quads will even­tu­ally turn to mush and you’ll get dropped. If you’re in too easy a gear and you’re ped­alling too fast, you won’t be able to keep up and you’ll get dropped. (In other words, you’re forced to fig­ure out the most ef­fi­cient gear and cadence to stay with the group.) Those skills trans­late well to a non-draft­ing sit­u­a­tion as you’ll also learn to find the op­ti­mal cadence and gear to main­tain the fastest speed pos­si­ble over the dis­tance.

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