As athletes, professional or amateur, we spend so much time working on our physiological fitness capabilities and so little on skill development which can make a substantial difference to outcomes on race day.
Regardless of whether you’re a sprint or endurance athlete, in this blog we’re going to offer you 3 skill exercises to enhance your bike handling skills which will enable you to navigate yourself to winning positions in race scenarios.
3 Core Skills to Improve your Bunch & Sprint Racing Are:
- Centre of Gravity Skill
- Preparation for Physical contact
- Improving Head Mobility
Understanding Your Centre of Gravity
Understanding where your centre of gravity is whilst navigating the banks of a velodrome is essential to staying upright, let alone, improving your tactical skills in race scenarios. The below image highlights how your centre of gravity shifts with varying speeds on the track.
As you ride fast, your centre of gravity shifts away from the track (giving you greater traction as your tyre maintains greater surface area contact with the track).
As you slow down, your centre of gravity shifts towards the track where if you ride too slow, you will essentially fall towards the track.
With an improved awareness of your centre of gravity, your ability to confidently manoeuvre into various positions (locations) on the track will improve. Additionally, you'll understand the need and benefit to increasing and maximising ‘free speed’ (i.e. using the transitions of the banks to accelerate or decelerate).
To improve your centre of gravity awareness, we recommend practicing the ‘Track Stand’ at various points on the track. Practicing the track stand quickly teaches riders how to counterbalance by putting their body and bike into positions which can achieve an optimal balance (optimal position where centre of gravity is neutral).
*Tip: When practicing this skill, start at the flatter points on the track, and work up to challenging your abilities by moving the ‘track stand’ to steeper parts of the velodrome.
See the video below to learn how to ‘Track Stand’
Preparation for Physical contact
In bunch races, you’re bound to come into close contact with your competitors, sometimes there’s even a bit of ‘argy-bargy’ and jostling for positions in the bunch.
When you’re in these tight positions surrounded by other riders, it’s likely that you’ll come into contact and at times bump into other riders.
For skilled riders, this isn’t really a big deal as they’re prepared, relaxed and able to maintain their riding line. However, for riders that haven’t rehearsed riding skills to prepare for ‘argy-bargy’ situations, it can be stressful, and can even cause accidents.
To prepare for physical contact in bunch races, we recommend that you find a riding buddy and practice the following:
- Ride side by side at various positions on the track, in the drop bars, make physical ‘elbow’ contact with your riding partner and maintain it for a few laps before swapping positions.
- Advance the above exercise by advancing elbow contact to shoulder-to-shoulder contact, head-to-head, knee-to-knee etc.
Being comfortable riding next to someone whilst maintaining intermittent contact through the above exercise positions will improve not only your ability to handle your bike, but also your body’s natural self-correction system and reaction times.
Improving Head Mobility
Having the ability to ride around the track, and turn your head both left and right is essential to understanding what’s happening around you. It enables you to counteract attacks from opponents, have the ability to understand race gaps and chase-down distances and also, to relax!
The inability to turn your head not only enables you to improve your race skills, it also will help prevent a sore neck and increase blood flow. In cycling, any tenseness throughout the body ultimately will have an effect on your ability to ride efficiently (and that includes your mobility through your neck and head).
To improve your head mobility, we’d recommend that you complete the following skill exercises:
- Find space on the track, start in the sprinters lane and ride around turning your head to the right whilst maintaining a smooth line through the straights and bends. As you improve and are able to maintain ‘looking right’ for a few laps at a time, increase the height of your position on the track.
- Complete the same as above, but this time look to the left, increasing your height and position on the track as you improve.
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave them in the box below!