How to not Burn the Match Book

There is a couple sayings from bike racing that basically state, don’t burn your matches too soon, and ‘Everyone at the start of the race has 1 dollar (worth of energy). The person that finishes with the most change wins the race.’

While you can argue that it is not entirely true due to tactics and some people that do not race aggressively and may finish at the back of the field with extra energy, the concept is correct. Every race comes down to who crosses the finish line first, and to do that whoever can use their energy the most efficiently is better suited to be in the winning move, whether that is the winning break-away, or the finishing sprint. If you can’t conserve the energy, then it is unlikely that you can finish the race with the winners.

Basically what they mean is that everyone has a certain amount of energy, and those that use that energy wiser will have more energy left near the end of the ride that a person that needlessly wastes their energy.

Even though you may not race, this concept can be very useful tool in finishing big rides. I’m sure like me you have gone to a big ride and been a little nervous about being able to make it to the finish.

One of my favorite rides is the Covington century, the first time I ever rode it, I got dropped at about mile 75. After more training the next year I finished with the main group. The next year I decided to work at the front too early in the ride and nearly got dropped even though I was in better shape. So the next year I decided to ‘sit-in’ for 75 miles, and then start working at the front – and that year I was right at the front at the finish!

Some techniques that help save energy:

~No needless attacks. A good way around this is to ‘follow’ wheels rather than being the draft that everyone else follows.

~Don’t pull at the front of a group for too long before rotating and allowing someone else to do their share.

~Climbing in too large of a gear (great in training, but not for a big ride)

~Work on smoothly staying on the wheel in front of you.
Too many people have the brake/gas mentality, be smoother and more efficient with the gas and you won’t need as much braking. To do this, I will usually spin an easier gear, and then let my cadence be the predictor of how close I am to the wheel in front of me.

~Hydration and Nutrition is a must!

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