A few weeks ago I rode in the Antelope Island Classic Road Race as a Cat 5 racer. It was my first real Road Race and so it was a little bit of a crazy experience. But, after watching the other Cat 5 riders, and spending hours riding with a bunch of Masters we picked up along the road I decided this article needed to be written. I am still developing as a rider, and while trying to ride according to the spirit of the domestique, I am not a pro. But these are things you should know.
The race went straight off up a causeway in the middle of a lake, which was windy. Very very windy, with the wind coming across the causeway at an angle, providing the peloton with crosswinds both going and coming. At some point in your racing you will be faced with this exact experience, If you are strong in the wind this is when you crank up the pace and crack off the weak riders. This is also when you need a strong paceline, or echelon, to survive no matter how strong a rider you are. The best resource out there is this article from Cycling Tips. Every Domestique should have read and practiced these principles before they show up at their first race. It will save you, and all the other riders with you, energy so you can get in that winning break, or max out the sprint at the end.
Something else that you need to do is ride with groups. Lots of us train solo, absorbing the silence and using it to crush the pain out of our legs. You will learn a lot by riding with others, things you could never learn on your own. Besides the true domestique rides for their companions and not for themselves. They ride better pulling on the front of a bunch then they do cruising alone through the mountains.
Another thing that needs to be taken care of is your bike. Make sure it fits, if your are bobbing around because your seat is the wrong height, not only are you wasting energy. You are making everyone around your nervous. And when you make people nervous they decide it’s time to drop you.
Lastly, Don’t give up. If you get dropped from the lead group, which will likely happen to you early in your racing career, keep pedaling hard. Gruppettos will form and the front group will probably shedding riders the whole race. Keep working and you will keep moving up.
Racing is hard. That’s why we do it. Hard is how we get stronger. Viva La Domestique!