How hard to go to get back to the peloton

In a race or fast drop ride, if you fall off the back or have to catch back up after a nature break or mechanical is it better to take 10 minutes over it going at a steady 350W or try and get back as soon as you can by going deep into the red at 500W? Is there a rule of thumb about the relative benefit of getting back in the draft quickly vs. burning serious matches?


It all depends on how fast the group is going and what sort of efforts you can make / recover from if you reach the group again. Every group / race situation is different.

I’ve only managed this once…and in that case I just rode a consistent pace very close to threshold and didn’t suffer any of the variation seen in the bunch. It probably took me about 1/4 to 1/3 of the course to get back on after losing maybe 30-60s up the opening climb on the lap on an approx 20km course.

1 Like

Depending on the nature of the mechanical, I’d take things easy and aim to claw my way back. If it was a nature break and I knew the course ahead, I’d break myself to get back on. Once you’re reattached, you can recover.

It all depends on the situation and why you are there. As a general rule, though, it’s always better to suffer harder for a short chase and then sit back in than to put yourself in a spot where you’re just TT dangling for 10-20 minutes.

Because I’m a 4-60min effort guy (Cat 1 on “the chart” for 5-60min, Cat 4 for 1 min), I’ve usually been a domestique for guys who could win Pro-1/2 or Masters races. So, if I had a mechanical, the task would be to get back up the field as fast as possible, so I could be back up their to do my job.

If I was racing for myself, well, same thing – I have only won one Masters race, but to have a chance to use my card – my TT power – I need to be back up near the front to be able to put in a dig and try to create a breakaway.

If I were to be a situation where I had no teammates to work for and the fastest 10 or 20 guys in the field were a clear notch above me, and my best TT dig wouldn’t yield anything anyway, I would probably ride just hard enough to make a long bridge back to the field and then sit in for the rest of the race. To be honest, I would then spend the many remaining minutes wondering why I had gone myself to a race where I had little chance of placing and no teammates to work for, when I could have just gone out for a nice ride on my own. But, I’m a whack nut.

Honestly, the only time I could think of when I would want to ride below threshold and slowly get back on would be on a long climb. Any time drafting is involved, it’s always better to get back on sooner than later – especially if the course turns in and out of crosswinds and headwinds. If you don’t get back on a wheel quickly then, you’re toast.

1 Like


1 Like

Another thing to think about – do the math on how many kj of work above FTP you’re going to do for a 10min@110% chase vs say 2 min at 125%. Either way you’re kind of screwed, but suck wheels and and gel for a while after that short hard chase and you’ll be as ok as you’re going to be, under the circumstances.

if you’re strong enough to get back on, I’d say take a good look at the FRC (or in Xert, the HIE) cost of the effort. Least kj above threshold is what you want.

There’s also the out of sight out of mind mentality if you are working with others. Once the peloton gets what looks as too far away, a lot of riders will give up chasing.
In my own experience I rather would work hard for a short time than a drawn out chase, but that also plays to my strengths, can burn matches but recover quickly. Riders that get shelled out the back rarely want to chase back on in amateur races but might wheel suck, you just need to ride away from those rather than rely on them.
Knowing the field can help if you suspect a faster group may be coming through that you can latch onto.

Unless it’s a very small separation, I’m always going to chase at a pace that I can sustain for a bit. That would rule out 500 watts for me. At 500 watts, I’m way past vo2 effort and I’d be lucky to make 2 minutes before blowing up. I’m not catching anyone with a 2 minute chase

Typically, I’m chasing at threshold, maybe into Vo2 depending on how big the gap is. Once you get close, then I might go into the red for ~30 seconds to close that final gap.

Wind also matters. If I’ve got a strong tail wind, I’m more patient because I’m not working that much harder than the group and I probably don’t need to burn matches. If it’s a head wind, I know I’ve got no shot unless I can close the gap quickly and I’ll just roll the dice and risk blowing up.

It’s very dependent
I would chase at close to threshold like just above SST. Also depends how far into a race you are

You might chase and stop after 10mins but the group slacks off after 11mins. You never know.
Also depending what you want out of the race.

I did this on a timed fondo recently when I realized the lead group wasn’t that far off after I paced a long early climb at a SS level that wouldn’t blow me up. Surprised to be that close, I decided it was worth a threshold TT effort for a few mins to try to catch up as the next 30-40 miles was flat and open and no big group right behind me. Got as aero as possible starting on descent, pushed hard throughout the descent and a couple miles beyond as things leveled off and pulled it off. As others said, then it was easy to recover once connected. Paid off as I ended up with first ever podium finish for my AG as others in the lead group faded! It would have been better to have the ftp for confidence in a harder early effort and not have to do this, but I knew from experience if I did so, I’d induce cramps later, so I intentionally avoided sustained over threshold efforts as much as possible, dropping back on climbs and moving up on descents where people often ease up their power, but I never let myself get separated again. Cramped only on last mile and pushed through it, so some progress made but still frustrating to feel that you have untapped power for hours that you can’t use for fear of cramps way down the road.