How to survive a race in a chain gang

My weekly Thursday night race is a 3 mile triangular, flat road circuit. We go off in 3 groups a few minutes apart and try to catch and not be caught. I go in the fast group (not the really fast group) and the race is a solid hour of fast moving pacelines in a chain gang where we sprint out of every corner at 600-700W, pull at 400W+ and settle in at 300W. I end up with about 310W NP for the hour.

It’s really really hard work and pretty much kills me. I can hold on until the end now but i have massive lower back pain and i’m in the red the whole time. By about 40 mins in i’m having to sneakily miss the occasional pull and when we get to the end i can manage a brief 500W “sprint” for the line.

My question is… How can you optimise this? As it’s a chain gang there is no option to keep out of the wind or do short pulls, you’re just part of the fast moving machine. If you go slow up the line then you’re just in the wind for longer, and when you’re on the front you have to keep pulling at 400W until the next guy takes over. My FTP is 327W (75.5Kg) so this is barely doable.

Any ideas or survival techniques?

This sounds like over/unders. Your options are a higher FTP so the efforts are a lower percentage of threshold; and/or get really good at repeating o/u work intervals. Also ensure you are optimizing when in the draft to allow as much “recovery” as possible. Lastly, it will never feel good, so be comfortable being uncomfortable

Few thoughts:

  1. In that sort of ride the little things really add up. Every bit of power you can conserve through being smoother, slicker, more alert, etc will count. E.g.: carrying more speed through the corners, getting on the power earlier coming out of the corners, riding a little closer to the wheel in front, being alert to the wheel in front so you can respond to any surges more quickly. I do a ride fairly similar to this, when I first started it I was wasting so much energy - letting little gaps form, then over-reacting to close them down and having to then brake or overlap wheels, etc. If you can be spiking at 500W instead of 700W coming out of the corners then you’ll be in much better shape at the end

  2. Aero and equipment can make a big difference on a fast ride where you’re in the wind a lot. Make sure you’ve picked up the low hanging fruit - good drops position, snug fitting clothing, tires with good rolling resistance, deepish wheels, etc.

  3. If you can, compare yourself to others. See how much power they’re putting down, if they’re seeing the same sort of spikes, etc. If you’re doing 310 and everybody else is doing 250W (assuming similar weight) then you’re wasting energy and/or giving up speed with your position and equipment. On the other hand if your watts are in line with everybody else then you’re probably already on a level playing field and you just need to go find some more watts :wink:


Concerning the back pain: definitly weight training to strengthen the core, bodyweight should be sufficient. Are you engaging your core when sprinting ? Otherwise also something to add, in order to be more stable and therefore have a lower load on your back.

1 Like

Thanks guys for the good advice here. I think a lot of the answers to my problems are probably hidden under that pile of tough TR workouts i should have done but they looked a bit hard, so i went for easy sweetspot instead :slight_smile:

I think the point of this type of ride is to just barely survive. Sounds like you’re doing it exactly right.