Regret of failed race move, how to learn and move on?

I’m still pretty new to racing, and curious how you guys deal with a failed race move, and how to learn from it. Had a road race yesterday, cat 4/5, around 40 miles in length. I stayed with the main pack the whole race and around 1k to go the bunch slowed a bit so I attacked. I hit power PRs and held 648W for 1:10 but got caught with around 150m to go and finished 24th.

I went all in. So I’m not that ecstatic about a 24th place finish. And now looking back I’m wondering if I should have waited for the bunch sprint. I have a decent kick and think I could have gone top 10 in the sprint. I feel like I traded a likely top 10 for a chance to win but got 24th. How do you guys deal with this mentally? I guess I’m asking how I can stop second guessing myself with that attack? Does it come with experience?


This would be the thing I’d hold on to.

Bike racing is, or should be, a constant learning experience. You fully committed to a strategy and it didn’t work out. That’s not the end of the world. You’re either a cat 4 or a cat 5 - having fun and trying new things in the lower categories is how you can figure out what will work for you as you move up

In my race experience at the lower levels the more regrettable thing is finishing a race with something left in the tank. You buried yourself and it didn’t work. That’s admirable.

Further - you took a shot at winning the race vs. a top 10? I’d take a win over a dozen top 10s


I did. When I got caught and passed I felt like I was standing still because I had nothing left.

I guess because I’m new, my view was that it would have been awesome to get a good result. But I see what you’re saying and would rather have a win.

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I think you made the right move.

A top 10 in a (local) Cat 4/5 race is worthless, IMHO. I think the only placing that matters in these lower categories is the top step, P1.

Getting 2nd or 3rd in any road race, in any category, is nothing to scoff at. It’s certainly an accomplishment, but still not anywhere near as meaningful as a win.

I’ve witnessed a lot of very fit riders move up to Cat 3 without ever having won a race. In the 4s, they were consistently in the top 10, and some of them squeezed onto the podium a few times, but never that top step. Now they’re just pack fodder in 2/3s, 3/4s, and sometimes DNF in the P123s and Masters123s. That sucks.

You almost won in a late break. Had you stuck it, that would’ve been way more impressive than a top placing in a lower category field sprint. Keep it up. The best time to experiment with race tactics is when you’re fit enough to race Cat 3 but you’re still in the 4s.


I changed how I thought about racing. At Cat 4/5 its basically one vs the field (20-40-60 people?) so loosing is more probable than winning. If you race to win, you have to be unafraid to loose. If you race not to loose you won’t make and fully commit to a move that has a chance to win.

Then you raced to win, not to not loose. Didn’t work out this time and maybe there is something to learn, but if you keep racing there will be more opportunities.


Learning to win > learning to podium > learning to get top 10

Making what you believe to be a move that puts you in a position to win or podium and getting DFL is more desirable than a top 10.

You made the right choice.


Seriously? Any placing in any category has worth. You can only control what you do, not who your race against. Thinking only a win has value is shortsighted, IMO.

To the Captain, good on you for giving it a go. My biggest tip is that if you attack when it is slow, it can be hard to get away at 1k. Everyone is feeling OK and just waiting for someone to open it up.

Racing in 4/5’s is as much about getting racing experience as anything else…learning how packs react and race, etc. Keep going out there and mixing it up….it will pay off before too long.


Racing at any amateur level is pretty much “worthless”. No one but you cares if you finished 5th or 25th. You stayed off the deck and lived to race another day, and you committed. That exact same move might work on a different day since every race has a different dynamic. Cheers to not a DNF in a 4/5 race.


Bike racing is not something you can EVER get too upset about any one race. It is a strategy and tactics game, not a fitness test. Done right, racing a bike is something you do dozens of times a year, year after year. Even for a rank and file amateur guy just out for fun, get serious about making bike racing your hobby and you can end up doing a couple hundred races over your “career.”

You try things, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you get lucky sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the stars align, sometimes they align for someone else. Racing is about constantly improving your odds, but nothing is guaranteed or completely in your control. You could do this same race against the same people and win. Or, get a flat at mile 10 and DNF . . . Never let any individual race get you down.


I still don’t quite understand why you think of that as a failed race. Quite the contrary, it sounds as if you did everything right.

You made a move, and it didn’t work. So what? But if you hadn’t made a move, you’d have been in the pack anyway. If I were you, I’d set myself different goals before a race (e. g. practice sag climbing or drifting to the front or rear of the peloton at certain times), and focus on those if you are new to racing. If your fitness is comparable, race craft is a big factor.

I had my first crit race this year (after finally getting fully vaccinated). I knew that the preem lap and the final lap would be total slug fests and I know I am not good enough a racer to make it out of that without at least taking significant (unnecessary) risks. Add to that that there haven’t been many group rides in the last 2 years that I participated in for obvious reasons. So I pushed for most of the laps, but when I got swarmed as I crossed the finish line for the final lap and couldn’t figure out what the others were doing, I eventually settled into the pack. But that was fine, my goals for the day were (1) do not crash, (2) have fun and (3) practice riding in the pack at 37-45 km/h. And I managed to tick off my goals. Fitness-wise, I was probably easily in the top 5 (I live in Japan, so I am usually the heaviest racer, but often also have among the largest absolute power), so I could actually focus on racing tactics.

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I come from timed event sports. Track and field, and bobsled. Drafting doesn’t exist in these sports.

When you’re the best athlete in the field you might still have a bad day or do something tactically or strategically foolish, and end up 3rd, 4th, or maybe even out of the top 5.

If you’re the best cyclist in the field but you make a strategic error, you might end up 24th, 56th, or DNF’ing.

This is not to say to try to avoid strategic errors and develop an unhealthy fear of failure.

It’s to say that you should expect your placing in cycling races to be much more highly variable than in sports where drafting doesn’t play such a major role. The best cyclists in the world don’t win all the races, and when they don’t they’re often DNF’ing, or well outside the top 10 or 20.

It’s a bit like baseball. The best batters in the world still only get on base just less than 40% of the time. They fail disastrously more than 6 out of 10 times.

The difference between 24th and 1st is MUCH slimmer in cycling than in track and field. It’s years of development away in track and field. The difference between 24th and 1st in cycling is often just picking a different wheel to be on in the final sprint or choosing a different tactic.

The reason I bring up all the sport comparison’s up is that if it weren’t for having played baseball in my youth, and watching the TDF avidly, seeing sprinters go from winning to total obscurity and back to winning every other stage, I’d be just like my wife was when she started cycling… REALLY down on herself when she finished 15th, even though she was literally one smart move away from winning everything.

Recommendation: try lots of different stuff at every race and learn from every failure and every success. Keep trying lots of stuff and learn from low-fitness racers or wily masters racers who seem to find away onto the podium every so often.


You never know if you don’t try. If I had a dime for every race I waited or hesitated and lost I’d have something like $21.50. I joke. Keep racing your bike. It will serve you well later.


Yup. In the Cat 4s and 5s, your only goal should be to learn how to win.

If you lose a field sprint and end up 4th, still a great result. At least you were a contender.

If you attack the entire field and end up 24th like the OP, still a great result. Again, a contender. Ballsy move.

If you hide in the pack the whole race and then hit the final corner as 15th wheel, then “sprint” to P10, well… that’s just stupid. Might make sense in the higher categories but not in the 4s and 5s.


I agree on the “meh” for top 10, much better off making a move if you don’t have the kick to podium in a sprint finish. Attacking from 1k out is a tough way to win a bike race though. The pace is so high in the pack by the end, it’s really tough for a solo rider to have a chance. For late attacks in lower categories, I see 5km+ being much more successful. The strong guys are already thinking it’s a sprint and don’t want to burn matches chasing. The pack fodder guys aren’t motivated or organized and may not have the legs to catch. That far out, people just start looking at each other and you are hopefully getting separation. You need to build a gap quickly to have a chance, otherwise, they will be motivated to catch you if you are close as the finish approaches.

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But that isn’t what you said….you said anything outside of the top step / P1 was worthless. You just completely contradicted what you said.


Moving on now…

A tough lesson for all of us i think. I’m going out on a limb here and saying many of us who use trainer road (especially those who race) enjoy approaching our sport with methodical precision. We like to learn how to make the most of our time, our bodies, our fitness and our motivation. Sometimes racing is fickle, and there is no ‘right move’ until its done. I struggle with this, i go over the race in my head over and over, asking myself why didn’t i just xyz. I’m learning to accept and move on as best i can and stick to the mantra:

I never lose, i either win or I learn. Put another way, theres always another finish line to aim for!

All the best mate!


In another race this would have worked - going all in and being willing to lose is a huge lesson to learn. You need to fully commit to win.

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if you are new to racing, most important is to try things and find/learn your limits. In this specific case, 1k all out was maybe too much, maybe it would have worked if you went at 800 to go. maybe it would have worked if you paces a little better (same kick, but safe some for the final meters). These are all things to test the next time your in a similar situation and build your experience.

For what it’s worth, 1:10 648 watt is pretty nice and more than average for cat 4/5 I assume, I’m not from the USA, but my 1 minute power pr is way lower and I think my FTP (not skills and tactics as I’m not a crit racer) or w/kg is enough for a higher cat at 300/4w/kg, but maybe I’m wrong :slight_smile:

This. If you felt good - so did a lot of others. In lower category races there are no tactics - just chaos and random decisions by others in the bunch.

“Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill”, and there is always at least 1 masters racer to remind us of this fact in every bunch.