Training the Breakaway Kick

Hi, my name’s Mat and have been road racing on and off for a few years now. I finally made the jump to TR earlier this year and aside from the ego hit with my FTP dropping according to AI FTP Detection (which turned out to be bang on when I did a ramp test) I’m really enjoying my training.

I’m a UK 4th Cat and I’m targeting promotion to 3rd Cat this year as I intend to race more. I’m already over halfway there getting 8th and 5th in my last two races (7pts, 12 needed). I’ve gotten a lot better at knowing which wheels to watch and when a breakaway is likely to go. My problem is in both of these races a breakaway went up the road in the crit, which I saw and tried to jump on but couldn’t quite bridge to. What areas should I be targeting to build this bridging ability?

Race tactics wise I’ve already set myself the goal of sitting on the wheels more closely to stop some of the more aggressive riders pushing me off a wheel and having to work harder to stay near the front

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I would say 3-6 minute power for bridging, get used to those long VO2 max intervals. Hard start will get you accustomed to the kick and then settling into a hard effort. Once you’re in the break it’s a world of hurt, while trying to ‘recover’ from the bridge.

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As above, longer VO2 max intervals are what you need. Would also look at hard start intervals i.e. ones where there’s an initial anaerobic spike before settling into VO2 power. As a lot of the time you’ll need to lay down some high power to get the initial separation, as otherwise all you’ll do is drag the bunch with you.

Where are you racing? I find positioning for both initiating and covering attacks varies quite a bit by race. If it’s a technical/narrow course then most of the moves go from near the front and if you’re not in a good position it’s all but impossible to react. But on wider motor racing and airfield circuits you’ll quite often see successful attacks being launched from further back. As there’s enough space to build up speed a bit more gradually (doesn’t burn as many matches) then by the time you sweep past the front of the bunch you’re already got enough speed differential that it’s very hard for anybody to latch onto your wheel (especially if you’re able to go wide) without throwing a huge number of watts at it. Which means even if somebody does get across to you and the move sticks then you’ve likely got yourself a strong break/bridge companion. Other advantage of being further back (if there’s space to safely do so) is it enables you to observe other riders and see who else looks like they’re going to try something. If you can get on an attackers wheel early as they first start to accelerate that’s the optimal situation as they’ll be doing the really hard/taxing acceleration needed to get a gap, leaving you relatively fresh to sustain VO2 watts once they pull off. Especially at Cat 4 where people are inexperienced you tend to see quite a lot of people launching attacks where they go so deep initially they can’t sustain the watts necessary to make it stick, those are perfect launch pads for your own attack if you can latch onto the initial surge.

I’m racing mostly in Central region with the MK Bowl as my local crit circuit. When I try to bridge I’m currently only managing to tow everyone else along. It’s not a technical course, more of a kidney bean shape and not very technical.

I’ve been working on sitting nearer the front as previously I’d end up having to surge too much and end up dropping myself when I did 3/4s. I may need to just have the confidence to sit further back so I can watch for those attacks and jump on early.

VO2s definitely sound like the way to go to bring up that breakaway power, along with trying to recover under pressure. Any specific ones you favour?

I posed this same question to my coach when I was routinely in bad position to catch the break in crits. I’d always end up at the front of the pack as an unaffiliated rider, with teammates of those who made the break (and therefor unwilling to put in any effort whatsoever). His advice… “Why not start the break?”

It didn’t always stick, but I found that initiating the break (from a few wheels back) and then letting those who came with me quickly take over the duties at the front of the break was an effective tactic and found other motivated riders to work with.

When it didn’t work, I’d really only surged a little and could easily float back to the pack to save watts.


Vo2, Vo2, Vo2

It depends a little on how long the bridge is and if there are people you can follow or if you’re trying to do it solo. But usually it’s a kick to get up to speed so you don’t just drag the whole group (I’d say minimum 500-600W) for 8-15s, followed by high VO2 for a minute, and then settling in to mid-ish VO2 till you catch.

Solo bridging is extremely hard and if you are able to do it there’s a good chance that the breakaway isn’t going nearly fast enough to stay away. So the best way is to follow someone else’s bridge attempt and you work together. This would usually require a bigger spike to jump on the wheel.

It’s usually much more about anticipation and separation than it is about the overall avg power needed to get across.

separation is also not just front to back, but side to side. You need to get them out of your draft however possible or else you will tow them with you. And sometimes that will fail and you need to keep trying after some time. Just look at how hard it is for the pros to establish a break at some races.

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Had a look and seems there aren’t any hard start VO2 intervals in the database. So would either do longer VO2 intervals like Border or some spiky ones like Bear or Monroe. These spiky ones are going to be quite similar to a 2 man bridging effort where you’re doing short hard pulls then “recovering” while still working pretty hard in the draft. Also worth doing some hard start threshold sessions like The Priest or The Owl. Rattlesnake also a good one as you’re having to try and recover to do a series of VO2 repeats after a hard anaerobic interval with only micro rests. Again quite similar to putting in a big effort to get away then working in a small group to stay away.

But positioning and timing your attacks is definitely as if not more important than the physiological side. And sometimes it’s just sheer luck. First time I ever got in a break was a 60 minute crit where the first 30 minutes was nonstop attacking, it was all I could do to stay in the bunch, and then by chance I found myself moving up with momentum on the outside coming into a wide sweeping corner just as the front of the pack was having a bit of a lull. I got instant separation just by keeping the power on, 3 strong riders had followed me, and that turned out to be the move that stuck. Thought I’d cracked the code, and then spent the next 5 races having every attack chased down and realising just how much luck was involved :joy:.

Unless I’m one of the stronger riders in a race and able to get away (or get across) by watts alone, I still get it wrong as often or more than I get it right. I’ll go to a crit one week where it doesn’t matter how hard anybody attacks in the first half hour, everything gets chased back and then eventually the race winning move goes just as people are starting to tire from all the surges. So the exact same crit with much of the same field the next week I think “aha, today I’ll be the patient one who bides their time and strikes when everybody is weak”, then watch as a break goes on lap 1 and never comes back. Lots of fun to be had afterwards using 20/20 hindsight with teammates and competitors to work out exactly why the race unfolded the way it did!

I’ll definitely give those a look. I’ve added Gage to the calendar this week to test out the pain that elicits. Not enough time to plan it before my first A race this weekend so I’ll see how it helps for the next crit.

I’ve managed to be the second group behind the breakaway a couple of times and worked together with one other to stay away from the main group behind. Even that felt like my eyeballs were going to bleed by the end.

I do love how the same course and riders can have a vastly different race one week to the next. That’s what keeps it interesting. Alternatively I could finally get round to joining a team this year so I’m not doing it all myself :smiley:

Definitely join a team. Doesn’t really matter at Cat 4 as everybody just wants points, but from Cat 3 up it’s much more fun racing with teammates. There’s not enough teams working together that a solo rider can’t still do well. But can definitely swing the odds in your favour a bit if there’s a few of you. E.g. If you’ve got 3-4 decent people in the race that’s often enough to make sure at least one of you goes with every attack so even if there’s still some luck involved in which attack sticks you should have one of you in the break. And a break has a much better chance of sticking if you have a team mate or two near the front of the bunch able to put in a soft turn or let some gaps open and disrupt the chase. Plus if you’re not in the break but a teammate is, then instead of spending the rest of the race burning matches trying to bridge across or trying to get a chase going, you can relax and save energy while others do the chasing, then be fresh for the finish or to launch a counter if the break does brought back.

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I’ve only seen it once in a Cat 4 with a team working together like that but it was both frustrating and brilliant to see. VCRT had one rider on the front controlling everything and only letting their riders go up the ride. Brilliant display of team tactics.

Time to hunt for a team now I guess

Hi Mat, I also race at the bowl and did the cat4 → cat3 last year, sounds like you’re on track and will have the points in no time!
Racing the bowl is a tricky one, the cat4 only races never get that many entries so can be hard to avoid doing work on the front and then the 3/4s use the outside loop so bring in another set on tactics with the corners but with many more riders to use/hide behind. The little punch in the bowl is usually the point to attack so it’ll be hard 45second effort followed by a holding a steady power for around a minute before punching again. Can’t go far wrong with repeated efforts and/or sustained Vo2 :+1:t3:

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@TomErnest I think you put me deep in the hurt locker a couple of times last year if I remember rightly :laughing:

That’s definitely the point where I’ve seen the most attacks go, especially going clockwise. I’ll add a few long VO2 into the plan and hopefully I’ll see you in the 3/4s before the end of the season