Brace for the Attack!
There are times when in a race you need to be on high alert to avoid danger and bridge gaps. One such scenario is when a breakaway is getting ready to be caught by the peloton. If you ever watch pro racing on TV, you might notice that the breakaway usually gets caught, but only in the last few kilometers. Why don’t they try to catch them sooner? If it’s a flat stage, the guy who’s the best sprinter enforces his team to chase but in a choreographed manner so that they only catch them towards the end. This way they avoid any counter attacks that are inevitable once the capture happens. If you are in the group catching a breakaway, brace yourself for the counter attack. You might want to go with it, as this is one of the most intense times of the race. And you can only do this if you are close to the front, which is another reason not to ride on the back of the peloton. Another time to be on high alert in a race is after a crash occurs. It might seem like the best course of action is to stop and see if everyone is okay, but the opposite occurs. As soon as you hear the crunch of bikes coming together, brace yourself for the attack.
Another reason to be at the front might be to limit your losses on a hilly course. If you roll into a hill at or near the front, you can afford to lose a few places and stay with the group once you crest it.
Keep in mind that staying at the front takes constant vigilance. If you aren’t constantly reacting to the dynamics of the peloton, you will end up losing position and end up at the back. So the saying goes: If you aren’t moving forward, then you are moving backwards. Some riders wait for things to happen and then react; good riders see everything and anticipate what will happen. This not only will make you more successful, but will also help you in avoiding danger. Are there times when it is okay to go to the back of the peloton? If necessary, you can normally get away with slowing up and fading back when the course is somewhat flat and nontechnical. But don’t get used to it!