Whether it’s an impromptu sprint during the local club ride or a serious attack during a criterium race, the breakaway is a key tactic used by amateur and elite cyclists alike.
If you are looking to enhance your performance and add breakaways to your skillset, you will first need to hone your ability to identify a breakaway situation.
Firstly, let's take a look at the typical breakaway master. They are the dark horses of events who are not necessarily remarkable sprinters or climbers, but they make up for this with a dash of aggressive riding and a generous amount of effort. In Grand Tour events, these riders are often awarded the prix de la combativité, which favours riders who try to attack and breakaway, because it captures the spirit of the Tour.
Secondly, you’ll need to identify the prime opportunities for attacks so you are not caught off guard by other riders. Think about the pace of the bunch and whether any particular riders are positioning themselves for an attempt. This take a bit of practise as you will need to learn to read other riders, which comes with experience.
Now you know how to identify elements of the breakaway, it’s time to consider whether you have a prime opportunity to make a break yourself. Start by asking yourself these questions:
What is the weather like? The wind plays a big part in the success of a breakaway attempt, with crosswinds regarded as the best type to attack in. If you try to go alone into a headwind, you will most likely find the effort too much and be back with the bunch for some respite.
What is the course elevation? Climbs are often regarded as one of the best places to attack, because they naturally break up the bunch. If you have been working on becoming a better climber, or improving your power to weight ratio, then a climb could be a good opportunity for you to attack.
If you want to start adding breakaway attempts to your own cycling catalogue, you’ll need to train some specifics so you body is adapted to the unique challenges of a breakaway. Find out more information and try some of the sessions listed in the following blogs:
Power Sprints from How and when to start building sprint into your training