Off the Front-The Art of Breaking Away

One of the most exciting parts of bicycle road racing is the break away. It is cunning, strength and determination of one or a small group of riders challenging the rest of the field. It is taking the bull by the horns and showing it who’s boss.

I have been in my share of breaks, both successful and failed. I have also watched lots of break aways in races both professional and amature. There are a few things that I have learned from these experiences that have helped me to be more successful. Consider this these the secrets of a successful break. Implement these into your racing and you will have a better chance of making that decisive move or joining the race winning break.

  1. Be in position to make it happen.  If you aren’t where you can make a move, you will not be able to react when the time is right. You should be in the top 10-20 racers depending on the field size, terrain and conditions. Don’t ride at the back or sit in the field and expect to be able to react to or initiate a move.

  2. Be decisive. You can’t go into this endeavor half hearted. You need to be committed to it from the start. That isn’t to say that you have to bury yourself beyond the point of no return, but you need to commit to the move. If you don’t commit to it, it will not work.

  3. Create a gap quickly. Your goal should be to make other riders have to work for more than a just a few seconds to get across to your wheel. This will likely take a sharp acceleration and sustained effort above your threshold for the first few minutes of the move. This is not where you want to hesitate or hold back. Either of these mistakes will doom your move before you gain much ground.

  4. Settle into a hard but sustainable rythme. Once you have a gap, whether you are alone or with other riders, settle down, relax and start to ride a hard but sustainable pace. The first few minutes of the break are critical. Don’t worry so much about what is going on behind you, but worry about finding your rhythm. If you are working with other riders, get a good work rotation going. If you are on your own, find a pace to settle into. Relax. Loosen your grip on the bars, relax your shoulders, change positions on the bike, to allow the effort of the initial attack to ease out of your body.

  5. Don’t worry about holding the pace. Every time I’ve been in a break away, I’ve wondered if I could hold the pace necessary to stay away until the finish. This is natural. Control what you can control. You can stay relaxed and push as hard as you can sustain. It’s going to hurt and it’s going to feel like you won’t make it and you might not, but there is a chance that you will. Doubting yourself is not going to help and will likely lead to you failing.

  6. Find positive things to focus on. Your increasing gap. The laps ticking by. The fans cheering you on. The Coke waiting for you at the finish. These little distractions will make the time go by and help you stay focused on something other than the pain.

  7. Remember to eat and drink. You don’t want to make the winning move and then fail because you didn’t stay hydrated and fueled. Don’t over do it, but make sure to eat and drink as necessary.

  8. If you are in a group, formulate a plan to win. This is where it starts to get tricky. If you are solo, it’s pretty easy. There is a point of no return, where you have to give it everything, and there is no holding back. On the other hand, if you have one or more partners, you need to figure out a plan to make the winning move, whether that involves sprinting for the win if this a strength of your or possibly trying to use the terrain or another attack to narrow the field. Whatever you choose, be committed and execute when the time is right. Don’t worry about how tired you are or the other riders are, but give it everything when the time is right. The victory depends on it.

  9. Enjoy the victory-learn from the defeat. Either way, know that you raced to win. You gave it your best effort. You put on a show for the spectators, learned a little bit more about who you are as a racer and hopefully put the hurt on the field.


There is no other feeling in bike racing like being in a break away and winning from in front of the field. It separates the good riders from the memorable. It captures the hearts of fans and gives them somebody or something to cheer for. It takes you to places you didn’t know you could go. It shines light in places you weren’t sure you wanted to see. The pain can be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced but the joy is that much better. See you off the front!

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