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racing tactics for cyclists book

When it comes to road racing, being in great shape is only half the battle. You need to be able to race hard – and race smart – if you want to win.

You’ve probably seen it in at least one sport, if not cycling itself. Like when the 45+ year old veterans dominate the 25 year old athletes in tip-top shape. It’s all about experience, game planning, honed in skills, and efficiency. We’ll just say “tactics” for short.

While I don’t do a whole lot of road racing, I did read Thomas Prehn’s book, Racing Tactics for Cyclists, a couple times. If you took a class in school called “Bicycle Racing 101,” this would be your textbook! It’s a complete guide to using proper tactics to win road races of all types.

About the book

Here’s a description from the publisher:

Written for the experienced road cyclist, this illustrated book shows team riders how to ride in a race, explains the importance of position, and discusses individual and team racing tactics. Each type of road race — one-days, stage races, criteriums — is covered, along with the technical riding skills and mental strategies needed to succeed. Also included is information on handling prologues, recovering from a crash or flat tire, resting during a race, and evaluating the competition.

What If I’m Already In Good Shape?

If you have any racing experience, you’ve probably realized that just being in shape isn’t enough. With a high fitness level, you can certainly do well, and probably even win some smaller races. But more often than not, you’ll probably be beaten by the riders that employ better tactics and mental preparedness.

Even Joe Friel, author of The Cyclist’s Training Bible and someone who makes his living as a coach, agrees that training isn’t the whole story. So much so that Friel actually mentions Thomas Prehn’s book within his own book!

With Friel’s book, you’ll get yourself in shape. But that’s only half the battle in road racing. It’s absolutely vital that you employ strategy and tactics to get yourself in the right position at the right time if you want to win consistently.

What Is Covered In Racing Tactics for Cyclists

The first chapter is all about reading a race. This is the basis of all tactics, so you really need to master this. (Much like you can’t train for a race if you don’t know how to ride a bike, you can’t employ tactics effectively unless you can read the race.)

While this skill takes some experience, Prehn gives you all sorts of questions to ask yourself during a race to help predict what will go down. Try it out a few times and soon you’ll be doing it instinctively.

The second chapter is all about pacelines, another road racing fundamental. You really have to know how to ride in a paceline if you want to employ any of the tactics you learn in this book, so I’m glad Prehn explains this up front.

As you continue through the chapters, it’s like everything you could think of is covered. Some stuff might even surprise you! Topics include hills, wind, keeping track of time gaps, sprinting lead-outs, etc. There is even a “how to” and a few diagrams on “throwing” your bike at the end to really cap off a good sprint.

Obviously, there are chapters on criteriums and stage races. The criterium chapter is great. It’s filled with good info – a good thing, cause you need to use all sorts of tactics in a criterium! The stage race chapter is pretty short, but if you think about it, most of what you need to know for a stage race was already covered in the earlier chapters.

The book ends with practice drills you can do to hone your skills. It doesn’t matter if you read the book five times and get so good at reading a race that you always know what to do, if you can’t actually do it. You need to practice all this stuff so it becomes second nature, so you can actually do it in a race situation.

Two main skills covered are cornering and proper crashing. Then Prehn discusses some mental skills and preparation. I think it’s explained very well. And some of this stuff I’ve been doing for years and can vouch for how effective it is.

Review Summary

Racing Tactics for Cyclists is very well written and easy to understand. While you may need to figure out some new racing terminology, everything is pretty obvious from the diagrams, so even complete beginners will pick up on the important stuff.

It’s basically a textbook for you to learn from. 210 pages covering all sorts of racing scenarios. It’s not extremely fun to read, but it’s definitely not boring, especially with all the good anecdotes thrown in. It’s like Prehn has a good story to back up every single tactic he explains!

The diagrams and illustrations are clear and make sense. It’s a much better method than using photos.

Overall, the quality is great. I don’t know much about Prehn other than his quick bio in the book, but it’s obvious he knows his stuff. He explains not just what to do, but how to do it. And, how to do it in different types of situations.

Each time I read this book, I find myself having flashbacks to my early road races where I got spanked and didn’t know what just happened! If anything confuses me today, I simply re-read the applicable chapter in here and it helps me game plan to fix my mistakes for next time.

My final verdict is…

This is a good book, and I’d highly recommend that all beginner road racers read it at least once (although 2-3 times would be better). Actually, racers of any discipline (yes, even XC mountain bikers) should still pick up a few good tips in here.

Recreational riders just looking to have fun won’t really benefit, though, so if that is you, save your money for more useful products. Unless you happen to enjoy watching pro racing; in that case, this book will help you enjoy that even more since you’ll learn the nuances of strategy you probably don’t even notice yet.

Buy online: www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: VeloPress / Thomas Prehn
Product: Racing Tactics for Cyclists
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.0 out of 5
Date last updated: 2011-08-24
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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