How to Play Your Hand in a Bike Race with Kiel Reijnen and Alex Howes

Discover how a strong peloton adds complexity to cycling, where strength alone won't ensure victory. Seasoned pros Alex Howes and Kiel Reijnen share their insights from competing in Grand Tours on how to master the game of peloton strategy, no matter the hand you're dealt.

FT ep 278 graphic with Alex and Kiel

While watching the Tour de France, it’s easy to believe that road races are won solely by being the fastest rider. But, having a peloton that can always ride faster than any individual cyclist adds complexity to the sport. You might be able to put out a higher wattage than anyone else in the field, but a group can still swallow you up. This means you have to look at more than strength to win the race. 

Road cycling, both at the professional and amateur level, is more like a game of poker. Being strong just buys you a seat at the table. A good team, knowing the course, and a multitude of other factors determine how good a hand you have. After that it’s about knowing how to play the hand that was dealt to you. Unless you’re finishing on an HC climb, the winner isn’t always the person with the best hand. Instead, it’s likely the person who best plays the hand dealt to them. 

Here to teach us some of the tricks of bike racing are two experienced “poker players” turned gravel riders Alex Howes and Kiel Reijnen. Both have raced at the highest level including competing in Grand Tours. They know well what goes on inside the poker table of the professional peloton.  

They share with us how to play strong and weak hands, how to bluff, and most importantly, how to read the faces of the other people sitting around the table. Here’s a hint—if you want to read their face, don’t look at their face.  

Joining Howes and Reijnen, we also hear from United Arabs Emirates coach Dr Iñigo San Millán, Head Coach at Train2Win Coaching Janis Musins, owner of Winkler Coaching Jeff Winkler, and professional cyclist Petr Vakoč with Canyon Northwave.  

Put on your best poker face and let’s make you fast! 

Show Summary

  • Introduction
  • Bike Racing is like a poker game.
  • How to deal with bad races.
  • How to pick a breakaway rider.
  • Not having the bullets to spend.
  • Negotiations early in stage races.
  • Highlight the benefits to the other riders.
  • Learning to read a race.
  • Knowing when to fold and when to hold.
  • How to pick the right breakaway move?
  • Finding a breakaway team.
  • Advice on positioning and strategy.
  • How do you tell if a rider is playing you or struggling?
  • Playing each other in a race.
  • Differences between road and gravel racing.

Quotes from the Episode

“Tactically […] there’s the individual layer, there’s the team layer, there’s the day by day, there’s the,[…] season long game and the more you can be involved in those different layers, […] the more time you can spend racing, like playing the game, making mistakes, hopefully having some successes, watching races, talking to people about how things played out, the more you can understand about all of it, the quicker and better you’ll learn. The best World Tour technicians start racing when they’re 10 years old. And they have you know, the game, hopefully mastered by the time they’re 35. It’s not something you learn overnight. So it really just takes a ton of ton of time in the fire to figure it out. So get at it.”

Alex Howes

You have to be willing to risk losing to win. And so that means that you know, those days where you don’t have the best legs, those days can be some of your best results, because you have no choice but to risk losing. And being able to apply what you learned from those days to the days where you have good legs is maybe one of the most valuable things you can do.

Kiel Reijnen

“Being successful in racing, meaning a good finishing position; It takes active thought. And if you’re someone who it feels more like playing the lottery than playing poker, if you’re someone who’s buying a lot of tickets and never seems to win the jackpot, then it’s probably because of a lot of the things that we talked about today, you’re not taking a step back, you’re not understanding the game, you’re not understanding the race, and you’re not making smart decisions. And so I think for people to be introspective on how they’re going and and to understand that the race is not won in the lab. It’s not always about the strongest legs. There is this extra understanding hand that you have to play if you want to be successful unless your legs are just golden magical legs, in which case go all in all the time.”

Rob Pickels

“Fitness doesn’t guarantee you wins and races. Fitness just buys you a seat at the table and then you have to play the game. And it’s a complicated game. I was playing poker with my nephews just a couple of weeks ago, and I haven’t played poker in years and discovered. There’s a lot of subtlety to it. And I didn’t know any of it, and I lost all my poker chips really quickly. And bike racing is the same thing. You have to learn all those subtleties, how to read people how to know when to make the moves, and when not to make the moves. And as you said, when asked, you know, how do you know when what’s the right move? I’ve asked that question to 50 different people and they all go, I don’t know what to feel. I couldn’t describe it to you. And I think that’s part of it is you just got to do enough to start to pick up on those little things.”

Trevor Connor

Episode Transcript

Rob Pickels  0:04

Hello, and welcome to fast your source for the science of endurance performance. I’m your host Rob pickles here with Coach Connor. It’s easy to assume that bike races are won by the fastest rider. However, at both the professional and local level, the race is often won by the best poker player. It’s true that you need to be a strong rider but physiology only buys you a seat at the table. Success means playing the hand that’s dealt to you and factors like course knowledge, teamwork, hydration, and others determine how strong that hand is. However, the winner isn’t always the riders with the strongest hand. It’s the one who plays there’s best. Today we have Alex house and Kiel reinen. To experience World Tour players turn gravel riders to give us unique insight into how the game is played. They’ll share learnings and funny stories that come from a full career racing in Europe and the US joining housing Ryan and we’ll hear from coaches Indigo, San Milan of UAE Team Emirates, Janice Musen have trained to win coaching and Jeff Winkler of Winkler coaching as well is pro cyclist Peter Vatche COC. So get ready to read the table. And let’s make you fast.


Trevor Connor  1:19

Hey, past talk listeners. This is Trevor Connor, would it be cool to decide what Rob and I are going to chat about on an upcoming show? Or how about we answer a question on polarized training you’re dying to know what about a 30 minute zoom call with Robert me on your favorite sports endurance topic. This is all possible to become a fast talk Patreon member, we have four monthly membership levels to fit your level of support. If you enjoy fast talk help us stay independent in dishing out your favorite sports science topic by becoming a fast talk Patreon member, you can join us at Talk podcast.


Trevor Connor  1:54

Well, welcome guys. Great to have you on the show. Again, this should be a lot of fun. Yeah, thanks for having us back. So we’re going to talk about something that you guys know well, and this should be a lot of fun. So we’re going to talk a little bit about race strategy. But I’m going to kick it off with an analogy, to give us a little context to talk about race strategy. This was something that was told to me a long time ago by a very experienced rider that really stuck with me on how to think about race strategy. He said training and getting strong doesn’t win races. He said bike racing is like a poker game, and strength training. All that does is buy you a seat at the table. But once you’re at the table, then you got to play the game. And that is the strategy side. So this notion that a lot of riders have that I just get really strong, and then I win every race doesn’t work that way. Getting really strong just puts you in the race. Now you have to figure out how to race it. I think that’s a good analogy. I would argue that training just gets you better cards, right? I mean, there’s definitely people who show up to the table, and they get a hand like a foot, you know, doesn’t matter what, what they do they make cards ain’t gonna win them nothing. But you know, then you have people who always seem to have aces up their sleeves. And it doesn’t matter how how sneaky or how well they bluff, you know, when they throw those aces down and works out pretty well. But no, I do think it is a good analogy. Kill How was your hands, you have good hands out there.


Kiel Reijnen  3:25

I think the the most satisfying races in my career, when I reflect back are the ones where I was dealt a crappy hand, right? For whatever reason, lack of fitness, circumstances, injury, whatever it was, and still pulled out a good result. Or maybe perhaps it wasn’t me individually as the team, right, we punched above our weight on that given day for the cards we were dealt. And it’s compounded the idea of like playing poker to sort of extrapolate on that the, you’re doing it? Well, you’re running a marathon too. So you got to make good decisions and make your moves and your bluffs and put your chips down? Well, you’re sort of, you know, in a compromised state of mind. And that’s where training again, can you know, make a difference if you can train yourself up to a level where you can stay calm in those stressful situations and you know, be a little less redlined make a better decision.


Trevor Connor  4:21

So on that note, let’s talk about the cards. So sticking with this analogy, what are the cards What do you consider an ace in the hole and what what’s a bad hand?


Alex Howes  4:31

I would say good sprint? Yeah, definitely a nice. I


Kiel Reijnen  4:37

was thinking also knowing the course right, like knowing that that last 20k of the race or maybe knowing a really key point of the race, that sort of hometown advantage. So we see that a lot when riders race on their home turf. They sort of are up a level, they’re up a notch. And we attribute that to lots of things but again, I think just local knowledge makes a huge difference.


Alex Howes  4:59

Esteem With the analogy here, you know what cards the other guys have


Kiel Reijnen  5:02

peeking at the other hands.


Alex Howes  5:06

You know, you know who has a good sprint, you know who who doesn’t have a sprint, you get to begin to understand how they need to play the race. That doesn’t always mean it’s going to work out in your favor. But you can start to look for chinks in the armor there and kind of dream up potential scenarios where you could get the upper hand.


Rob Pickels  5:26

Now, in regard to knowledge of other riders, is this something that you guys are just learning throughout your years in the peloton? Is it something that your team is actively kind of educating and informing you on? How do you gain that knowledge about everyone else?


Kiel Reijnen  5:41

It comes up in team meetings, certainly. And it’s talked about, you know, what, what teams are going to do what with what riders on any given day. And a lot of riders on the team are training with other riders from other teams. So there’s a little bit of inside knowledge there. But I will say that for me, at least, it was mostly an individual pursuit, kind of gathering that knowledge. Over time you’re looking for really small tells, like, you know, Alex is written enough miles behind me, he can tell you when I’m on the limit, without you know, just from body language, he might pick up on signals that other riders who haven’t written with me as much wouldn’t. So just spending time in the peloton is definitely the way to collect that knowledge.


Rob Pickels  6:21

And it sounds like though, it’s something that maybe you need to have open eyes to, right. If you’re just riding in the peloton next to people and you’re not really paying attention, you might not gain that knowledge. But by eating trying to observe, you know, every mile that you’re out on that road, maybe you can gather it a little bit more quickly.


Alex Howes  6:39

Yeah, absolutely. And like say you’re in a breakaway somebody, right. And every time there’s an acceleration, somebody’s having, like, they’re always like a couple bike legs off, trying to come back up. But every time they pull through, they pull through freakin hard, you know, it’s like, okay, that’s the person I want to be off the front with, I don’t know how to get off the front with them. But if I can get away with them, hopefully they can drag me around, and then I can kick it but at the end, because they can’t don’t seem to have any acceleration there. But yeah, just little tells like that. And it it’s complicated. You know, like, say you’re in a breakaway with eight riders, it’s difficult to pay attention to eight riders, you know, in every, for every acceleration, or every every corner, who’s breaking more through the corners, who’s you know, sitting out more? It’s a pretty intricate game. And the more but the more you play it, the better you get. I mean, there’s really only one good way to get a nose for racing tactics. And that’s racing. You know, you have you have to be in it. I mean, you can watch it on TV. But as Gil was saying, You need to be able to make those decisions on the fly, when your heart rates sitting at 180.


Trevor Connor  7:47

So how much can you bluff? Can you with your body language, convince people that you’re in a different place from where you’re at? And how much do you want to do that? And I’ll kick this off by saying I, I was always a breakaway rider. And often what I would do in a breakaway is what I called the 200 Watts shoulder rock, which is even if I wasn’t at my limit, I’d rock a little more than I normally would just to make everybody on the breakaway think that I’m struggling more than I actually am. So nobody’s watching me. Do you guys pull things like that try to make it look like you’re not hurting when you are or vice versa? Like I did try to make it sometimes look like you’re hurting one yard?


Kiel Reijnen  8:28

Yeah, certainly. I mean, usually I’m doing it with my efforts. So like if I’m really trying to conserve, but I’m pulling through, I might make it seem like I’m struggling to hold the pace a little bit or pull off a little bit earlier than some of the riders if I bought the breakaway to last but ultimately fail because it’s a team tactic. I might do the reverse and try and really, you know, control some of the other riders. The other thing is that those conversations that happen within the peloton or the breakaway are really important, right? There’s a lot of mind games, and the the first thing I’ll do when I see, like it, let’s let’s pretend we got a breakaway of you know, 810 Guys, the first thing is I’m looking for who’s the local guy? Because that’s where I want to fall on the descent. You know, potentially anyway, depends on what he knows the descent and if he’s any good, that’s gotta fall on the descent and maybe in the last 20k If he starts attacking on, you know, terrain that matters, then I’m looking for who’s under the most pressure for a win. Is there a team that’s been at the, you know, this race and had no wins? And we’re two and a half weeks in and they’re under immense pressure from the director and the team meeting. That guy is going to make bad decisions, who is the young gun who is fresh to this, you know, race or you know, new team or you know, new environment, and he wants to impress, so he can be manipulated, and I can convince him to work when he shouldn’t even if his director is yelling his ear, telling him Take it easy. Take it easy. I can I can tell him. Look, we gotta we gotta go now or the peloton is gonna Catch us I can, I can squeeze a little bit more out of them. Next is do you have any friends in there is Alex there, you know, you’re gonna buddy up with and make sure you’re on the same page with for later. Right because you’re already playing, you’re playing your your hand of poker once that breakaway establishes, but you’re going to play another hand in another 150k. So there’s multiple hands to keep track of, and you kind of have your energy bank for like the bulk of that day. And then you’ve got your energy bank for the last, you know, 20k the race. And they’re, they’re in some senses separated. And so, yeah, the first thing I’m doing in that group is just sort of analyzing each rider and what I can use them for.


Trevor Connor  10:37

So you guys have any good examples of times where you didn’t necessarily have the best hand, but you played it really? Well.


Alex Howes  10:43

I don’t think either one of us ever had good hands.


Kiel Reijnen  10:46

Yeah. I’m blocked every time. pretty mediocre.


Alex Howes  10:52



Kiel Reijnen  10:54

I think nationals 2012 stands out as like, probably some of the worst legs have ever had on a bike. I was coming back from being sick or something, I think it was coming back from being sick. And the like, the only reason I had a shot was in the very first couple of K, a group of 25 of us rolled off the front. And it wasn’t a heartbreak way to make it wasn’t a big fight. It was just like somebody opened the wheel on the local circuits. And I was on the right side of the split. And I’d seen that happen before it national. So like I was at the front because I knew it was a possibility. And then once that group 25, when it turned out that slipstream had like eight guys in it. And so they just started steam rolling, and nobody had to do any work. So I got a free ride in that group for like 150k. And the gap between the field and that group was like just a stable two minutes the whole time. So everybody was burned in matches. And because I had really bad legs, I was totally willing to risk losing to win. I had no other cards to play, right, like the only card I had was the bluff. And so I didn’t make a single attack. I followed a couple of moves late, I got dropped on the last climb. And the guy got dropped with I can’t remember who I got dropped with. But whoever I got dropped with, dragged us back by himself, because I couldn’t help. Like, it wasn’t that I was bluffing in that case, like I just couldn’t physically help. And so it it saved me because he did all the work. And so it was a good play. But again, it was a big risk. But of course, I had to take the risk because like what’s the alternative? Right? If you don’t have the bullets to spend, then, you know, there’s no choice. So you drag us all the way back to that group. And then there was a front group like five off that and again, there were some team tactics at play. And eventually that group of five somebody in there wasn’t pulling and so they sat up. And we miraculously caught them like they had like three minutes on our group and we caught them with half a lap to go. And and then I got third in the sprint. Because there was no sprinters left in there are not many anyway. And so it was like it was such a better result than I deserved for the legs I had. But, you know, tactically it played out really well. And sometimes not having the choices is like the best tactic, right? Like when you’re when you do have a bad day. You can you can’t have a really good result because you’re forced to be conservative. Yeah, it helps you to


Rob Pickels  13:23

admit, right?


Alex Howes  13:24

Yep. Just hang on for dear life. Timmy one. Yeah.


Kiel Reijnen  13:29



Trevor Connor  13:30

I had a similar experience. First pro race I ever won. I was on a breakaway with another rider and I had horrible legs. And he knew it. So he was really driving us and just figured he was going to drop me there was there was a climb about 5k from the finish. And he figured he was going to drop me on the climb. And we hit that climb, I was suffering. But I’m like, let’s see if I can I can block them and make them just stay with me up the climb. So he got to the bottom and I hit it really hard just to try to convince him I had better legs. And I did. And he told me later it surprised him so much because he thought I was toast that he didn’t know how to react. And he let me go and I ended up dropping them on the climb by accident. And that’s how I won the right.


Kiel Reijnen  14:12

This is one of the cool things about cycling though, right? It’s people always look at, you know, like the Tour de France and they’re like, Well, these guys are on a totally different planet, you know the numbers are doing are crazy. It doesn’t really matter if the race happens at you know, 10k an hour faster average or not. It’s the same process, right? Like that same poker game is getting played out whether you’re cat five racer or World Tour racer, and that’s part of what makes the sport sort of so intriguing for people to participate in is you get to experience that right away.


Trevor Connor  14:42

Sometimes you can actually win with a bad hand. Let’s hear from Pro Petr vacarro who points out that the biggest mistake can sometimes be not playing the hand you have


Petr Vakoc  14:51

the biggest mistake usually just to be afraid to go for the attack just just thinking that that others are are better then then you are and then it’s not not a good moment then just like waiting, waiting and then then not having an opportunity. So I think you always have to believe that if you suffer that the others are suffering as well. And then a lot of people have the same thoughts at the same moment. So just yeah, just try and get, even though you, you might not think it’s a good moment. Because nowadays you can, you can see a lot of races are won from quite far. And I think that’s, that’s something that many people don’t realize that if they don’t try it, and then try theory enough, then they will not have the chance, and they just cannot do anything.


Trevor Connor  15:51

So guys, we’ve talked a bit about how you play this individually. But let’s talk about some team tactics here. So there’s also that that poker game where you’re playing it as a team, what are the some of the things that come to mind in terms of having a good hand having a bad hand and how you play that hand as a team?


Kiel Reijnen  16:10

Yeah, I mean, knowing you know, at the beginning of the day, whether you have sort of a top tier ride or second tier rider on the team will dictate a lot of your strategy. But the scenario that comes to mind first for me, and one that I think a lot of viewers don’t kind of get to witness is on a sprint stage, or at a classic, think of tour Flanders, there’s maybe three, four riders that can win that race. And so those teams all know at some point, they’re going to, they’re going to pull that day, but they don’t want to use the resources too early. So they start looking at the other teams who have a shot at winning, and say, Well, you got to pull first, or we’re not going to pull until you pull, or we’ll give you one guy, but you got to use too. And when that occurs, there’s a lot of communication. And you know, maybe you’ll see on TV writers like Alex and I, going back to the director car back to the front, back to the director car, and we’re having these negotiations. So we’ll go back there to our director and say, Look, quick steps only going to pull if we put a guy in. But visma said they’re not going to put a guy in yet. They’re going to wait till the first feeds up. What do you want to do? And then they’ll say, Well, I don’t want to pull up quick steps not pulling. So they’re gonna give two guys and we’ll give one guy so then you go back to Quickstep, you know, at the front, and you talk to one of their old guys, because it’s always the old guys making the negotiations. And and you say to him, Look, you know, I’m in a tough spot here, like my director saying, we can only pull if you put too, what do you think? And he’s going alright, I got to talk to my director, he goes back to his drill, you know, there’s just like, 30 minute long negotiation that occurs, well, the race is unfolding. And during this time, you know, that gap to the breakaway sometimes is just like grinding, grinding, grinding, grinding, grinding, and then all of a sudden, you realize, if we don’t step on the gas, we’re like it’s over. And sometimes you miscalculate and other times the teams kind of go, alright, well, we all blocked and we all lost, like, we got to get to the front and just use up all of our chips. And that negotiation part, you know, just it doesn’t get captured very well.


Alex Howes  18:08

The place where it gets really sticky, though, is in stage races, right? Where you have that negotiate negotiation happens early on in the race. And early on one team. You know, they get the upper hand they had the better sprinter, or maybe the you know, maybe they don’t, but they totally flipped the other guys. And they’re like, Yeah, we’re only putting one in and the other team had three and, and so you know, a weekend, all these other teams are like, Hey, man, you guys totally screwed us over on day two, and you won the race. So now it’s all on you. And they’re like, We don’t have the team. We have three, you know, three riders already crashed out. You know, we need help here. And no, sorry, you know, this is on you guys. You guys screwed us over on this day. And then it but it just keeps layering. It’s not just day to day in a stage race. I mean, we can you can look over the course of a season. You know, and like, certain teams will have beefs with other teams. And it’s like, yeah, we’re gonna help him unless they, you know, put in double riders, and it’s pretty personal pretty fast.


Kiel Reijnen  19:04

I think there’s a little there’s like PTSD to you know, like, as a rider, especially those like classics where, you know, like, I know, I’m gonna be ride the front at some point, the days when, yeah, we sort of like didn’t play our hand and we won the race, you know, you’re gonna like, you’re gonna have to pay that back. So there’s retribution. Yeah. Yeah.


Trevor Connor  19:25

Well, I think that’s a really important point that you have to remember, you’re usually racing the same people every weekend, whether you’re pro or just racing locally. And people remember things. And I had a mentor who was really good race strategist. And he said, If he showed up to a race, and it wasn’t his course, or he was having a bad day, he would spend the day trying to help out some other guys because he said, they’ll remember and the day I’m having a really good day, they’re gonna say, Hey, you help me out. We’re gonna be here for you. You know, conversely, and I’m sure you guys And talk a lot about this. If you do something that really screws over other teams in a race, they’re going to remember and they’re going to find ways to pay it back.


Kiel Reijnen  20:09

Yeah, you can only play that that hand so many times,


Alex Howes  20:12

honestly, the goodwill aspect is is also not seen a lot. And you know, from from like TV cameras, I mean, if you have a rider who, who’s like losing the wheel in the group, and, okay, it’s illegal, but they give you a little hand sling. Like, you know who you know who that is, and you’re gonna remember that for the next 10 years. Like, oh, yeah, you know, that guy’s never gonna leave me hanging, you know, and it means, you know, might not be your best friend, but you’re probably not going to chop them going into, you know, into technical downhill, because you’re like, alright, he’ll help me get around, if need be. But then you have that person that loses the wheel, and doesn’t help you out. And for the next 10 years, going into every downhill, like no way, like 0% chance, you’re going to be in front of me. And that gets pretty sticky.


Kiel Reijnen  21:01

This can happen between writers and directors, too, right? Like, I can think of some days where I was dropped for whatever reason, you know, way too early. And mostly because the legs, you’re like, you know, you’re with like the other guy. And I can remember one in particular, you know, like two or two Swiss stage where it was just like an uphill start, I think I’d crash or something. So it was just a rough day. And there was another EF rider with me. And that director, that second director stayed with us, because I think EF have lost a bunch of writers that race. And so he was just trying to make sure his guy made it through. And, you know, of course, if you’re a director in that position, you’re gonna help the other guy out to, you know, like, you’re gonna make sure he’s got bottles and food, and you’re going to tell them information like, Hey, this is the time gap, this is the, you know, like, and when we think of help, I don’t mean like holding on to the car. I mean, like just the morale boost from someone telling you, hey, you still got 10 minutes to time cut, like you’re looking okay, or, you know, this is what’s happening up front. And this is the gap. And you know, there’s one more climb left and all of gels at the top of the climb kind of thing, that can be a huge boost and can get you through the stage. So there, again, like that’s a play that that director can make, he can say, all right, I know if I take care of this track guy, that maybe tomorrow, if the situation is reversed, the trek car is going to take care of my guy.


Trevor Connor  22:26

So let’s translate this to most of our listeners here who are going to be on races but don’t have a team directors car behind them. They’re just just in the race. And let’s say they’re on a team, they’ve got a rider who could potentially win. How do you play this game? In that scenario? How do you negotiate with the other teams? What should you be doing? What shouldn’t you be doing? Overall? How do you play the game? And I get it’s very different if this is a crit versus some big hilly road race, but are there any general rules?


Kiel Reijnen  22:58

If you know you got a guy can win, probably the best thing you can do is make sure that no one else thinks that.


Trevor Connor  23:05

How do you do that? Yeah,


Alex Howes  23:07

I think a lot of it comes down to just highlighting the benefits to the other riders, right? Like, you guys should work because if this breakaway goes away, none of us have an opportunity, right? If your team has a good sprint or as well, you know, Sprint’s are a total mess, it could go either direction. Like there’s, there’s benefit to that, also highlighting your potential weaknesses if you need help, right? It’s like, look, we’re, you know, we’re already down to riders here, like, we need help. Like, we can’t do this all on our own, but just helping other riders around, you sort of see the situation you want them to see if that makes sense, which involves a little bit of talking, right? And I think one thing when you’re trying to impart a little bit of empathy is not screaming at people in a race like if you if you talk to people in a calm manner, maybe even a little chipper, you know like and just trying to help them see what’s going on. That goes a long ways versus the standard you know, cat three model and just like you guys are idiots you’re gonna lose what do you hold your line? Yeah, I think there’s a lot of screaming there’s a lot of screaming it doesn’t have to be screaming you know, you got to talk loud enough for them to hear but I think


Kiel Reijnen  24:28

also that you don’t want to close the door on on possibilities right so like making sure those other writers see how many possibilities there are so an example being if you have a really strong team with a guy who can win if you go to the front straightaway show a force start mowing the back the breakaway and you know the team set up they’re all six riders, the leader right behind them and you look like the Tour de France leaders on stage 20 You’re leaving no room for those other riders to think like a what if you know what if this scenario what if that’s Aereo like you’ve taken out 90% of the scenarios. And so there’s not their imaginations can can’t run with, you know, what may or may not happen, which is


Alex Howes  25:10

sometimes a good thing, right? Especially if, you know, sometimes you want to be the, the iron fist. Yeah,


Kiel Reijnen  25:17

if you’re bluffing, like, like, let’s say, you don’t have the strength, and you’re trying to show the other teams like, look how strong we are, so that they don’t attack you. Yeah, that’s,


Alex Howes  25:25

yeah, but then there’s like, if you don’t, unless you’re, you know, ready to be on the front all day, you don’t, you don’t necessarily want to hit the front, on the second lap of a crit. You know, with all five or 25 riders, I don’t know how many you’re allowed to have. And sometimes it feels like 25. But


Trevor Connor  25:45

there are certainly alternatives to Yellin at other riders, let’s hear from coach Jeff Winkler about the value at any level of watching and learning to read the field.


Jeff Winkler  25:54

That’s a really challenging thing. And I mean, basically, it’s, I mean, some might say it’s impossible from the sideline. But the way that I tried to do it as a coach who’s not there at the moment, is to force the athlete to explain what they were thinking during points in the race. And often what that does is highlight the fact that they don’t think that way in the race, like often the answer is, well, I don’t know, you know, and I’m going down this path, because the way you learn to read a race is by compiling enough data in your own sort of personal experience database, that you start to see patterns, right, you recognize them without maybe noting them rationally, like, Oh, this guy 30 minutes ago was pedaling smoothly, and now he’s not or, collectively, the group is now reacting to break attempts at a break away much slower than it was in the first hour, you know, but those are the kinds of things that inform your race craft, in a sort of semi intuitive way, after you’ve accumulated enough of them. But the problem is for many racers, is they think that process is going to happen just by virtue of the number of starts. And that’s not how it works, you actually have to be engaged through the race, and seeing things that happen. What are the outcomes in all the variations of them? Before it becomes semi intuitive? You’re not mentally engaged in every single race that you do? You, you aren’t accumulating any experience. And so for the most part, that’s the process, again, very hard, because you’re not there at the moment of contact when you need to say, Hey, are you doing this? Are you doing this, which brings me to an interesting side note is, I was working with a junior team of mountain bikers when COVID hit and we couldn’t really initially ride as a group. And so I got us on to Zwift. And we started doing Zwift races, together with discord. So you had real time audio. And so I was actually able to be in these races with them. And at the point of contact, we could converse about what was happening. And it was, in my mind revolutionary, because there’s no other way for the coach to have that kind of level of connection as it unfolds kind of thing. So they could be like, Hey, I’m stuck in this group. And these guys aren’t working. What should I do? Should I try to bridge or should I just sit in or you know, those things? You can’t do that as a race director or coach on the sideline unless you’re the world’s Warlow


Rob Pickels  28:44

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Trevor Connor  29:13

Another question here, I’m sure you’re gonna get the song wrong. But there’s the the login song about playing poker. You gotta know when to hold them and know when to fold them. Thank you. That was the line I was looking for. So before we got on Mike here, you kind of joked, well, of course race strategy is you go with every single move, and you go with the first attack and the race. And I know that was joking. And I will tell you, I used to coach a team up in Toronto, and it would drive me nuts because there were certain guys on the team that these races are always flat there’d be 5060 attacks before the winning move finally went and we had guys on the team that would go with the first move the second move the third move that go with every single move until they blew up, and then three moves later the winning move would go and they would never be on the winning move, as well. arches, I would tell them stop going with the first move. They just couldn’t stop. So how do you play that? How do you know when to say, I’m not going with that move? That’s not the right hand to play. But waiting, knowing when to go with the right move to maximize your chance of getting into that, that breakaway and be on the game?


Alex Howes  30:21

I wish I could tell you honestly. It’s it’s a I mean, it is an art. You know, it’s tricky. The number of times I’ve been with like Neo pro riders and just been like so frustrated, you know, because just like you say, they go with every single move, and except for the one that goes, and they sit on the bus, and there’s and you’re pissed off, and they’re pissed off, and everybody’s pissed off. And they’re like, Well, I don’t know how, which one to go with. It’s like, we’ll just go with the good one. Why don’t you go with all the bad ones like, Well, you never know. It’s like, well, yeah, you do you just go with the good one. Like, it’s not that hard. Like, you know, four days in a row. Like, I’ll jump once, you know, you jump 100,000 times. And I’m in for breakaways, and you’re none I don’t know what to tell you. It’s tricky.


Kiel Reijnen  31:04

It reminds me chemistry, right? Where it’s like, Okay, here’s, here’s the equations. Here’s how it all works. And then every time you like, go in to make the calculation. It’s like, oh, but that one’s an exception. Oh, but that there’s an exception here. There’s an exception to that rule over here. And if you tried to describe to someone how to feel out, which is the right Breakaway, like where to spend your, your bullets, it’s impossible to articulate because for every rule you make, there’s an exception, you know, never go with the first move, unless it’s that stage where there’s like a big climb coming. And it’s 5k Before the climb, and like the field might hesitate. And that’s it


Rob Pickels  31:39

in three crows flew across the sun. And yeah,


Kiel Reijnen  31:41

yeah, it’s it’s total witchcraft at the end of the day, and some writers are better at, you know, picking up those really minut details and signals than others. And that makes them good, you know, at getting into breakaways, that doesn’t necessarily make them good breakaway riders, right. Like, it takes a certain type of engine to be a good breakaway rider also. But I also think that one of the sort of general rules is, when you’re suffering, everybody else is suffering for the most part. So you know, as long as you’re not on like, a super bad day, and if that’s the case, the move goes, generally, when everyone is gassed and goes, Man, like, I can’t go one more time. That’s the one to go with. So, you know, like, I would think about that a lot for the younger guys on the team that were a lot stronger than myself, like on a on a breakaway, where you’re going to have to do it with with some force, you know, like on a climb kind of situation. And I would always tell them, you know, like, the minute that you feel like you can’t follow any more moves, that’s the one that will go,


Rob Pickels  32:40

what’s a good batting average? So to say, in terms of getting into a breakaway, there’s no way everyone’s batting 1000 and getting it right. What are we talking three hundreds, like, like in baseball? What’s a good batting average here,


Alex Howes  32:53

man? I mean, we’re talking world to a racing, like, in a stage race. For the riders that have the legs their way up there. I don’t know anything about baseball, better than 5050? For sure. Yeah. I mean, we’re talking. If they have the legs, and they want to be in there. I mean, we’re talking probably 70 80%


Trevor Connor  33:11

It was good to say that there are certain riders at the tour that when there’s a breakaway, you know, they’re going to be in there it just every day, they’re there.


Kiel Reijnen  33:18

But you know, again, some caveats. Like, what what’s your goal and being the break, right, let’s say you’re going for the kom Jersey, and you already have 100 point lead, every team is gonna go up, he’s going for the characters don’t go, no big deal. He’s already got it sewn up. Like we don’t have any vested interest in it. On the flip side, if there’s a team who’s like, battling out for the green jersey, and the points are close, and you know, one guy goes from one team to another team is gonna mow down that breakaway every time he’s in it. So it doesn’t matter how strong he is, or how many times he jumps. It’s a hard No, you don’t want to be in that breakaway. Right? Yeah. And if you’re a guy on another team, you’re not going to follow that guy. Because you know that other teams can chase it down. Yeah,


Alex Howes  33:55

I mean, I would say in general, if we’re trying to find a breakaway, like you want to look for the riders who are not the strongest, but like sort of that second tier level, because your top your top riders, everybody’s going to follow them, you know, and they’re breakaways are going to be 5k from the line, right, like they’re usually trying to win from the peloton. But you have riders that are a little bit a little bit lower down the rung, but still huge engines. And I mean, looking at past success rate, you know, like, especially in the local scene, you know, certain riders have been up the road a number of times, throw tactics out the window, and you just follow one person, you know, you think, okay, that guy’s in the breakaway, every other every other race. I’m just gonna follow them, you know, and that’s actually pretty common tactic and world through racing. Like you’ll have a director, especially with a young rider. It’s like okay, you have the legs today. Don’t look at the other 178 riders like you just follow up with the Senko today, like just just do exactly what he does, you know if he stops to be and the breakaway hasn’t gotten yet, European also like that’s All you’re doing is just follow one person. And if he gets in the break way, which he probably, he’s gonna get in the breakaway 70% of the time if he wants to be there. Like, you’ll be in the break way too, or you’ll be halfway across and because you jumped too late, but at least he’ll be going in the right direction, but at least you’ll be trying.


Kiel Reijnen  35:19

Yeah, one of the first things I would do on a day when a breakaway is, you know, the team wants to be in the breakaway, it’s important for us to be in breakaway is I’m going up to the front, right before that neutral. And I’m looking around who’s who’s sniffing, who’s different for the break. And then I see a couple of riders that are like, those are the guys that are always managing to get in the brake, and they’re strong, and I’ve seen them strong in this particular race. I’m on the radio and I’m telling the young guys, these are three riders to follow. These are the three riders that if they’re up the road, you’re up the road.


Trevor Connor  35:47

Let’s hear from Dr. Hugo saw Milan who coached two athletes to the tour podium this year. He’s not the team strategist, but he agrees that it can be as simple as watching just a few riders.


Dr. San Milan  35:58

Yes. Well, I mean, I try not to get much into that, because that’s more for the sports directors, right. And I don’t want them to yell at me and, and I don’t I don’t have any. You know, especially with parallel, it’s right. But more amateurs I bet I would just do they asked me for advice. I think it’s important to save energy. Positioning is everything. Absolutely everything. You know, there are many writers who they spend a lot of time in the back of the peloton, and they waste an amazing amount of energy. If you you know, if you want to be successful, you must be in the front of the peloton, which takes experience. And then your riders who it takes elbows and fighting and yelling and you know, in costume, but you need to get there, right being the front. That’s important that positioning and then also choose the right wheels, right? Sometimes, and I was the first one who did that, that I would I would respond to every attack because I thought that everybody was going to try to break away. And we’re going to catch one. But if you read races, the you know, cycling is it’s quite easy. In fact, compared to other sports that the tactics of cycling are much easier than in most of sports. Because at the end of the day, the ones who win are the same. For the most part, most breakaways, they don’t they don’t go anywhere. But in the most races are, those 345 riders are the ones who you know that they’re going to be at the end, right. So just follow, they’re there, we’ll stay with them, mark them, and they will take you. So that’s kind of like how I tried to approach this you will have,


Kiel Reijnen  37:43

generally speaking, you have to risk losing to win, right, you cannot, you cannot spend all of the bullets and then expect to have some bullets left at the end. So you have to play poker. If you just put your hand down, and right away, everyone can see your cards. And that’s it, you get your 10 bullets and you spend them in


Trevor Connor  38:03

that’s that. I was gonna say going with the poker analogy, if you’re playing every single hand, you’re gonna run out of chips really fast. You have to pick your hands and sometimes you pick wrong, but you still have to pick the same idea here, you’d say?


Kiel Reijnen  38:16

Yeah, yeah, and knowing not just glancing at the cards in your hand, you know, but like really thinking about the cards you have and what may come down, you know, with other hands, you might have what looks like a losing hand at the start of the race but some things play out and you start to see a little bit what’s going on at the table and maybe your hand doesn’t look as bad as it did at the start the race and vice versa. Sometimes you’re thinking oh, I got a pair of aces I’m in great shape. But you know some of their teams got a full house you’re constantly reading the field you’re constantly reading the players


Trevor Connor  38:48

so talking about that how do you read the other players faces what sort of things are you looking for


Alex Howes  38:56

you can see this on a podcast just dropped his shoulder that’s how you know keels getting getting a little ragged around the edges Q has great form looks really good on a bike pedals really nice. But like right around like 170 Something beats per minute and he starts to search the list a little bit dropped that shoulder and it is funny because I mean yeah, we’ve been doing a bunch of these gravel races and you have a bunch of riders around that will get pissed because kill doesn’t want to pull anymore. And I can I can look at him and he has his shoulders basically attached to the front axle all the way down but he still looks he’s still looks great. Aside from that, and everybody’s like why would you pull it I’m like look at the man he’s coming apart. Gonna have an aneurysm in the next three seconds like leave him alone. He’s just gonna say Yeah, but he’s just gonna sprint now he’s just sitting back there. Don’t worry he’s don’t worry about what he’s done with his life. He’s me. Yeah, I mean, I don’t think face was telling you a lot. I mean,


Rob Pickels  39:58

faces can be manipulated, right? Yeah, they’re easily manipulated.


Kiel Reijnen  40:02

I mean, my grimace looks like a smile. Very confusing for people


Alex Howes  40:07

beautiful under pressure. But yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it comes down to just watching how people are driving their bikes. And that’s what I look for a lot of times, like how quick the reactions are, yeah, making subtle mistakes, how quick the reactions are, especially like late in a race, you know, when when small attacks are going, you know, you might have a rider with a good acceleration, but sort of delayed reaction time. And that can be an indicator of, you know, okay, they’re, they’re fast, but they’re, they’re under real pressure, you know, like they, they see something go and they don’t register it immediately. And when they do they sort of have that like, Ah, are you serious, kind of thought process going through their head before they you know, kick it into gear? Yeah, there’s just a subtle lag. Yeah. And watching watching riders how they handle their bike early in a race versus later in the bike, or later in the race, like, you know how well they’re breaking the maneuver in the bike, I mean, that those are things that are difficult to mask, and you can you can really pull a lot out of that. But you do have to pay close attention.


Trevor Connor  41:14

So on that note, I have a question for you guys. Because this is a situation I’ve been in a bunch of times. And I’ll share a quick story mostly just for humor value, but steamboat stage race, I was in a breakaway with a couple of riders. And we had this kid that was basically just sitting on the back of us taking no polls. And I could not tell if he was playing us or if he was just struggling. So there’s a longer version of the story. I’ll give you the short version. I went back to him and I thought relatively nicely. But enough to intimidate him a little bit just said, you need to take some polls. And he ended up taking one poll, he basically broke and we dropped him five minutes later. So he was definitely just struggling. But later that day, I ended up going to his hotel room because he was coincidentally staying with a friend. And when he found out I was coming over he hid in the bathroom because he thought I was going to kill him.


Rob Pickels  42:08

You’re such an intimidating figure, Trevor coach.


Trevor Connor  42:11

I don’t remember saying it that badly. But I guess I did. But when you’re in that situation, you’re in a breakaway. And somebody’s not doing a ton of work. How do you read them? How do you tell whether they are playing you are there just struggling? Well, I


Rob Pickels  42:26

do believe the direct quote was you take some polls, I’m gonna kill you. So I think that’s where he got the notion though. I


Trevor Connor  42:32

remember saying that.


Alex Howes  42:33

That’s possible. I mean, before we go there, I’ll share one little story that might make you feel better when I was 13. At the tour Rahila I had a I had an older gentleman, very strong rider sitting on a wooden pole, because let’s be honest, it didn’t make a lot of sense. There’s only like four of us. But I think we actually stayed away anyways, we got towards the end. And he was just sitting on all day. And it’s tour he was was super hot. And going up basically the last climb and his his poor wife or girlfriend or whatever it would have been sitting on the side of the road for four hours to give them water bottle standing out there. She’s got it right in the right spot. He’s got his hand out, he hasn’t had water in like two hours. And I sprint up in between the two of them and spike the thing out of her hand. You don’t deserve 13 years old and I was like you don’t deserve water. So mad at me. And he came up after and I was like, prove me wrong. Prove me wrong. Thank you, you deserve water. So, you know, like, kids can be bad to you. You know, if you’re dealing with a young Alex house, you gotta be a little intimidating sometimes, right?


Kiel Reijnen  43:52

You have to be thick skinned to do the sport to like, the only way you’re gonna figure it out is through experience. And I think where it gets really interesting in the pro peloton is you’re trying to read people in that situation, but there’s also the language barrier. So I love the one where you’re going back to someone you’re like, come on, you got to take a poll like I’ve seen your hand, right? Like I know you have no team leader back there can win today. Your only shot is this breakaway. You got to help us out here and pull through and they’re like, No, Paula, Tatiana, and you’re like, Okay, let’s switch to Spanish. And so you just started talking Spanish? And they’re like, No, you know, and like, sometimes they’re faking it and sometimes like they really only no Russian.


Alex Howes  44:33

It was oddly, oddly enough, and yeah, we’ll do a racing that is a tactic knowing which languages people speak. You try and start with that one if you know, you know, a bit of whatever because like, yeah, running up to people in English straightaway and you know, calling them all doesn’t always work well. Yeah, I mean, I would agree with killer you need that you need to have a bit of thick skin and maybe a PSA to the world here like the cycling world but like Ideally, what happens in a race stays in a race, right? Like, this is our, you know, arena of sport where we’re sort of allowed to pump up a little bit and act like idiots that way, you know, when we get into rush hour traffic, we’re not cutting off, you know, some old lady trying to get to the grocery store, which you shouldn’t be doing in rush hour traffic, but that’s, you know, a different conversation. Yeah, like, things that happen, or I should probably stay in the race, you know, like when you get to the parking lot. Okay, you can chat about it a little bit. But yeah, punching, kicking out people’s headlights, because they didn’t pull through in the breakaway. It’s like, come on, you know, you’re, you’re sprinting for for third place. And, I don’t know, a discount coupon assembly like there’s, there’s no reason to get that fired up about it. Yeah, I mean, I can


Kiel Reijnen  45:47

think of a couple situations where Alex and I had to play each other. And if we brought that off the bike that doesn’t make for good friendship. And so, you know, the ability to do it in the race and then let it go is super important. And especially when you’re doing it as a career, right? It’s, it’s a profession, so it’d be professional about it. And sometimes, you know, what you want for your friend isn’t what your team needs. And yeah, the team’s got your paycheck. So you have to play your cards and screw over your friend occasionally. So,


Alex Howes  46:21

but as your friend you never forget it, you know?


Rob Pickels  46:26

How do you guys know that the other person’s friendship is not found it on the long play to leverage you in the peloton. I mean, Alex could be a mastermind keel, and he’s just nefariously like, biding his time to leverage your friendship.


Kiel Reijnen  46:42

It had too little too little too late. But frankly, there’s no one in the peloton with that many brain cells.


Trevor Connor  46:50

I was about to say I got the sense here that you did something to Alex 10 years ago, and he’s playing the long game. 20 years from now he’s getting his revenge.


Rob Pickels  47:00

Today’s the day?


Alex Howes  47:01

Well, I mean, I can think of one and I’m sure he was probably thinking about this as well. But Aspen, when when you made me leave that out? And what is it USA pro challenge? That stung a little bit? And you know, I’m not I’m not, I’m not gonna lie. I do. I do get satisfaction when you tune your stem. I look back and I’m like, oh, yeah, well,


Rob Pickels  47:22

so wait, what is the situation out?


Alex Howes  47:24

Yeah. What do we do? We hit the gas,


Kiel Reijnen  47:26

the gas on a little kicker in the final circuit. Yeah. And you initiated I followed? Yeah, you’re loving. The cool thing about being friends is like, once it was established, we didn’t have to say a word, right? Like, we didn’t say a word, that entire stretch. We immediately went to work. We knew what we had to do. We knew we had a shot. And so we both put our heads down and did exactly what we had to do. And that that final bit where Alex was talking about leading me out, there were no shared words. It was not like, alright, you take it from the last corner, or else, you know, like, there, there were no, it was all really subtle body language. It was timing, you know, knowing when to pull so that you could pull off at a reasonable distance from the finish line. The other guy was going to look at you. It was knowing there was just enough pressure from behind. Or look


Alex Howes  48:13

at this definitely pressure. Give a glance at you. And I was like, Ah, you son of a bitch. You’re gonna make me do this. Okay. Fine.


Kiel Reijnen  48:24

Yeah. I mean, you can have whole conversations with no words. Yeah, there was


Alex Howes  48:27

there was constellation there. I mean, I got an ice second. It was good weather. The Gila jersey. That’s that race? That was cool. Yeah. And then I’ve eaten the last stage. So you know, all’s well that ends well,


Kiel Reijnen  48:38

I do believe too, that prior to you taking the electricity that day, I told you, I’m not gonna go I’m not going to defend it. So it was maybe it was me telling him you should take those your decision, though. Take the opportunity. There. It was probably me acknowledging the fact that I didn’t have the legs to do it. But


Alex Howes  48:55

we’ve done plenty of therapy. This is this is.


Kiel Reijnen  49:01

I do remember the the Red Rock stage two though, where we agreed we were both going to put all our team on the front and try and break it up the last last lap before it went into the finishing circuit. I went up showed up there with my whole team went full, full bananas. And then Alex is just sitting on my wheel and didn’t didn’t use up any of his guys. Yeah, sometimes you don’t get a choice in that. You go talk to Robbie. We had no, if there’s


Trevor Connor  49:31

one message our guests have had about this poker game of cycling. It’s learned to read the other players. Let’s hear that message one more time from Coach ganas musician who was asked how he teaches his riders to play the game.


Speaker 8  49:43

I ask questions. They ask a lot of questions. And first of all, of course, if they can’t give you an exact answer, let’s say when the split happened or why it happened. It will instantly give you an understanding If an athlete is kind of able to read the field, or he’s really bad with his positioning, and he’s out to the backend, he’s not seeing anything that is actually happening. And he’s just a kind of a, a passenger in the train. So yeah, it’s it’s usually, it’s usually asking questions why it happened, what happened when it happened because of what yeah, in kind of this manner.


Ryan Kohler  50:28

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Trevor Connor  50:53

So guys, as we’re starting to close this out here, let’s shift to gravel. And you guys mentioned this briefly at the beginning of this episode, that gravel is a little more who’s just got the strongest hand. Any other thoughts on the strategy for gravel?


Kiel Reijnen  51:08

Yeah, there really, there isn’t much there. I mean, not only is it about just like who’s stronger, because so much of it is an individual effort, you’re going slower speed. So there’s less draft, you’re spending a lot of the race just alone, you know, especially if you’re me. And so like, it’s inherently more just what do you have in the legs. But there’s also this sort of social pressures of how the race is supposed to unfold. So unlike a road race, it’s not kosher to say, I’m going to use this guy because he’s younger, or less experienced, or, you know, like, I know, there’s no team tactics either, right? So you’re not reading someone and saying, Well, he’s got a bank on his team leader coming back winning the sprint. So like, I know, he’s not all in on this breakaway. And so a lot of the cards you could normally play, you can’t.


Alex Howes  51:52

I mean, there are some obvious differences, right? Like, bike handling does play a role in some of these. Some of them are less, like handling dependent and, like, I think a lot of people like But uh, yeah, there’s definitely some where it’s like, okay, you need to look around, who’s going to be good on this. We can pull back a minute and a half and the technical bits, like Russell Fenster, well, great guy, right? He’s like, he’ll get dropped on a number of climbs. And you think, oh, man, Russell’s having a terrible day. But the dude’s got like 45 seat tires on and he brings back two minutes on on the technical stuff. And he’s like, right up in there with the leaders. And you’re like, how the heck did he do that? So I mean, he’s, he’s playing his cards. Well, I mean, in, you know, he understands how to play that game. With the mountain bike background, versus us roadies, we pretty much just hold on for dear life on anything technical and then get dropped by Pete on the climbs


Rob Pickels  52:48

and the gravel side of things. Is there a bit more of a right place, right time element? Or do you think that’s kind of equal between the road and gravel scene?


Kiel Reijnen  52:55

Now, I don’t think there’s much Right Place Right Time. I mean, you can, you could screw something up by being at the back of the group when you hit a technical section. But other than that, I think in a lot of ways, it sort of happens in slow motion, because the speeds are so much lower, and the draft is so much less. But equipment choices really are a good way to know what a rider is thinking, perhaps.


Rob Pickels  53:15

So you’re reading what tires they have on maybe some other things like you brought up Russell, you know, fat tires. And so technical stuff is where he’s looking on the descent. But he might not be as fast in the climb for somebody that’s maybe running skinnier slicks, you know, they’re looking to drive on on the flat section, so to say,


Alex Howes  53:33

right, I do think that we’re seeing more and more often, I’d say, tactics, but yeah, like race craft coming in, in the gravel as the level is going up. I mean, a great example was Crusher. But last week, we got down into the valley. And maybe in the old guy in the group was able to organize a pretty solid little group. And we got rolling, and you know, we’re chopping off and we, you know, we brought back probably a minute and a half on the group in front of us, which was, by all means, the stronger group, they weren’t organized, for whatever reason. And we just tapped away, I don’t think anybody went over 250 Watts, and we just mowed them down, we probably got dropped by all of them again, on the next climb, but still, just knowing sort of how how to make speed out there, you see that slowly coming in more and more to gravel. And, you know, the lower levels. That’s something that, you know, as a coach, I see and talk to my athletes about it’s like, Look, you have to be able to work with people, and not just you be able to work with them, but you need to get them to work with you and you need to grow that group as best you can and motivate the riders around you and get the free speed where you can get it because the rest of it’s just gonna be you hammering along, staring at your front wheel and that’s no fun. So get the free stuff where you can.


Trevor Connor  54:56

Does the poker game start in the parking lot? Are there things that you can be doing before the race even starts to set yourself up? And that’s a to me a bit of a rhetorical question because I can tell you I did a lot of my strategy in the parking lot just going around talking to guys


Kiel Reijnen  55:14

rollers, like everyone is the uphill start. And you’re looking around and you there’s only two people two types of riders that are on the the Turbo Trainer before the start or the rollers. When it’s an uphill start the team that’s going to smash it and all the riders that are afraid no one in between.


Alex Howes  55:35

Yeah, we were on the roll. There’s a lot more Maciel. Oh, a lot.


Rob Pickels  55:40

Because you’re gonna smash it.


Alex Howes  55:42

Exactly. Yeah. No, I mean, you’re absolutely right. Like, it’s okay. We you can leave the aggression in the race. But yeah, the mind games, you know? That’s a 24/7. Yeah. 24/7 game? I mean, yeah, in the world through peloton, like, we all know each other? Not, you know, Not Buddy, Buddy. But like, I mean, I have a lot of worlds who are phone numbers and before races, you know, it’d be texting with a lot of people, you know, it’s like, oh, what do you guys think in for this? Or what’s going on with that? Like, what’s your director saying about this? Like, Oh, you guys don’t want to do that. Like, why would you? Why would you guys want to do that? And yeah, you can push that to the parking lot and be like, Oh, what do you think? And for that are like, how’s the training been going? Oh, yeah, my training has been going really well. I’m feeling super good. Or no, no, no. I mean, everybody makes excuses before racist. Right? That’s, that’s kind of the cycling standard. You know, you show up to the start line, you have 15 reasons why, why you’re not going to win. And to make sure everybody knows that before. And then you launch the race winning attack, hopefully. Yeah, I don’t know. chatting with people definitely helps. Because there’s not a whole lot of chatting that happens mid race, right? Not in depth.


Trevor Connor  56:57

Well, guys, always a pleasure talking with you, you know how we finish out this show. Everybody gets a minute or two here for their their take homes, the the big salient thing that you want our listeners to get from the show, but I’ll offer an option here, you can either impart your wisdom. Or if you want, if you have a really great story of of some fantastic race strategy that you did in one race that you want to share as an example, you can make that your take home. So I’ll give you guys a choice. And Alex, why don’t we start with you


Alex Howes  57:31

cycling is there’s so many layers to it, right? Tactically, there’s, you know, there’s the individual layer, there’s the team layer, there’s the day by day, there’s the, you know, season long game, and just, the more you can be involved in those different layers. And then you know, the more time you can spend racing, like playing the game, making mistakes, hopefully having some successes, watching races, talking to people about how things played out, the more you can understand about all of it, the quicker and better you’ll learn. You know, the best World Tour technicians start racing when they’re 10 years old. And they have you know, the game, hopefully mastered by the time they’re 35. It’s not something you learn overnight. So it really just takes a ton of ton of time in the fire to figure it out. So get at it. He’ll, I think


Kiel Reijnen  58:27

just that reminder of, you have to be willing to risk losing to win. And so that means that you know, those days where you don’t have the best legs, those days can be some of your best results, because you have no choice but to risk losing. And being able to apply what you learned from those days to the days where you have good legs is maybe one of the most valuable things you can do.


Rob Pickels  58:51

For me, Trevor, it’s that being successful in racing, meaning a good finishing position. It takes active thought, right. And if you’re someone who it feels more like playing the lottery than playing poker, if you’re someone who’s buying a lot of tickets and never seems to win the jackpot, then it’s probably because of a lot of the things that we talked about today, you’re not taking a step back, you’re not understanding the game, you’re not understanding the race, and you’re not making smart decisions. And so I think for people to be introspective on how they’re going and and to understand that the race is not one in the lab, right? It’s not always about the strongest legs. There is this extra understanding hand that you have to play if you want to be successful unless your legs are just golden magical legs, in which case go all in all the time.


Trevor Connor  59:44

So I’m going to basically finish with where I started, which I love that analogy of the idea that fitness doesn’t guarantee you wins and races. Fitness just buys you a seat at the table and then you have to play the game. And it’s a complicated game. I was playing poker with my nephews just a couple of weeks ago, and I haven’t played poker in years and discovered. There’s a lot of subtlety to it. And I didn’t know any of it, and I lost all my poker chips really quickly. And bike racing is the same thing. You have to learn all those subtleties, how to read people how to know when to make the moves, and when not to make the moves. And as you said, when asked, you know, how do you know when what’s the right move? I’ve asked that question to 50 different people and they all go, I don’t know what to feel. I couldn’t describe it to you. And I think that’s part of it is you just got to do enough to start to pick up on those little things. Well, guys, thank you. Always a pleasure having you on the show.


Alex Howes  1:00:40

Thanks for having us. pleasure chatting.


Rob Pickels  1:00:44

That was another episode of fast talk. Subscribe to fast talk wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcast. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on bass talk are those of the individual. As always we love your feedback tweeted us at fast talk labs or join the conversation at forums dot fast talk for Alex How’s Killa Ryan and Dr. innego, San Milan Janice muslin, Jeff Winkler, Petr Vatche Kok and Trevor Connor. I’m Rob pickles. Thanks for listening.