The Art of the Breakaway with Tom Skujins

We are joined by Cannondale-Drapac’s escape ace Toms Skuijns, winner of two breakaway stages of the Amgen Tour of California, as well as Chris Case, to discuss the tips, tricks, and tactics needed to make a breakaway move stick.

The breakaway. It is perhaps the noblest form of victory, and the most difficult. Joining and then winning from breakaways is as much art as science, as much tactical awareness as strength. In this episode, we are joined by Cannondale-Drapac’s escape ace Toms Skuijns, winner of two breakaway stages of the Amgen Tour of California, as well as Chris Case, to discuss the tips, tricks, and tactics needed to make a breakaway move stick.

Episode Transcript



Chris Case  00:00

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Any brake I get into, I work with it. Because even if I get lost from the brake, I’m still going to be ahead of the whole field. And that’s how you gain experience. Because even if you’re in that brake, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that exact brake composition is going to make it to the line. There’s still a however much left in the race to actually decide if you want to get away from the break or if you want to keep the break together. Do you need to stay with a break? Can you go solo after this? Are you even capable of doing anything or just staying on the back end trying to follow? So there’s a lot of components that come into play. But for me, I would always suggest just writing at least the first five K’s to establish a gap.



Hello and welcome to Fast Talk Melanie’s training podcast. I’m Kaylee fretts across the table as always from my co host Trevor Connor. Today’s episode, we’re talking about breakaways, how to get in them how to make them work do’s and don’ts with us for some extra insight. Our Tom squidge ins Jin’s screen.


Trevor Connor  01:51

Because enough. Tom,



could you tell us I say your last name. Okay,



so my last name is squinch squinch. squinch.



I even wrote it phonetically on my little piece of paper here and you’ve got a


Chris Case  02:03

totally raw you say the s on Tom’s as well?



I do. Yes. But yes, let’s.



So we’re here with Tom’s a pro with Cannondale drapac. Winner two years in a row of stages of the Tour of California. You may remember the breakaway and this year, it was quite an excellent effort. And so we brought Tom’s in to write a little bit more insight into how to make breakaways work. We also have with us our own managing editor, Chris case.



That’s correct pronunciation. Yes.



Cool. I got that one. totally right. Welcome, fast, Doc. Let’s make you fast.






we’re just on top of our game today. Okay, so let’s let’s dive, let’s dive straight into this one. Try discussing training and watts and power meters and things is all quite a bit easier, I think than discussing things like tactics. But we’re gonna we’re gonna give it a go today. And we have a couple very intelligent and experienced people along with us to help make that happen. I think the first thing we want to talk about is how to get away from a peloton. And I guess maybe a good place to start. Tom is could you tell us the story of your California breakaway? real quick how you got into that breakaway to begin with, and then how you made it work.



So I’ll do both years, just to make it because they were a bit different. The first year, it was really hard. And we were racing hard, super hard for like an hour or so. And everyone’s getting tired. There’s more and more serious moves going up the road where you’re like, Okay, this could last this could last. And finally there were four guys up the road and me and two more bridged, which made us a group of seven. They gave us like four minutes, I think at one point, Max, and that was exactly when we hit mount Hamilton. And then I rode away from everyone.



Very easy. No



problem. Yeah. Easy.


Trevor Connor  04:16

What’s your advice for today, everybody right away.



But, of course, I knew I had to right away because there were guys that were faster than me in the break. Would you mind? sprint faster and sprint? Exactly. So I had to push the pace bit earlier on. And I knew the course beforehand, which meant that I knew that after the climb, there’s not really much of roadworthy chase on because you did a big descent, another climb, and then after those two climbs there was at sale 20 Ks flattish till the bottom of the last k which was all uphill and misery for me but After those two climbs, that meant the fields not going to be as big as it would be in a normal race scenario where you’re just approaching the final one K, from a flat, just totally flat race. And the field was just 40 guys or something left, which meant there was less chasing power, which played in the hat, which was a big benefit for me. And that’s the only reason I made it stick. But that’s also I already knew that. And I already planned on that. So for sure, the first thing you do, especially in a stage race is pick the days that tactically would make sense to get in the rake. And this year, it was a bit different. I would say it was harder, actually, just because the first 4050 K’s were flat. So it meant that big groups were going all the time. And it’s a lot harder to get in a break, because it’s harder to read the race, which break is going to be the right one. However, when the group is single file, you know what you know that everyone’s going really hard. And if someone can accelerate, then not a lot of people can follow. And this year, we were a group of I’d say almost 20 guys off the front. And we didn’t have that big of a gap as I did the year before. I think we finished like 30 seconds. Well within a minute, I think from the field. Whereas before that I had more than a minute, for sure. And this year, the difference was that I didn’t come to the line alone. But yet again, I knew that I’m faster than the two guys I was with. So I could commit myself to the break and just wait for the final 200.



You said you also said that you get to pick days really carefully in a state race. So race like California, let’s let’s just continue to use that because I think our listeners are probably pretty familiar with it. And obviously, that’s what you can speak to most directly. Did you go into those those races with those specific stages in mind? Or do you wake up that morning and say I feel like Rocky Balboa today, and I’m just gonna go for it? Is it how planned is it?



I guess? For me, it’s usually very planned. But at the same time, you have to look at how the race develops. It’s not always that the days you pick before the race, three weeks, four weeks out, are the days that will succeed. However, both years those two days I had picked in advance. They weren’t the only days. But reading the peloton reading the way the day before the racing how hard or how easy it was. You can also tell what the race is going to be like the next day.


Trevor Connor  07:56

So about a year back a pretty stunning writer at velonews wrote a piece about breakaways and referred to it as it was. Trevor, who was that study



writer at felonies,


Chris Case  08:07

I think it just says stash at the bottom.


Trevor Connor  08:11

Sorry, we take pity because that says so Kaylee wrote that breakaways are really an art form, that there’s a lot of other elements of cycling, that they’re about strength, they’re just about how hard you can go. But breaking away is all about finding that right move going at the right time knowing how to be in the break when the How to size up your opponents for the wind. So it’s really there’s a huge art form to it. And what’s fantastic is to hear what it is like at the pro level. But I’m going to come in as the coach here. And when you were at the Masters level, when you’re at the local categorize races, it doesn’t always work so seamlessly, you start seeing people chasing down their own teammates, you start seeing people getting on every move. So what would be great is let’s now talk about for a lot of you out there our listeners who are going to be going to the race on the weekend. How do you identify the move? How do you know when that’s the riders you want to go with? Or how do you yourself know when’s the right time to break away in a race? So let me throw that out too, I



guess. Wow. I think that well, so all of us in this room have done our fair share bike racing, probably not as many bike races or quite as well as Tom’s has. But we’ve done our fair share of like racing and I do. You’re right amateur. Amateur racing is a totally different ballgame. From what we see in the pros. I mean, Tom’s do you do you chase your own teammates down all that often? No. That’s not generally the idea. So you came up to the juniors and and you 23 so we Did you ever run into that kind of stuff? And then obviously, once you get into the pros, maybe we can learn about amateur racing a little bit by where you’ve been, if that makes any sense to you. Do you remember dealing with that when



you were younger?



Yeah. When I was a junior, of course, there were times when teammates were chasing me. And I think Well, anyways, practice makes perfect. That’s first of all. But the more you race, the more you’ll realize, Oh, that was the right move. Oh, that’s the moment and just like, kind of roll back the dice a little bit and see what happened before the move, how did the move actually succeed. And it is different than amateur racing than in pro racing. Because usually, an amateur racing when a break goes and gets 30 seconds, they’ll get more and more, and they’ll win. So, for me, when I was racing as a junior and saw a teammate chasing me, I would just not right at all, because I knew that he was committed to bring you the break back. I never chase the teammate, just because I use up my energy, helping my opponents, which in turn makes also me have less energy. So I would just play, even if I wanted to chase my teeth, I would just try and get someone else to do it, sorta, and make them do the work. And once they did, then I’d go.



And maybe the best way to think about this, as you described sort of the two different ways of getting into breakaways as the first being like this, this artistry that maybe works slightly better in a pro context. And the second being brute force. And I think, it seems to me at least from from what I remember, of, of amateur bike racing, brute force tends to be the winner in the amateurs, just simply because it’s a little bit less organized. And that tends to work a little bit better inside chaos, for sure. And


Trevor Connor  11:52

to add to that, so I mean, I’m coaching a lot of masters athletes, a lot of people who are racing, the local races are basically coaching a lot of guys who aren’t at the Tour of California. And one of the things I really see with them, they believe that you have to look for the one perfect moves that you sit there in the race the whole day, allows him to go that’s the move, you jump in, you’re in the breakaway. And if you missed that perfect move, something was wrong and have to figure out what you did, there were my experience, what I always tell them is if you want to be in the breakaway, you’re going to have to make a lot of it. So you’re going to have to go with a lot of moves, you’re going to have to tack multiple times, and probably several of them are going to fail until you finally find that right move. You know, that’s certainly especially when it’s a little more chaotic. At the knot pro ranks. You have to do a lot more of that. But I’m sure that’s also true. The Pro Rex



Oh, totally. Yeah, there’s both of those days when I’ve won in California, I’ve made several attacks and been in several moves off the front for different periods of time. But there’s definitely not that one golden move, which you you’re gonna lift your butt up and suddenly be in the brake and win. But at the same time, you have to be very conservative, I think, especially in amateur racing, from what I remember. And that wasn’t that long ago, because it’s my first year pro actually, is you have to let the first one third of the race go, you don’t, you don’t really move. Because the one the first first part of the race, usually 95% of the time, everyone’s everyone has fresh legs, everyone feels like they can win today, everyone’s going full on. So nothing really sticks. But once everyone gets tired, once there’s more moves that are a bit more serious that you can, you can see that they last a little bit longer. That’s that’s when you start moving. And it’s hard to really force yourself in the break especially if you’re not as strong as everyone else. But you can still get there and you can still if not win podium and to do that you just have to be smart and not attack not be the first one to attack you have to follow a couple of guys that are jumping across the break way or just make a good acceleration but not not go full on because you know someone’s going to go over you meaning attack your attack. Just when they do that follow them straightaway not hesitate because as soon as you hesitate there’s a gap and you have to close it and that way synergy yet



again. So is it better to lead or to follow?



You won’t win a race just by following but at the same time you want to leave that falling for as late in the race as possible.


Trevor Connor  14:50

So how do you know when you’re seeing all these attacks going and it’s crazy in the field and the breakaway goes it gets swallowed up another one goes. How do you make the determination No, I’m not gonna go with that. I’m not gonna go with that one. Yeah, I’m



going with that one.



Well, first of all, you have to read the group. And that means just look at the people around you and whether or not they’re suffering, whether or not they’re leaving bigger gaps than they would in the first part of the race. And the hardware the gets, the bigger the chance for the break to go. And that just means that the stronger guys will be in the front of the field, you have to follow the stronger guys, if you’re not the strongest. If you are the strongest, then it’s pretty simple. You let the break get 30 seconds and bridge across. So that’s it.


Chris Case  15:37

I think I think, in a sense, that could be one of the bigger differences as well, between pro and amateur racing is that you’re racing against these guys all the time. A lot of them are known quantities. You know, if Ian standard goes, I’m going with that one. Yeah, amateur racing some locations. Yeah, you might be racing against the same people all the time. But a lot of times you’re not racing against known quantities, you don’t know who’s strong, you don’t know if that’s the right move because rider x is in there or not. So you have to just be observant of how they are riding, what they look like, what they’re doing, how they’re moving and positioning themselves. Because those are little cues as to what kind of a rider you’re dealing with and whether you want to be with them or not. And of course, everybody’s results are online, too. Now, you can do your research beforehand and get a get a sense of people there as well.



Probably a pretty good argument for developing a poker face.



Right? Oh, for sure. But at the same time, you can have as good a poker face as you want. But that gap between your front wheel and the back wheel of the guy in front of you still opens?



Right? And that’s a much better indicator than in your face. Yeah,



yeah, for sure.


Trevor Connor  16:45

So another thing also, when you’re dealing with, if you’re in an amateur race, where it’s going to be a little more chaotic, and you don’t know the people out there, one of the things I always tell the athletes I coach is you really have to read the field. And this is during the pro ranks as well. But especially in the amateurs, when you you don’t necessarily know Oh, that’s a guy to go with. And you don’t really have that sort of an idea. Really watch what’s going on with the field. As you said, don’t go with the first breakaway, but watch how the field responds to the breakaway. If five guys go up the road and the whole field just like I gotta go get that and they’re chasing it down really hard, you know, nothing’s probably going to happen right now it’s a field chasing everything down. If you see a couple guys go on the fields, looking at one another, nobody seems to want to do anything, and they’re kind of sluggish, means fields getting a little bit tired, they’ve done a lot of attacking, nobody seems to want to chase it down. Now maybe you have a chance of getting away. So read the field a little bit before you decide when you want to try to attack when you want to try to make a move.


Chris Case  17:45

I think another interesting component there is pro racing, there is somewhat of a pattern to it. It’s almost every stage or every race, there is a breakaway. And there’s this establishment of space and understanding they’re not every amateur race has a breakaway, you know, you could go the entire day, and it’s just a race of attrition, or at least nothing, right? nothing significant or there’s attempt after attempt after attempt. And there’s a immediate chase immediate chase immediate Chase, and you get that sense, it’s, it’s better to just be patient and wait for the end of the day and use your bullets then instead of going with all these moves that aren’t going to work.


Trevor Connor  18:30

The other thing I will tell you in a lot of amateur races is they’re very predictable points in the race where people are going to decide to attack if there’s a hill on the course, they’re going to attack and try to break away. Likewise, everybody wants to they don’t want to take a big risk of breaking away an hour ahead an hour before the finish. So everybody’s thinking 20 minutes before the finish, I’m going to catch everybody off guard, I’m going to attack and break away, when you get to that 20 minute mark the entire field. And nobody breaks away. But it’s so what you actually want to do. And especially in a race that’s less organized, where there aren’t really teams controlling it. Think about what seemed like a good place to break away, don’t break away there because everybody’s thinking about those points, look for the points on the course or in the race when nobody’s expecting it at those times. times. If you attack, a lot of people are gonna go What an idiot, he’s attacking at the wrong time, and they’re just gonna let you go up the road.



Well, also you kind of have to play to your strengths. Yes. Our coach used to draw this diagram or three diagrams. One was Hill in the beginning flat after Hill in the middle, flat after and hill at the very end. And he will ask well, so what’s our tactics because well, we’re from Latvia, it’s totally flat. There’s no climbs. Yeah. So you can’t go up hill is purely hypothetical. Yeah, exactly. So the first one was get dropping the first climb, chase the hallway, catch the group, sprint. The second one, the hill is in the middle, trying to get in the break in the beginning, success, no success, get over the climb, Chase again, catch the group sprint for the finish. And the final is just get in the break, and try and survive the climb. So you got to play to your strengths. If you know you’re good on the hills, there’s no waiting, there’s no reason to wait for sprint, if you know you’re going to sprint or trying to anticipate the moves, and just try and keep everyone together and have a couple of teammates, maybe helping you and just wait for the sprint.



I think the other side of that, particularly for amateurs is to look for races that look like they’re going to suit you. So, yes, you know that you’re not a pro, you don’t have to go to every single race that that Charlie gailius tells you to go to. Unlike Tom’s here, you can just go to the ones where you think you have a pretty good shot. And you know, particularly if there are two races in a weekend and you’re a sprinter, don’t go to the criteria. Like it’s things like that were set yourself up for success. And then you can use your hopefully use your smarts and your strength to try to get in the right move.


Chris Case  21:12

I once heard, I don’t know if it’s a famous quote or not. But you attack when it’s hardest. When everybody’s Bernardino it made maybe it was and I don’t know if that is something that you you think about or follow that that


Trevor Connor  21:25




Yeah, for sure. Like, as I said, when it gets hard, that’s when the break will go. And one of the like, really significant things to look for is, if there’s a brake of five, that’s super dangerous, or whatever, really dangerous brake and fields chase in really hard to get it back. As soon as the brake will get caught. There will be that moment of hesitation, if everyone’s already a little bit tired, where you go, because everyone spends so much energy trying to chase the break that once they get caught, there’s nothing left.


Chris Case  22:04

Yeah. And I think that strategy is is helpful for amateurs as well. It’s like, if everybody’s patiently waiting, because that climbs about to come. And everybody’s sitting there and sitting there and then the climb comes and then everybody has the energy because they’ve been resting a little bit, then your chances of actually breaking away are a lot less. Yes, there’s a lot of fresher legs. Whereas if everybody goes crazy up the climb, and they stick together, and then you decide now is my time to go because everybody’s cracked. That would be a wise strategy. Yeah,



especially if the climb doesn’t go straight away into a downhill, right? Because once you hit the top of the climb, everyone’s like who made it. But actually, the acceleration you make right after the climb, just because it’s from 10 k an hour to 40. k an hour is the hardest to follow. And you can definitely tell also very much. So in pro racing, that that’s when the big guys go. And that’s who still has that energy goes. Same as with intermediate sprints. If there’s an intermediate sprint, everyone goes crazy for it. If you attack after, if you can’t attack after but someone is attacking, that’s when you follow?



How do you know when you get into a break that this isn’t going to be one of the ones that just gets brought back immediately? Or can you know?



So? Yeah, for sure. In amateur racing, there’s not teams that are as they’re just not as, as organized as organized. Yeah. So it’s harder for a team to commit and break and bring the brake rack. Whereas pros, the teams, the big teams that are going for the stage, either with the leaders jersey or with the sprinter or with a climber. They have to they’re the ones mostly controlling the brakes. And they decide who to let go sorta, but at the same time, not always, because sometimes you just force yourself in the break, but then it then it’s more so not an art, as you would say, but just brutal force. And sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t. But I definitely look at the composition of the break. Because if there’s three riders from small teams, there’s no way the break survives, because you need strong riders. You need good riders. And definitely there’s a limit of number of riders that can get in a sexual successful breakaway. And depending on that’s dependent on the stage as well, like on a flat day, there might there might be a break of 678 and they still get brought back on holiday, a break of four might survive. So you’ve got to take into account what kind of day it is who’s going to be the one chasing and if you see that one Other teams that would have to chase that have the sprinter have the leader, and they’re trying to get in the brake, you know that something’s up?



What’s up,



you know that the brakes gonna stick?



Basically, because they’re not, they’re not confident in there.



They’re not confident and they just don’t want to chase, maybe they’re tired. Because it belongs in a seven day race. There’s, there comes a day in a three week stage race, there’s several days where you just, you’re done.



Yeah. And so if they send a rider up the road, and they are essentially, they’re off duty at that point.



Yeah, cuz if you have a teammate in the breakaway, then you have no incentive to chase,



do you keep an eye on specific riders in terms of like, you know, I really want to be in a break, if this guy goes Are you pretty much just focused on your own,



I usually focus on my own. However, there are people that you know that they’re strong. And if they get in the break, that you’re going to get a good ride. So for sure, there’s more incentive and getting in those moves when there’s some big guys ahead. Whereas like, for example, in one of the Italian one days, I did it at the end of the season, we had a big break just got brought back, which means it was really hard for a long time. And I saw Ian Stannard go. And when he goes, you go. So it ended up being me, Ian Stannard, two more guys that were from smaller teams and one big trade guy. And we were just rolling out like 52 k an hour, just like nothing. But it felt and brought us back cuz they knew that that was a serious move.



Right? Right. So it’s this, it’s this kind of odd balance between you need to be strong and tough. And not sort of, but not dangerously strong is that if that makes sense? True, you know, because then like they see and go and that that’s



  1. But also for us. The bad thing was the teams that were represented in the break Trek, right ahead. Good riders there. And Scott had good riders there. And we had good riders there, which meant three big teams with riders up the road, that put pressure on tinkoff and Astana to chase it down, because they would have to do the majority of the work. So they were like, oh, we’re not doing that. We’re gonna, we want one of those guys, one of those teams to help as well. So they were just straight on it. And we were like, away for 510 K, at 30 seconds, which is very little, but at the same time, they can bring us back and we can get further.


Trevor Connor  27:49

We had a chance to talk with retired professional writer Ted King who’s no stranger to break waves himself. He agrees that there’s a lot to be gained from watching and keen off other riders.



A lot of negative racing at that level, shutting everything down and not letting circuit breakers go not letting certain teams go. But kind of regardless of the peloton, regardless of the race level, there are certain guys, cat five cat one domestic pro World Tour who are known to be in the breakaway and you can really key up on those guys. And as I’m talking about being a certain strength climbing, breakaway, climbing, sprinting breakaway is also a strength issue guys, you just have that the neck, legs at cueing above them, and learning from them. Not being dumb and wasting energy in rolling up the front and putting out 450 watts solo as the peloton is two seconds behind you cut your losses there and get ready for the next one.


Trevor Connor  28:54

If you were talking to a rider explained to them how to watch the other riders what would you be telling them to look for?



He Watch. Watch bear people make a move basically where they go from being the peloton is doing something extraordinary. Right being an individual walking, watching somebody go from the peloton to an individual. Whether they’re attacking whether they’re trying to go into the breakaway and look learning from what they’re doing. Yeah, hold on. 100 100 people and they are the peloton and until somebody is doing something outside of the rest of the pack that makes the race unfold. So learn from what people are doing in that situation or whether they’re especially 95 and Q FM. Or if they’re being dumb like we talked about what dumb is then q off What a dumb move is and how Don’t waste that sort of magic.


Trevor Connor  30:04

So you just jumped into the breakaway, you’ve got 15 seconds on the field. So that initial bit when you say, Okay, I’m just going to work with the breakaway. How do you get away from the field? How do you prevent the field from swallowing you up?



all the all the riders just have to commit. If someone is not committing, as soon as one rider doesn’t, then another rider is doubting, a third riders doubting and the brake wave is done.


Chris Case  30:29

How vocal Do you get at that point?



Tell us is you know,



I don’t usually get vocal I usually, I sometimes say, let’s just get a gap. Just get a gap, then figure it out. I don’t usually yell. But we all get we all really we’ve all been there where it’s too heated, and you’re like, God dammit, I want to be in this move. I want to make it work. Why don’t you run?



So we have bleep technology as well to say now.


Trevor Connor  31:01

My favorite one that I unfortunately got was they rate people like you in prison.





Chris Case  31:08

bleep bleep bleep.



Like it for me for sure. If you don’t want to ride with the breakaway, why would you even be there? Like, what’s the point, just sit in the field and wait for the sprint. Or, of course, if you have a teammate that’s preparing for the sprint, and you just want to kill the breakaway? Well, you got to get rid of that guy.


Trevor Connor  31:29

So what I’m hearing from you, which I agree with 100% if you jump into the move, don’t think too much. Just put your head down, go really hard. You’re gonna have time later to think and figure out the people you’re with and how to win the race. But first, you just got to get back out on the field. Get that minute.



Yeah, exactly.



That’s the brute force part. Use the term gave us four minutes when you were when you were talking about your breakaway last year. Can you talk a little bit about the reasons why a peloton might give you four minutes. So let’s hit to the layperson. That seems a little bit odd. And we certainly see it happen in Grand Tour stages, right like the breakaway goes away, and they and they’re given a certain amount of time. If there’s somebody in the peloton, it’s deciding when that happens.



So that’s one of the big key differences, I’d say between amateur racing and pro reason is that, especially on days when the breakaway has no chance of surviving, meaning flat days when sprinters are gonna ride for a sprint or mountaintops, well, I’d say no chance but little chance of surviving where it’s one of the key stages and the key riders want to win, then the peloton might give a breakaway 10 minutes and not worry about it. And why they do this is because if you keep the breakaway at one minute, then it’s really hard to jump across, I mean really easy, easier, really easy to jump across to the breakaway, which would make the breakaway more dangerous, there would more be more people in the break, and so on, so forth, and people just keep jumping across jumping across and the breakaway would get out of control. So they would have to close it down. That’s why they give more time, at least three, four minutes. Which means that in the peloton, when you start chasing, you’re going fast. So no one can make a sudden acceleration and gain a minute. So that’s actually the control in the chaos. So to say,



I think we’ve covered how to get in the move pretty well. It’s all about timing, sometimes about strength. Definitely play to your strengths, if you’re a good climber going to climb, etc. But once you’re in that move, you have to decide whether you want to work inside it and whether you actually want it to succeed, whether you think you can succeed and how much energy you want to put into that breakaway. So the next question is how do you decide if it’s worth working with guys or girls that you just found yourself in a breakaway with


Trevor Connor  34:21

and something I want to add to that, that gives us a bit of a transition from what we were just talking about. I tell athletes all the time, don’t spend too much time in the field trying to decide if that breakaway that’s right and away from you is the right move or not? Because eventually it’s going to get really hard to bridge across.





Trevor Connor  34:38

if you get a bit of a sense of that might be the right move. Well, it’s only 10 seconds away from the field. It’s better to jump across, get in the break and once you’re in the break, then decide is this one that I want to work with do I think this is a move that’s worth wasting some energy for don’t spend too much time thinking about it until it gets too late. When you’re in the field.



I guess the base have the answer come back to who you’re in the break with? What do you think its chances of success are particularly high. And then if it is successful where, like where you think your chances stand in a finish with these guys, right? So, Todd, let’s go back to your your California ride this year was the big started as a big group, correct? Yeah, you get into that group do you do you do a bit of see who’s around, see who worries you see, you know, do you know generally who you can take in a sprint and who you can’t and who you’re worried about and who you’re not?



A lot of times you don’t. But at the same time, as well, especially in pro racing, there’s so many directors, and everyone has a director following them. And the results are just a Google search away. Actually, I don’t think that happens too often. But you can tell a little bit from a build of the rider, you can tell by your strengths. And you can tell as the race goes on, who’s suffering a little bit on the hills, who’s pulling harder than the flats, and just read the riders around you, you can’t tell that in the first five K. So any break I get into, I work with that, unless I know I can win in a sprint, I work with it. Because even if I get lost from the break, I’m still going to be ahead of the whole field. And that’s how you gain experience. Because even if you’re in that break, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that exact brake composition is going to make it to the line. There’s still however many kilometers left miles left



to do kilometer.



There’s still however, much left in the race to actually decide if you want to get away from the break. Or if you want to keep the break together? Do you need to stay with a break? Can you go solo after this? Are you even capable of doing anything or just saying on the back end trying to follow. So there’s a lot of components that come into play. But for me, I would always suggest just writing at least the first five K to establish a gap. Because once you do that, then you can actually use it. Because if you sit up and the gap is only 30 seconds, the field is going to come back really quick. Whereas if you sit up and you have a minute, then you can actually Bluff, you can actually say, Oh, I know you’re gonna beat me in a spring. So I’ll do less work, or I’ll do zero work. And as the other people will have that one minute, they’ll be like, okay, I don’t want to lose, so I’ll better ride. But for sure, my first thing is just ride because so many times you see guys just oh, that’s sprinter I’m sitting up. But if there’s still 20 miles left you get you can get rid of the sprinter in the last three. And when



is that? Are there more effective ways to work inside a breakaway, where you can save a little bit of energy, perhaps without your breakaway companions noticing, because if they notice, they’re going to get pissed, as he said,



Yeah, for sure. There’s a little tricks and necks that you do. First thing, as soon as pretty much as soon as you get in the break and get the chance get behind the biggest writer, the more draft you get, the more energy you’ll save. And it it actually helps over however long that race is because usually what it comes down to inches and millimeters, you know. So for sure you want to save every little bit you can. And then for us, we start like in the pro ranks, you start playing with the field, because you know, they’re not gonna let you get seven minutes. So you don’t ride as hard. Or as amateur racing, you’re gonna set up, you know, they’ll chase you down. But if you feel like it’s a more controlled race, and that there’s actually a team chasing, then they will not want to chase you back. Right? Right then in there, they’ll want to leave you guys out there for a little bit at least. And then bring you guys back. So depending on that either you keep riding as hard as you can almost, or you just let the breakaway, ease up a little bit because the field is going to ease up and you save that energy and you prolong at least that survival of the breakaway.



Is there any point at which you you start skipping turns and things like that? Is that just like the end is near?



Yeah, for sure that like if you know you’re not going to win and sprint and there’s five k left. And there’s nothing else you can do besides trying to get the other riders to work harder than you. And so you’ll have fresher legs whereas they’re faster and gamble on that. That’s sometimes all you can do. If you know that you’ve got a teammate, that’s quicker than you and if you’re with five riders, you get there and then he’d get at least second then you you gamble on that? You tell them that you have a better sprinter even You don’t? Cuz or are they gonna do they still have to ride for sure.


Trevor Connor  40:12

So I was a breakaway rider myself. And so because in a sprint



because Trevor can’t sprint



well thin wet paper.


Trevor Connor  40:23

So I you know, all of my wins were in breakaways is the only way I could win a race. And I always thought that once you are established, breakaway was all about sizing up your opponents figuring out where they were at. Well misleading them about where you yourself are at. Yeah. So what are some ways, especially if you’re in a break with somebody, you don’t really know, what are some various ways? Well, you’re actually working together to start sizing them up and figuring out how much energy they have, how tired they are, what their strengths are, and how you’re going to beat them.



Well, we’ve all done group rides, and we all can tell Oh, that guy’s getting dropped. So you just use that you just use your previous experience, you look who’s pushing harder on the hills, like who’s making the big turns on that pose. If he’s making you hurt on the alpilles then you should worry about him attacking you and uphills and if he’s strong on the flats, then watch out for any Crossman. If you know, you can not beat him and have to make him work more than you. For sure. Do shorter polls, and try and not make not not let him notice. But also try and make him take the hard like if there’s crosswind try make him take the windy side to get past you. And all these little tricks come into handy. And you’ll learn them sooner or later. If you keep right, Grayson, and yeah, you just try and save as much energy as possible.


Trevor Connor  41:59

One of my favorite tricks when I’m up against a guy who seems like he’s really strong is I get in front of them in the rotation. I take a very sharp short poll and then I pull off and I don’t really slow down and force him to have to accelerate Yeah, exactly every time and waste that little bit extra energy.



Every bit helps you know.


Trevor Connor  42:18

This talk is sponsored by cork, the brand that connects bicycle lanes most talented innovators with a sports early adopters. power meters CT collector shockwaves and the Calvin app are a few of their great ideas. Core continues to refine its fast track pipeline for new products and innovation. So be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Yes, as you’ve probably heard, over the last couple episodes,


Trevor Connor  42:44

we’ve had cork as a presenting sponsor, which we’re pretty stoked about because Trevor and I are both we’re both pretty big fans of cork, anyway, in fact, Trevor, you were somewhat involved in their in their early days, weren’t you. So back in 2008, I was using another power meter where I was having serious issues with customer service. short version is my battery was starting to go dead. And by the time my battery finally got fixed, it cost me $800. So I found out about cork, and I contacted them and when I told them that we had a lab at the center, and we had Mellotron in there, they they were really interested in testing out the corks up against the Mellotron so like



really early days, of course, this


Trevor Connor  43:28

is actually before they had released any corks to the market. So this is still when they were in development. And so I help them for several months with testing the various corks.



And we should say that, you know, Trevor and I don’t we don’t sell ads into fast dock we have people for that when and felonies here we have a very distinct add edit, split, but when we heard the cork was coming on, you know, I think sometimes when when, when there’s always the potential to get a sponsor that you don’t necessarily fully stand behind. But this is not one of those instances. This


Trevor Connor  44:00

is one of the ones I got really excited on. Yes, so



we’re pretty excited to have cork on as presenting sponsor.



Have you ever been in a solo breakaway?



Yeah, my first California went Whoa, it wasn’t like solo from the gun. But I it was so low 450 K or so was it? Yeah,


Chris Case  44:19

I guess you know, buddy,



but it was a at the same time when you’re climbing Solo is almost the same as not. So sometimes it’s even easier. So cuz you got the same speed all the time. Right? Whereas in the field, they’re just jumping after moves or something.



Mm hmm. So like, what



did you do? What did what did the last talk us through like the last, you know, 510 k of your California witness here because it was pretty tight. And it was it was quite a lot of tactical maneuvering in the last couple of days there right?



Yeah, so there was three of us up the road. And then the breakaway that we left behind chasing but the field wasn’t that far off. In the end, it was the three of us finishing together one rider from the breakaway remains of the breakaway, finishing after us 20 ish seconds back, and then the field not too far after. So we kind of had the upper hand there, because we did have the gap. And it was 10 K to go mostly downhill. Technical, so the fields not going too too fast. So we will do really short turns. Because as soon as you do a big turn and go too deep, you open yourself for an attack. So we did all all three of us did smaller turns, shorter turns, and look at each other, try and figure out who’s who’s suffering bit more than other one is. And if I should tack attack or not. I was pretty confident in that final uphill. And even if someone had attacked, I would be able to follow for sure, and then probably beat them in a sprint. But just because it was uphill, I didn’t want to attack first because you still even though it’s uphill, they’re still draft. And if you attack, we were at altitude and go in that red zone. And someone stays with you. They’ve got the upper hand. Right. So I just waited for the last 200 meters and had my chain and my big ring had the gears right and just spraying for the line.



Were you concerned coming into that? Are you pretty confident?



You’re there’s always doubt there’s you never know, because it was the longest day of racing. But the longer the race, the better for me. That’s why I picked the long and hard stages.


Chris Case  46:46

Where do you you know, the the breakaway is an interesting place to be because that at a certain time, you’re essentially working with people on another team that become your teammates to stay away, to get away to stay away and hopefully remain away until the end. And then of course, there’s a point.





Chris Case  47:04

we’re now enemies. Again, we’re fighting for the wind, if you know you’re gonna stay away, what? When does what what’s that transition? Like?



It’s a slow transition for the most part, unless it’s like, yeah, there’s no like Bank of our teammates. Now we’re done. Because you still, there’s not a lot of times you have that gap so much that you can play around as much as you want. So there definitely is use, you start feeling the other rider to either not pull as hard as they used to or skip a turn while drinking a bottle and just the tiny little things. And definitely, you have to do the same thing. You have to save that energy, because there will be a moment when he’s gonna attack. Or if you want to drop them, you’ll have to attack.


Trevor Connor  47:56

So in the best descriptions I think I feel I’ve ever heard of breaking away is if the field wants to catch a break away, doesn’t matter who’s in there, the field can always catch a break away. So really, the art of breaking away is somehow convincing the field to let you win the race. So let’s throw that question out. How do you convince the field to let you in?



I would agree with that. Yeah,



there’s a lot of times when you definitely can’t get away, because the field just won’t let you. But that brute force still works sometimes. But for sure, moreso. It’s that art of convincing the field that not it’s fine, we’ll catch them later. And it’s hard one, I’m not really sure how you do that. But definitely field has to be a little bit tired. If they’re tired, that just means their decision making is not as good as when they’re fresh.






yeah, you just have to once you get in that break, if you can save as much energy and don’t make a huge gap. Because if the gaps big, then everyone’s going to be on all decks on hand and just chasing you down. Just keep the gap reasonable, and save some energy because when the field starts chasing, that’s when the real race starts.


Trevor Connor  49:22

Right? That’s actually always been my personal trick. And a breakaway that I found works really well is not killing myself at the beginning and saving some energy. So the field starts chasing you. You lift up your pace and go really hard because if they get time checks and the time is not coming down, that’s really the motivating to the field, and exactly what I’m saying encourage them not to chase you because they’re gonna think then we can’t bring this in.



For sure. And then they just start racing for a second. Yeah. And if they start racing for a second, then it’s over. Right then you’ve definitely won.


Chris Case  49:58

I don’t know that. I agree that it is Do the field the field last year? I know. I waited until now, because it could lead us to our long. No, no, I’m just like, it’s not. It’s not a perfect example, but kitana Contador stage 15 vuelta they broke away. You think the field wanted them to win that stage without it coming back? No.



Well, exactly. That’s what I mean brute force.


Chris Case  50:25

Yeah, sometimes. But he said it. It’s it’s the field lets the breakaway win. And I don’t think that that’s true,



I think. Yeah, I think it’s I think it’s just a split, right? It’s the art versus brute force side, right? If it’s if it’s an artful breakaway, then yeah, it’s, you know,



and at the same time, like a lot of times, right gets let go. But then Well, sometimes the break goes to zero. No one cares, right? Because everyone’s gonna bring them back. That’s when the field actually let’s but yeah, if it’s the last 30 K’s there’s no letting go.


Trevor Connor  50:59

And there also is a geography factor. Absolutely. If you had a couple hc climbs and some great climbers break away, you might not have a choice. They’re just going to climb the field. There’s nothing they can do. So it isn’t always true, but it’s



Yeah, like most of the times when the break wins the field as screwed up. And Right, right. not let them go like Yeah, sometimes they like this year, California when for sure the field could have caught. Maybe now.



You’re just too strong.



Over 20 guys, come on. Think back 20 guys,



you need 40 All right, that was another episode of Fast Talk. We’d love your feedback emails at Webb letters competitor group. com Subscribe to Fast Talk on iTunes, Stitcher Google Play. Make sure to leave us a rating and a comment on any of those podcast services. While you’re there, be sure to check out our sister podcast the Velen is podcast which is sort of more news and banter about well the week’s bike racing basically become a fan of Elon is on slash velonews and follow us on slash velonews. bastok is produced by velonews which is owned by a competitor group. The thoughts and opinions expressed on Fast Talk are those of the individual but also brilliant for Trevor Connor Chris case and our special guest, Tom. Toms screech closer that time. Yeah. I have Kelly Fritz. Thanks for