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MCF member clubs welcome new members of all levels. Here are just a few.
Contact:  Dag Selander
Website:  MNJRC

Category 6 Racing Squad

Contact:  Drew Ruggles

Minnesota Cycling Team
Contact:  Kevin Lennon

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Learn From The Pros

How To Watch A Bike Race

The Nature Valley Grand Prix comes to the Upper Midwest every year.  This event, like other pro stage races, provides a perfect opportunity to learn strategy, tactics and bike skills from the best athletes in the sport.  The Nature Valley Grand Prix includes a Time Trial, Criteriums and Road Races making it a perfect classroom for new racers.

Time Trials

The “race of truth” may seem like a purely performance-oriented event, but there are a number of tactical considerations for racers.  Racers pre-riding the TT course in a stage race will look for a number of things including the best line through turns, any climbs and descents and any imperfections in the road surface.  The last thing a racer wants when they are against the clock is surprises.  The Nature Valley Grand Prix time trial includes a brutal climb to the finish that will force riders to conserve some energy early in the race.  By pre-riding the course, racers will know exactly when they’ll need to dig into their reserves to finish strong.


These speed-fests make for thrilling spectating.  They also offer great chances to watch strategy and tactics unfold.  Teams with strong sprinters will assemble their leadout trains at the front in the hope of delivering their speed demon to the line in first place.  Look for the race leader’s team to pay close attention to the sprinters.  They won’t be far away from each other in the peloton.  If the race leader is not a pure sprinter, his or her team may stifle the pace by blocking the path to the front of the pack.  Smaller teams may launch mid-race solo attacks to gain intermediate points and primes – and to tire the sprinters.

Fundamental skills are crucial in criteriums.  Bike handling is of paramount importance.  The peloton is usually tightly-bunched so holding one’s line and avoiding sudden movements will keep everyone safe.  Course familiarity will help as well – especially if riders know where manhole covers and potholes lie.  One other important tip:  Get to the starting line early.  On short criterium courses, a place in the back of the bunch could become a permanent home.

Road Races

Road race strategy and tactics vary widely depending on the race courses and the weather conditions.  Drafting is very important.  In a 95 mile race, hiding from the wind is the best way to save energy for the finish line.  Teams and the peloton as a whole will work together to minimize the impact of the wind.  This can create an elegant dance as riders cycle off the front of the peloton and others take their turn cutting the air for their colleagues.

Climbing creates another strategic variable for race teams.  The number, length and angle of climbs in a road race dictate action in the peloton.  A course like the Menomonie Road Race in the Nature Valley Grand Prix makes breakaways very likely.  Climbers will leave the peloton early hoping to secure mountain points and possibly upset stage wins.  These small breakaway groups must work together to fight the wind and pull each other up the climbs.  If one rider refuses to share the burden, the breakaway is doomed to failure.  If however, a group of 4 or 5 riders can support each other, a breakaway victory could be the reward.  Back in the peloton, teams with riders in the breakaway group will mass at the front, hoping to maximize the gap for their mates down the road.  Teams without breakaway members will do their best to up the tempo and draw the leaders back.

A pro stage race is a perfect classroom for new racers.  Close attention to the strategy and tactics of the racers will help build a foundation on which a successful amateur career can be built.

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