I might pick apart some more track World Championships races this week, but for now, just a couple of quick graphs from the Men’s Individual Pursuit to reiterate the point: don’t go out too hard! Here is eventual silver medal winner Jack Bobridge’s speed during his qualifying and finals races:
He rode 1:06.3 (qual) and 1:05.9 (finals) opening kilometers, which is…ambitious. Both were faster than the opening kilometer of his 2011 world record ride. His coach, Tim Decker, looked very impressed.
Let’s compare the finals speeds of Bobridge and his matchup, Stefan Kueng:
As you can see, Bobridge started off fast, while Kueng stayed fairly consistent. Bobridge took off to a big lead: 3.7 seconds after 5.5/16 laps. In fact, at 1375m, he was on the same straightaway as Kueng.
Kueng speculated that Bobridge may have been trying to catch him outright–which would have required building up about a 7.5 second lead–or of at least trying to demoralize him by starting quickly. Bobridge admitted as much: “I went out full throttle and it didn’t pay off, but I’ve done it a lot of times before and it has paid off. I’m a racer and I guess I always will be.”
So how did Bobridge’s lead evolve over the course of the race?
If it had been a 3875m pursuit, Bobridge would be wearing the rainbow jersey. His coach’s face with one lap to go says it all:
Tim Decker also defended the pacing: “We knew what Stefan’s strengths were and I think if Jack had just ridden to a slower schedule and given Stefan even more of a sniff it would have been an easier victory.” Decker’s argument is basically that Kueng lost more speed because he couldn’t “sniff” victory than Bobridge lost because of his fast start.
Personally, I don’t buy it.
After the race, Kueng said, “I always go out quite slow, and I was scared that he might want to catch me, and that’s why I pushed a little bit harder in the first laps.” His strategy was to go out easier than Bobridge, but hard enough to prevent being caught. In other words, if Bobridge was at 110% of his potential 4′ power for the first 6 laps, all Kueng had to do was ride at 102% of his own potential 4′ power and wait for Bobridge to fade. Kueng also slowed down between km 2-3.5, but not nearly as much as Bobridge. Whether Bobridge and his coach considered this response to their strategy is another question.
The ‘going out guns blazing’ strategy may be better reserved for riders who see conventional strategy as losing and want to disrupt the balance of the race, not for world record holders who already beat their opponents in qualifying earlier in the day. But if you are going to go with this strategy, you’d better catch the guy quick.