It takes many new riders a while to realise that the strongest rider doesn’t always win the bike race – and that’s never more true than in the points race. A clever rider can do well through good tactics and reading the race well.
Riding smart starts early in the race; the first sprint is often very competitive and you’ll often find that the winner drops out later in the race – especially at local level races, so why waste energy trying to win it?
Particularly on long outdoor tracks where taking a lap is difficult, consistency is often the key; try to score well in every sprint, but don’t get tempted to go all out to win a competitive sprint early on as this may well hurt your chances later in the race – or even cause you to get dropped. Try to keep an eye on your opponents and mentally note the ones who also seem to be scoring well and be prepared to cover any potential race winning moves.
If you are struggling in the sprints through a lack of speed, try making a move of your own and break away. A good time to do this is when another attack is caught, or when the bunch slows. If you’re on a banked track, try to use the shape and height of the track to add to your jump – attack from high up the track from around the middle of the field as you exit a bend. Going down the transition can gain you more distance than attacking from the bottom as you have to go up the transition as you enter a bend.
When breaking away you have a few choices; you can try to stay ahead, mopping up the sprint laps and try to lap the field and gain the points bonus – or you might just stay out for one sprint then drop back to the bunch. The right option will depend on your own strength relative to the main field and whether you have got away alone or with other rider.
If you lap the field as part of a group, make sure you keep track of your fellow escapees when you rejoin the field – partly to make sure they don’t sneak off again and partly because it will be in their interests to help you chase down other moves.
Try different things and experiment to see what works best for you. The riders who tend to progress the quickest are those willing to take risks and try out different things in their racing.
Remember that you don’t have to go hard when you get to the front of the bunch – it’s not the law – despite what some riders will tell you! When you do get to the front, soft tap through – saving your energy for sprints or better times to attack – and then swing up. Crucially, you must get back in to the middle of the bunch. Going right to the back often leaves you trapped behind weaker riders when the pace goes up or an attack goes off the front, causing you to have to work much harder just to get back up with where the race is happening.
Finally, always sprint hard for the last lap sprint as this can decide the places, with those who are tied on points being separated by their last lap finishing position – particularly important when the race forms part of an omnium competition and every place counts!