Riding in a break – Sitting on

Riding in a break part 4 – Sitting-on

Sitting-on in a break can sometimes be viewed negatively and is a tactic that can lead to your getting some serious stick from your fellow breakaway riders. Yet it is a totally valid tactic. As with all tactics though, there is a right time and a wrong time to deploy it, and a right and a wrong way of doing it.

When to sit-on

Sitting-on basically means sitting towards or at the back of a break and not contributing to the pace making.

There are three main ways you can use sitting-on as a valid tactic:

  • In a recovery role

        − It allows you time to recover from an effort or to give you time to re-fuel

  • In a policing role

        − Your team has a rider up the road and you are in a group that is chasing them down; sitting-on in this situation is expected and acceptable

        − When you don’t want the break to succeed, for example, when a rider in the break is a danger to your team or team leader

  • In an attacking or aggressive role

        − Here, riding in a break can work as a spring board, allowing a team leader to jump across to the break where you can then provide support for them

        − When you’re waiting for a sprint and don’t want to burn matches before the final 200 metres

        − It gives you time this site to assess the strength of the other riders in the break


How to do it

Sit at the back of the group. Then, as a rider moves down to the back of the slower (recovery) line and then across to the faster (driving) line, you should lay off this rider’s wheel and indicate to them to move onto the back of the faster line. When they do so, you should then sit on their wheel.

Ensure that you stay focused and alert for the rider coming back down the recovery line and onto the driving line. Moving smoothly and quickly will help keep you out of the direct line of vision of the rider coming back. It can also reduce the chances of the other riders getting annoyed by a non-working passenger.

To reduce further the chances of abuse from other riders, be seen to be eating or drinking, or fiddling with your bike/clothing, although you can only pretend to eat so many gels.

In some cases, just giving your reason for sitting-on will be accepted by the break. But it’s important to try and judge the mood of the break before making any grand announcements.

The risks of sitting-on

  • Sitting-on is not always popular with the other riders
  •  If you do it too much, it may encourage the other riders to stop working, thus stopping the break succeeding (although this could be your aim in the first place)
  • The other riders may try and “take you off the back” of the break (more about this in a later blog)

When to sit-on

  • A break that has too many riders sitting-on is likely to fail. So, If you want the break to succeed, wait until everyone is working before sitting-on
  • Be aware of the composition of the break. In a break with multiple team members, you should sit-on towards the end of the race, as this is when attacks are likely to happen
  • If you need to recover, do this when the break is working well, as it is then likely to be less disruptive when the pace is high and everyone is contributing

Sitting-on is a tactic that can be a double-edged sword: it can bring success for you and your team, but if you do it without any thought or planning, it can earn you an unenviable reputation. And when you do get into a break and want to work, other riders may just refuse to work with you. So use this strategy sparingly and, like all tactics, understand when and when not to use it.