How to win a race?

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13 September 2017
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13 September 2017

Autor: Arek Kogut (

When to attack? Which physical features are important? What role does the psyche play? How to win a race? Together with Piotr Szafraniec, we analyze his winning competitions!

We chose an unusual race as the object of our considerations – a criterium in Częstochowa from 2015. Why unusual? The distance of the race was … 5.5 km! In such conditions, it is not easy to find your place, let alone fight for a victory. What do you need to achieve this? How to win a cycling race? Read the interview with Piotr.


How to win a race – Piotr Szafraniec

Way2Champ: Co jest wg Ciebie najważniejsze w kryterium jeśli chodzi o przygotowanie fizyczne?

Way2Champ: What is an essential element of physical preparation for a criterium race?

Piotr Szafraniec: In my opinion, the maximum powers that are used for sudden spurts and accelerations play a significant role in the case of a criterium. The power of both legs and hands is essential. You can, of course, play it differently, leaving the peloton; however, the many turns spontaneously enforce the interval riding style.

Way2Champ: What psychological features do you need to have to win a criterium?

Piotr Szafraniec: Persistence, the will to fight from the start to the finish line, but combined with a cold calculation while cycling. It is also good to be a bit of a “bandit” on the asphalt; I think road racers understand this positive concept of riding techniques.

Way2Champ: What helped you win when it comes to tactical experience?

Piotr Szafraniec: Knowing my competitors, a route I was able to ride before (during warm-up), attack at the most appropriate moment and cold calculation, even inhibition of enthusiasm during the escape.


Way2Champ: Did you use the knowledge about your physical parameters during the race (e.g., cadence, power measurement, heart rate)?

Piotr Szafraniec: To a large extent – yes, I watched mainly the heart rate, but the race required a lot more power than in training, and here you can easily exceed your limits.

Way2Champ: How did you prepare for the finish?

Piotr Szafraniec: During the last descent just before the finish I rested, my style, sitting in the aero position on the frame. I try to smoothly pass the turns in the most optimal line, which makes it easier to maintain a higher speed. Just before the finish, I was already stimulating myself internally, but sometimes I also just hit my face hard for nerve stimulation.

Way2Champ: What did you do before and after getting out of the turns (cadence, gear, braking, riding track)?

Piotr Szafraniec: As I mentioned, I always look for the optimal cycling track, also paying attention to the condition of the surface. In Częstochowa, there was an additional difficulty: a cobbled road, and in those parts, I was looking for a chance for a smooth ride right next to the curbs, where it is a bit evener. The norm is to reduce the gear to a much softer just before the turn so that when you get out of it, you have everything ready to accelerate the bike. I am known for starting to break before a turn as one of the last ones in the peloton, which means that I can move up even a dozen or so positions in the peloton.

Way2Champ: What positions in the peloton did you choose? (starting, middle, last laps)?

Piotr Szafraniec: In this matter, I obey one rule, never to ride in the back, where we often crash, one can easily miss the escape from the group’s front. I try to ride in the front to control the situation and react quickly. However, I do it in such a way as to be able to hide behind at least 1-2 competitors. In the criterium, decisive battles often take place right after the start, so you cannot be dormant.

Way2Champ: How did you warm up?

Piotr Szafraniec: I do not like rollerblading or trainer during warm-ups, I usually warm up somewhere on the route outside the race for about 30 minutes and finally take a tour of the criterium route and include some strong sprint accents 3-4 times.

Way2Champ: What conclusions did you get from the criterium? Do you think you could have done something better?

Piotr Szafraniec: First of all, I slightly downplayed my rival who escaped right in front of me, which forced me to chase him, but tactically I executed a very good race, trying to chase him hard and even, saving power in every possible occasion. The finish itself was devoid of any calculation, and I gave more than I could in normal conditions


Analysis of data from the winning race:



General information:

  • Time: 8: 23min
  • W NP: 373W (5,5W / kg)
  • W AVG: 319W (4.7 W / kg)
  • VI: 1.17
  • HR avg: 170
  • HR max: 181
  • Length of the race: 3x1750m


Detailed data from rounds: 1/2/3

  • W NP: 368/369/362
  • W AVG: 334/330/363
  • HR avg: 162/172/175
  • CAD avg: 83/79/81
  • VI: 1.10/1.12/1.00
  • W/kg: 4.91/4.85/4.6
  • PR: 38.2/38.4/37.8




  • the beginning of the race was aggressive, both concerning power, cadence, and number of spurts
  • the first two rounds were ridden relatively hard (4.8-4.9W/kg) with a large number of accelerations
  • the last round with conscious energy saving before the sprint (4.6W/kg) and stabilized effort (without spurts) – VI 1.00
  • it is worth observing how much time Piotr spent without pedaling (3:10min, or 38% of the race) – this indicates choosing the right tactics and optimal cycling technique in the group (saving energy where possible)
  • the above allowed Piotr save precious “triggers” for the last round
  • the final sprint is the maximum effort from the entire race (15sec, 12W/kg) resulting in a victory in the race