As a kid I remember watching football with my dad. He was a football fan, but also coached me from 5th grade through high school. So when we watched football, it wasn’t just as a fan. We STUDIED the sport. As I grew older we would watch film on other teams and our team in preparation for the next game. We did this as a team, but also at home in preparation for the team discussion at school. After growing up in that experience, I have watched every athletic event from that kind of view. When I watch a play in the NFL, I am watching the lineman first to see if it is a pass or a run. Just like when I played linebacker. When I started playing rugby I would watch as many games as I could. And now that I am a cyclist, I try to watch bike racing and study the sport.
Since we don’t grow up in a culture of bike racing in the US, it is imperative to learn as much as you can through other means. It isn’t an intuitive sport to understand. Team tactics, TT pacing, and a million other items take so much to get right and most racers don’t have a clue. Much of this is learned through a team or club atmosphere. Although I have been quite surprised by how many Category 2s or even higher that didn’t really understand team tactics or race strategy. I certainly don’t claim to know it all. But I do feel confident that studying the sport has helped me a great deal in my racing. When I first started racing I would kind of laugh at the discussions by the commentators about how important experience was in winning. I would think: Sure it helps, but not as much as being the fittest rider helps. But now that I have more experience I realize how much it has helped me in races when I haven’t been the fittest rider. (all of them)
If you are serious about racing bikes, get yourself in front of that computer and catch those races. Pay attention to how a sprinter positions himself with a lead out or without. Watch how the break forms. How does a team ride with a teammate in the break? How without? How do riders position themselves for turns, descents, climbs?