You don’t need a big team to accomplish a race-winning leadout. You can execute a successful lead out with just one other teammate. With a good plan and intentional execution, you and your teammate can stack the odds in your favor and get one of you across the finish line first.

For more on race tactics check out our Race Analysis YouTube Playlist.



Before The Race: Make a Plan

If you and your teammate are going to race like a team you need to plan like a team. Making a plan, establishing responsibilities, and knowing exactly how you want your lead out to look like can help you and your teammate increase the likelihood of success. Even when things don’t go exactly to plan, both athletes can steer the race back on track by falling on their plan and sticking to their role.

One: Establish Responsibilities

To decrease the possibility of confusion during a race you and your teammate should establish roles and outline responsibilities beforehand. When you make a plan, decide who’s going to be the protected rider, who’s going to be the leadout rider, and what individual responsibilities each athlete will have. 

In this race, Tucker is the leadout rider and Jonathan is the protected rider. Tucker is working to protect Jonathan from the wind and his line for that final sprint. Tucker’s job is to execute an attack that protects Jonathan’s line, deters competitors from snagging Jonathan’s line and gives Jonathan a straight path into his line of attack. Jonathan’s’ responsibility is to stay on Tucker’s wheel and kick on the protected line into the finish.

Two: Choose an Attack Time

While sitting up front might eliminate the need to fight for a position at the end, it’s not an efficient way to ride. This means you’ll probably spend the majority of your race mid-pack, riding with the rest of the group. Because you’ll need to fight for position at the end, it’s a good idea to choose a time beforehand that determines when you’ll begin moving up in the field. When you reach this point in the race, you and your teammate will begin fighting for a position at the front.

For Tucker and Jonathan, this point was supposed to be at three laps to go. When three laps to go rolled around, Tucker began moving up to secure a position towards the front, and Jonathan worked his way forward to find Tucker.

Three: Identify the Final Point of Attack

Both athletes should decide beforehand which point in the course where they will be making their final attack. For the leadout rider, this point will be earlier on in the course. This athlete will surge before the protected rider’s attack so that they can lead the protected rider directly into their own attack.

In this race, the course is made up of a lot of long constant corners and one high-speed corner towards the end. Tucker and Jonathan’s plan was to take advantage of these corners by fighting for the inside line. The last corner would be used as the marker for the final attack. Tucker would attack well before the corner, leading Jonathan into his attack just before the corner. This marker was instrumental in Tucker’s attack and Jonathan’s.

Time to Race: The Leadout

Making a solid plan is half the battle. Successfully executing the plan is where things get tricky. A lot can happen in the last ten minutes of a race but both athletes have to do what they can to keep the plan in motion and set up the final kick.

This is what the final moments of the race should look like for both the leadout rider and the protected rider.

The Role of The Leadout Rider

As the leadout rider, you have three primary goals. Protect your athlete, protect their line, and get to the front. When you reach your predetermined ‘attack time’, start fighting for a position at the front. When moving through the field, try to avoid passes that make it tricky for your teammate to stay with you. Your goal is to get your teammate as far forward as possible, with no riders in their line.

Fight to hold your position until you reach the predetermined point in the course for your attack. When you reach this point, surge forward and use your remaining energy to pull your teammate into their line. Follow the line that protects your teammate and their line. When you deliver them to their attack point, where they can successfully kick to the finish line, you’ve done your job.

The Role of the Protected Rider

Up until your final attack, you have one goal, stay on your teammates wheel. As the protected rider, it’s your job to stay as close as you can to your teammate while they pull you to the front of the group. If you get pinched off by other athletes or get taken offline, it’s your job to do what you can to get back on their wheel before the final attack begins.

When your teammate begins surging into your attack, stick to their wheel. Their goal is to protect you from the wind and protect your line from being taken. When you reach the end of their attack, and it’s your time to attack, move out of their path and into the line that has been protected by your teammate. Initiate your final kick and pull it straight to the finish line.

Trust Your Teammate and Your Plan

It takes trust in your teammate and trust in your plan to successfully execute a leadout strategy. Sometimes the leadout rider might have to make choices on the fly that help get the protected rider to the finish line. Your plan can only work if you trust one another to follow the plan and make decisions when necessary that get the protected rider across the finish line first.


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Meghan Kelley

Meghan Kelley is a writer, XC MTB racer and trail riding enthusiast. Her years spent racing XC and working at TrainerRoad has translated to a passion for all things cycling.