This week's tip:
Hyper's Jessica Smith (center, green helmet) leads out the sprint at the 2005 Northshore Inline Marathon for teammate Cecilia Baena (just behind her). Baena won; Smith finished fourth.
By Vicci King
Teamwork is the key to winning in outdoor racing. But it's not just about wearing matching skinsuits and letting teammates into your paceline. It also involves making sacrifices for the sake of the team.
For starters, your team must learn to communicate both on and off the racecourse. Before a race, hold a team meeting and talk about who is stronger in different situations. Based on this conversation, devise a strategy. (Much like a basketball team, you either mark-up and play man-to-man, or you play a zone. )
Designate one skater to win the race. Everyone else's job then becomes to get that skater to the finish line first.
Also select a "chaser." The chaser's job is to stay with any opposing team member who goes on a flyer. This allows the designated winner to conserve his or her energy.
If a teammate goes on a flyer, you or another teammate should go to the front of the pack to slow it down. In that way, the breakaway teammate can build a lead.
Never chase a teammate who is on a flyer — even if that teammate is not the designated winner. Be ready to revise your team strategy to reflect unanticipated events (such as successful breakaways.) In some cases, even the designated winner will have to switch to a "worker" role.
Communicate with your teammates during the race. If, for instance, you are in the back of a paceline and an opposing skater flies by you, alert your teammates up ahead. In that way, they won't be caught unawares.
Also, designate a lead-out skater (or skaters) for your team. The lead-out skater's job is to start the sprint. The designated winner stays behind the lead-out skater in the draft. Then, when the lead-out skater tires, the designated winner pulls out of the draft and unleashes a final (and hopefully successful) sprint.
Aside from designating a lead-out skater, decide where the sprint should start.
Finally, remember this: Teamwork is all about sacrifice and doing what's best for everyone, both on and off the racecourse.
Vicci King is a 5-time world champion speed skater and a member of the Bont North America Racing Team. In the 1990s, she won numerous U.S. national championships. In 1995, she won gold and silver medals at the Pan American Games in Argentina. Born in Mississippi, she currently lives in Payallup, WA, and skates indoors with the Pattison's West speed team in Federal Way.