hear this one all the time...I felt really good the whole race - then it starts. All the reasons why someone couldn't close the deal. I got chopped. I was too far back. I was on the wrong side of the surge. A crash. I chose the wrong gear. My teammate blew it. Dude took the corner way too wide and washed us out. Kangaroo jumped on me...whatever.
Lots of racers and riders can ride and race for 90% of the day. The last 10% decides who is in the money. Train for that!
1. At the end of a long, hard training ride when other guys/gals go home, you do 5 hard intervals of 500 meters.
2. Mix in a double day of training twice per week with one session being 5-8 hill repeats in a big gear.
3. Lift heavy. Yes, you need that power in reserve. This is where leg cranking on the iron helps! Just ask the track riders.
4. Pedal fast in a variety of gears. A simple drill that does not take long. (Also can be done on a SPINNING bike!)
5. Stay at the front of the group rides longer than anyone! Or at least try to. Don't be pack fodder on training rides. Do extra work to do more power work than anyone else. Who cares if you finish the ride tired or not at the sharp end the last 200 meters? Its all the work you did before that for race day performance.
Overload. Do just a bit more. I am not saying ride a ton more. I am saying go big. Go harder. More intensity that is race specific.
Go watch last weekend's Milan-San Remo race. It will tell you all you need to know...the guys that were fighting for the win were some of the best classics riders on the earth. One of them just had that little extra to close it out.