Is this race you speak of Crank the Kanc?
If it is, take it easy at first and smash it up the hill, all your time gains will be there on the hill. Don’t bother reading the rest of my post, it’s a bunch of nonsense
If not, wild, we have the same format race coming up in a couple months and I’ve been thinking about how to strategize with varying levels of rider fitness.
I’ve split it into the 2 sections, flat and hill.
For the flats is to hold the lowest 30 minute sustainable power in the group, and knock it down maybe 5%. It’s just too difficult to anticipate how the wind will impact, power on the day, drafting benefit, and aero, to really dial in the optimal power target. As for turns, if someone’s wildly faster than the rest of the group, extend pulls, but probably still want to do 60-90 seconds, 2 minutes max, and will want to keep the slower person at 30 seconds, and maybe skipping every 3rd pull to maintain freshness for the climb.
Then the climb is the same deal but instead of a wattage target it’s adjusted for w/kg, so lowest 30 minute sustained w/kg. Since time stops on the 3rd rider there’s no sense in dropping the weak link and showing off how good at climbing you are, unless that’s a good motivational tactic for them. Our climb is 5.5% for 5 miles, so you’ll get some drafting benefit theoretically, but I think the main benefit on that climb will be having a strong rider at the front tapping away at a good pace so your weak link, who hopefully is really riding the limit, just has to worry about holding the wheel.
Finally, and most importantly since you’ll be riding on RPE, I think getting some practice with the team is going to be essential. Practice your rotations, make sure it’s tight and you’re not losing seconds coming back up to speed or surging to get back on the back. Practice your communication, quick easy calls to modulate the pace or skip turns or whatever will be really helpful. Also I’d elect a team leader who’s going to be in charge of making any calls.