So about a week and a half ago I found out I did pass my comprehensive exam for my PhD, now I can breath a sigh of relief and start training hard again, while I write my thesis of course. So its been quite a while since been racing. Almost 4 years exactly, if you discount the fact I had been racing my Single Speed in various O-cup and the odd 24 hour race (i.e. one, two,three).
Nope, I am back racing road again. My real training has only started up in the last few weeks, which puts me a fair bit behind everyone else, but that's okay, I love a challenge. So what is my training technique? For the time being write-off any thought of finishing position in every race so you don't get ancious or meter your effort. Good, now attack attack attack. You see I have plenty of long term endurance (cause I am always doing silly rides such as this one) but lack of racing totally killed my top end.
So how do you correct? The only way to get stronger is to push yourself to the absolute limit. Sure you can do this to some extent in a training ride, but there is nothing like a real race to push the intensity up a notch. For example, yesterday I went and did the Atomic/CVC road criterium. For those uninitiated a criterium is a fast, intense, road race around a short course, usually under 2 km. These races are all about balls to the wall and I have never been fond of them. Hence they make good training.
So before I get into any of the details I want to put all of this in perspective. First off, I identify myself as a climber not a sprinter. Second, I identify myself as a high performance diesel, versus some high reving italian crap. Hence I perfer 3 + hour races not 1 hour. I have good power to weight, but low overall power, so I am also lousy at anything flat and windy, time trials... ekk! Like I said I like it vertical. So last sundays Criterium was like the anti-wease; a flat course with a bit of a head wind.
In addition, no one on my team in my category had showed up so I was a lone wolf that race. So what would my strategy be going into it? Attack, attack, attack. In total I launched 5 hard solo attacks which I tried to maintain. I usually held them for a few laps. When I realized they were catching me and it wasn't going to stick I re-integrated myself into the group, take a moment to catch my breath then waited for the next opportunity to launch another attack. In case you are unfamiliar with road racing it takes about 30% more energy to ride by yourself than drafting in the pack.
Just for shits and giggles here is a video of one such attack, I don't think this was one of my sustained attacks, just one to keep people on their toes:
My best attempt was somewhere around the three-quarters mark. The pace had slowed, people were scratching their ass and the whole group split up the middle leaving me a brilliant opening. So I went. I think this took everyone by surprise because I put some distance on them. I was pushing something like a 53-15 or 53-14 and going like a bat out of hell. Every time I looked back I could see that I was putting time into the group. At one point I almost hit escape velocity.
Escape velocity is the point where you are out of sight and out of mind. If you get to this point there is a damn good chance you can win. It demoralizes the group. They think you must be incredibly strong. What they don't know is the fact you are coughing up blood and wishing someone would shoot you. Your personal pain doesn't matter because at this point they will often let up as they will now fight among themselves for positioning for the remaining podium spots. No one will want to work because they want to "save themselves" for the sprint. That is unless of course you have a well organized team somewhere in the pack, in that case there is a danger they will call your bluff and reel you back in, usually after leaving you out to hang for a sufficient period of time.
Anyway, I almost broke free. I almost got out of sight. Just as I was entering a corner I could see them rounding the previous corner. I just needed a little bit more, then they wouldn't see me. I tried everything. The lead motor bike was not always on top of things so I could sneak a draft or two from him. Into the head wind I would push so hard I almost went blind... its okay because I just need to make the next corner where I can pick up the tail wind... then I can rest, sort of. But alas one of the groups launched a counter attack and slowly dragged me back kicking and screaming.
When the pack catches you after a long solo effort you have to be careful you don't go from hero to zero and get spit out the back of the pack when it surges by you. Even though your legs burn, when the pack catches you, you have to be ready to sprint as fast as you can so you can catch back in.
After I got caught, I bearded down, reintegrated and I took a breather. When I stopped hyperventilating, I decided to launch another attack with about 4 laps remaining. Got caught again. Caught my breath for a lap then fought it out for the sprint. I picked up about 5 placing on the sprint but alas no podium finish (top 10 though). That is okay because I was in a bad position to start the sprint, just a corner prior to the finish some one basically crashed into me, I basically had to stand him back up on his bike again. This freaked the hell out of me and I drifted back somewhere to the middle of the pack before the sprint.
That all said, I thought my race went really well. Sure not spiffy finished, but I put in a great effort. I figure if I keep doing that I will be in great shape by the end of the season for cyclocross... yippie! So my next race is tomorrow, the World Tuesday Night Champs. It is again a crit, but with a short hill climb. My strategy this time is to attack every single climb, then let off on the down hill. I hope to slowly tear the legs off the weaker riders then launch a sustained attack.
So the lesson boys and girls is... pain=fun!