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  1. #1
    Senior Member jvan12345's Avatar
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    First Race Report - Sugar Crits Series

    Since I enjoy all those other first race reports, I thought I would share my story here as well...

    Sugar Cycles and NW Cycling Club in Houston has a weekly Wednesday night crit series running May 2-30. It runs on a flat 0.8 mile loop. The 4/5, Juniors and Women all ride together, with the 4/5 group and women going 45 minutes and the juniors going 30 minutes. I literally just got a license last week and went to this crit with my 30-day "you can race" printout from USA Cycling.

    I have put in about 2K miles thus far this year. Hard to do more with young kids and a demanding job...I figured I was in decent shape, and hoped I could hang with the pack. I consistently can average 21mph on solo 60 mile rides and had done the MS150 from Houston to Austin a few weeks ago averaging 22.5 mph over the 160 miles (granted, with a tailwind).

    There were some hard lessons to be learned - more on this in a bit.

    Get there early, sign in and throw down a gel about 20 minutes before the race. I head out to the loop and start doing some warm up. Legs feel ok (must have been the pre-race adrenaline). I had done a easy 10 mile ride when I woke up earlier in the day just to get the legs awake for the race. It looks like a little more than half the loop will be into a 15 or so mph headwind. I make a mental note to myself to stay attached to the group as best I can with this wind or I will be dead. I get in about 5 miles of warm-up, head to the line a bit late, and end up in the back. Bad sign.

    Roll call....ready, set, go. I clip in and the group heads from 20 to 25 to 28-30 in a matter of what seems like seconds (though in reality was probably a bit longer). I figure no big deal, I can hang with this pace for a few laps. The pack looks pretty cohesive. One lap in and I'm more or less where I started...near the back. I'm really starting to feel the burn but hang on up until the 3rd lap. The pace is relentless. The peloton is completely strung out. We're still at the same pace. Headwinds make no difference. I want to puke. I start to find myself falling off the back with a few other riders (most of the women, and the weaker 4/5's (like me)). A few more laps in, most of the women fall off and I start finding myself struggling to hang onto the tail end of the 4/5's. I drop off the wheel of the guys I was with. Bad news. I look around and I am in no man's land all by myself. I struggle to recover and find a pace. It hurts like hell, but I keep going. I solo for about 3 laps and find myself bridging up to the weaker 4/5's and one woman. I finally catch them and get to rest and draft. After a couple more laps like this we lose a few more riders in our group. I hang with this group and we work together taking turns pulling on the front for a number of laps.

    About 35 minutes in, the first rider laps us...he must have won by a sizable margin because it took another lap and a half (I think) for the rest of the fast riders to catch and lap us. I hang with the larger group for about a lap and then drop back in with the few, the proud, the weak. The lap counter ticks down. One lap to go and I am with 3 other riders who have been lapped and one other that has dropped off. I have no idea where the rest of the riders are who dropped off earlier. I'm on the front. It's a race not to finish DFL (of those who remain). One of the riders behind me goes. I hop onto his wheel. The third rider who was with us does not follow. I get my speed up to 32 and ride with the other rider across the line at least knowing I am not last.

    I probably ended up somewhere either 3rd or 4th to last place out of 20? riders.

    Here are the lessons I have learned...
    1) I need to increase my ability to get to and stay at anaerobic levels for longer times.
    2) I need to do a lot more interval training (see number 1) (truth be told, I just started intervals last week when I finally decided to race)
    3) I need to start closer to the front of the pack
    4) I need to hang onto the wheel(s) in front of me no matter how much it hurts
    5) I need to work on right hand cornering. Much of my morning rides where I have started practicing fast corners are left hand corners...time to switch directions
    6) I need to do more crits!
    7) I need a time machine to go back about 15 years so I can start doing this when younger

    Final stats (rounded since I do not have my computer in front of me, and includes recovery), I have no fancy powertap:
    23 mph ave.
    49 minutes
    about 16 miles total...

    [EDIT]
    Just dropped the bike off at the shop, and hit the computer to check:
    22.5 ave.
    49 min
    More like 19.5 miles total

    A humbling experience and I look forward to many more races. Thanks for reading.
    Last edited by jvan12345; 05-10-07 at 09:33 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member bvfrompc's Avatar
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    No, thank you for writing about your race. Its always nice for us back of the packers to know there are others out there fighting the good fight. My first of the year is this coming Tuesday and I hope i get as much out of it as you did.

    Keep it going and let us know how you progress.

  3. #3
    Struggling at the Back Ghostman's Avatar
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    Good job for fighting the good fight.

    Sounds like a fast race for 5's....

    You seem to have figured out all the lessons. Stay near the front, plus recognizing that it is not the steady state efforts as much as the surges and accelerations that kill.
    "Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from the sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me."

    --Tim Krabbe, "The Rider"

  4. #4
    Making a kilometer blurry waterrockets's Avatar
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    Good race, and good report. It doesn't sound like you made any huge mistakes, which is a great success for your first race (see related thread from last week). Intervals and sprints (!) will help, and you'll get more comfortable as well. It only gets better from here!

    One thing is that if you can fight up toward the front of the race, it's a lot easier up there than back where you were. The accordian-fight in the corners sucks.

  5. #5
    Senior Member jvan12345's Avatar
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    Thanks all for the encouragement. It was a fast race - probably because they lumped all of the 4's and 5's together and let us have at it.

    waterrockets - good luck with your crit tonight. Look forward to a report tomorrow.

  6. #6
    Senior Member TeamPlayers's Avatar
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    Thanks for the race report. I've been off my bike for the past 4weeks due to work. So I'll take the next two weeks to train up for the next crit

  7. #7
    I'm fine. Cromulent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets
    One thing is that if you can fight up toward the front of the race, it's a lot easier up there than back where you were. The accordian-fight in the corners sucks.
    And if you can figure out how to get up there and stay up there, let me know. So far, I have not been able to pick the right wheel or fight my way to the front and stay there. Good race report, and keep at it. This is fun stuff.

  8. #8
    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by waterrockets
    Good race, and good report. It doesn't sound like you made any huge mistakes, which is a great success for your first race (see related thread from last week). Intervals and sprints (!) will help, and you'll get more comfortable as well. It only gets better from here!

    One thing is that if you can fight up toward the front of the race, it's a lot easier up there than back where you were. The accordian-fight in the corners sucks.
    +1 and to the OP, it sounds like many of us are in the same boat as far as needing to raise LT and anaerobic work capacity.
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cromulent
    And if you can figure out how to get up there and stay up there, let me know. So far, I have not been able to pick the right wheel or fight my way to the front and stay there. Good race report, and keep at it. This is fun stuff.
    Well, it's not a matter of finding a good spot and holding it for the whole race. A pack of racers is like flowing water, with everyone constantly changing positions.

    You've got to be constantly repeating in your head, "Move up...move up...move up", and watching for any chance to do so. I liken it to trying to walk UP a DOWN escalator full of people. Dodge left, move up, dodge right, move up, stop for moment and move down, look up ahead, find a spot, move up, get behind someone who is moving up and follow him....There's no resting on your laurels because you'll instantly find yourself losing spots that you worked so hard to get up to.

    General methods of moving up:

    1. Be aggressive. Grab a wheel. Hold that wheel. Don't let someone take it from you. Constantly conceding wheels to more aggressive racers will get you pushed to the back of the pack fast.

    2. Pass on the corners. (Inside or outside, doesn't matter. People often slow down in the corners, so that is a good place to pick up a few spots. 2 spots in corner #1, then 1 spot in corner #2, then 2 more spots in corner #3, then 2 spots in corner #4, and you've picked up 7 spots in one lap).

    3. Go fast when everyone is going slow. Often there are points in races where everyone sits up for a few seconds--e.g. where a break has been caught, or right after a prime, or where everyone is taking a well-deserved breather. It's natural to slow down, too, because everybody else is, and you need a breather, too. Fight the urge, and let your momentum carry you up the side of the pack. You can pick up 20 spots in 5 seconds this way. Note: I didn't say "attack". Just keep going up the side at 25 mph while everyone else is slowing to 20 mph and you'll gain many spots very quickly.

    4. Learn to be comfortable in tight spaces. New racers are intimidated by the tight spaces that experienced racers seem to be able to squeeze through in a race. Last Sunday I was constantly able to move up on the very inside and outside edges of the pack where there seemed to only be 4 inches or less of pavement. Once or twice I did get pushed out onto the grass where I had to recover control and get back in the mix. But countless other times I was able to gain 4 or 5 spots at a clip by taking the tiny far edge of the road. From time to time I would jump on the wheel of someone who was doing the same thing, and then it was perfect. Another racer "plowing the field" while all I had to do was get towed up to the front by him. Moving up requires being an opportunist.

    The bottom line is not to lose your focus and always be on the lookout for an opportunity to move up. Once you do move up, don't think you don't have to work at it anymore, and don't lose your focus because a moment's inattention will cause you to lose 5 spots in a heartbeat. The more experience you get, the more instinctive this will become.

    Bob

  10. #10
    I'm fine. Cromulent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bobby Lex
    Well, it's not a matter of finding a good spot and holding it for the whole race. A pack of racers is like flowing water, with everyone constantly changing positions.

    You've got to be constantly repeating in your head, "Move up...move up...move up", and watching for any chance to do so. I liken it to trying to walk UP a DOWN escalator full of people. Dodge left, move up, dodge right, move up, stop for moment and move down, look up ahead, find a spot, move up, get behind someone who is moving up and follow him....There's no resting on your laurels because you'll instantly find yourself losing spots that you worked so hard to get up to.

    General methods of moving up:

    1. Be aggressive. Grab a wheel. Hold that wheel. Don't let someone take it from you. Constantly conceding wheels to more aggressive racers will get you pushed to the back of the pack fast.

    2. Pass on the corners. (Inside or outside, doesn't matter. People often slow down in the corners, so that is a good place to pick up a few spots. 2 spots in corner #1, then 1 spot in corner #2, then 2 more spots in corner #3, then 2 spots in corner #4, and you've picked up 7 spots in one lap).

    3. Go fast when everyone is going slow. Often there are points in races where everyone sits up for a few seconds--e.g. where a break has been caught, or right after a prime, or where everyone is taking a well-deserved breather. It's natural to slow down, too, because everybody else is, and you need a breather, too. Fight the urge, and let your momentum carry you up the side of the pack. You can pick up 20 spots in 5 seconds this way. Note: I didn't say "attack". Just keep going up the side at 25 mph while everyone else is slowing to 20 mph and you'll gain many spots very quickly.

    4. Learn to be comfortable in tight spaces. New racers are intimidated by the tight spaces that experienced racers seem to be able to squeeze through in a race. Last Sunday I was constantly able to move up on the very inside and outside edges of the pack where there seemed to only be 4 inches or less of pavement. Once or twice I did get pushed out onto the grass where I had to recover control and get back in the mix. But countless other times I was able to gain 4 or 5 spots at a clip by taking the tiny far edge of the road. From time to time I would jump on the wheel of someone who was doing the same thing, and then it was perfect. Another racer "plowing the field" while all I had to do was get towed up to the front by him. Moving up requires being an opportunist.

    The bottom line is not to lose your focus and always be on the lookout for an opportunity to move up. Once you do move up, don't think you don't have to work at it anymore, and don't lose your focus because a moment's inattention will cause you to lose 5 spots in a heartbeat. The more experience you get, the more instinctive this will become.

    Bob
    Cool! Thank you.

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