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Old 02-03-09, 10:10 PM   #1
VARacer
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Tale of a Cat 5 - Tactical Novice

Chapter 1 - Deland RR

My hope is that other Cat 5s will read my race reports and learn from my mistakes and that more experienced riders will chime in with any advice.

The Deland RR was the start of my racing season. 28 miles (7 miles x 4 laps). Although I have been training diligently, I questioned my fitness level coming in. I have done very little high intensity training. I got down to the race early and warmed up on my portable trainer for a good 45 minutes trying to touch each zone. My legs are often sleepy (more on this later) and need a thorough warm up.

Lap 1 - the struggle to survive. As if I did not warm up at all, my legs are dead. I hang out at the back of the pack and learn the hard way to play the accordion. At the start/finish I had been dropped by the main group. I was about 200 meters or so behind. I dug deep and HTFU to bridge - which I accomplished. Happy to be back - not happy that my legs are uncooperative after the trainer warmup (any advice here? -- anyone else have this problem?).

Lap 2 - still hanging out at the back, but my skill at playing the accordion has improved. The accordion effect actually doesn't hurt anymore and - in a very odd sort of way - I actually enjoy sprinting back at 30+ to catch back on. Starting to get comfortable within the group and the legs are at least speaking to me.

Lap 3 - I think kensuf has the quote by his signature that says - it's called bike racing, not waiting for s*it to happen. Well, in lap 3 I was feeling increasingly stronger and getting bored. I was growing tired of waiting for s*it to happen. Half way around a group of 3 goes off the front. I see my chance and accelerate from the side of the pack and bridge in what felt like 2 seconds. Shocker! No one wants to work. I tried to guilt a junior into working and he reluctantly pulls for a bit. He pulls off and I get around him and begin pulling -- I look down and realize that I am now going about 2+ mph faster than our break group. Lesson to be learned here. No surprise, there is now no one behind me. So, I solo. There is at least one break group ahead so I am not leading the race by any means.

I come to a 90 degree turn, but - since I was in the back of the pack the first two laps - I am not certain if this is the turn. The cop is not paying attention and at the last minute he directs me immediately to my right. I come to a full stop to make the turn -- 200 meters later I am caught by the group. Lesson learned -- yet another reason to be at the front of the race.

Lap 4 - no man's land. Again, half way around the final lap another group of 3 goes off the front. This time I was too far back to react immediately. I jet up the side to the front and try to bridge. No one follows me and the group is about 90 seconds ahead. Now I am stuck. I turn around periodically and do not see anyone, but try as I might I cannot close the gap to the 3 man break. I get caught by the main group at about 100 meters and finish with the group. As a sprinter-type it would likely have made sense not to try and chase the 3 man split, but nothing ventured nothing gained, right?

Many Cat 5 lessons learned there. It was not an "A" race by any means so I am not too upset with any strategic blunders. However, I really need to cure the sleepy legs issue at the beginning. I feel stronger as the race progresses, but soon there will be a race too difficult for me to catch back on.

Sorry for the length. That is my race report. Hope this helps some Cat 5s. Chapter in about 2 weeks.
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Old 02-03-09, 10:23 PM   #2
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I was growing tired of waiting for s*it to happen. Half way around a group of 3 goes off the front. I see my chance and accelerate from the side of the pack and bridge in what felt like 2 seconds. Shocker! No one wants to work. I tried to guilt a junior into working and he reluctantly pulls for a bit. He pulls off and I get around him and begin pulling -- I look down and realize that I am now going about 2+ mph faster than our break group. Lesson to be learned here. No surprise, there is now no one behind me. So, I solo. There is at least one break group ahead so I am not leading the race by any means.
Sorry, it is not a break group if there are people ahead of you. If there is a truly a break up the road and the main pack behind then you are a chase group. Most frequently what really is happening is there is the main pack and the shattered remains of the field behind, rather than a break off the front of the main pack.
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Old 02-03-09, 10:29 PM   #3
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Understood. My bad on the misspeak. It is late here on the east coast!
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Old 02-03-09, 10:34 PM   #4
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No prob, congrats on your first race
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Old 02-03-09, 10:42 PM   #5
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Sounds like a typical 5 race. Next time, when your warming up do 1 or 2 intervals to get the blood flowing and your legs into the proper rhythm. To avoid the accordion effect, simply start near the front and improve your fitness. It's your first race so don't worry about tactics so much, you didn't finish last and you didn't crash, therefore you accomplished a lot for a first race. Next race, work on staying near the front...

Either way congrats on your first race, and welcome to this wacky world we call bike racing. Keep training and you'll get a placing you can a placing you can be proud of soon enough.
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Old 02-03-09, 10:57 PM   #6
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35+ or the -34 race? I was in the -34 race at 7:30 am so I understand if your legs weren't there. I couldn't feel my hands for the first 2 laps.
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Old 02-03-09, 11:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by VARacer View Post
Chapter 1 - Deland RR

My hope is that other Cat 5s will read my race reports and learn from my mistakes and that more experienced riders will chime in with any advice.

The Deland RR was the start of my racing season. 28 miles (7 miles x 4 laps). Although I have been training diligently, I questioned my fitness level coming in. I have done very little high intensity training. I got down to the race early and warmed up on my portable trainer for a good 45 minutes trying to touch each zone. My legs are often sleepy (more on this later) and need a thorough warm up.

Lap 1 - the struggle to survive. As if I did not warm up at all, my legs are dead. I hang out at the back of the pack and learn the hard way to play the accordion. At the start/finish I had been dropped by the main group. I was about 200 meters or so behind. I dug deep and HTFU to bridge - which I accomplished. Happy to be back - not happy that my legs are uncooperative after the trainer warmup (any advice here? -- anyone else have this problem?).
I'm going to take wild guess here and say that you either didn't ride at all or only rode gently the day before. A lot of people need to do a few hard efforts above threshold (not a long hard effort) to make sure their legs will be awake for race. Doesn't seem to be a big problem for me, but everyone is different.
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Old 02-03-09, 11:53 PM   #8
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I wouldn't worry too much about Cat 5 tactics. It's rare that a break stays away in the 5s unless you have a pro triathlete who's trying out bike racing. Your purpose in the 5s is to build skills. Bridging breaks is a great skill to work on. So is moving up through the middle of the pack instead of the sides. Cornering, accelerating, sprinting, etc. are the kinds of skills you want to pick up in your next nine races. Nothing wrong with winning a Cat 5 race, but hiding in the pack and sprinting at the end isn't going to build as many skills.

Nice work, and welcome to the sport
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Old 02-04-09, 12:34 AM   #9
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Good story/recap. Appreciate the post.
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Old 02-04-09, 06:36 AM   #10
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A few things, but I think you had a somewhat normal race (complete with some very normal errors as you point out).

1. Temperature and weather? This makes a difference in how you feel when you warm up. Generally speaking warming up properly is tough, but in the lower categories you can rely on a manageable pace at the beginning of a race. I don't like warming up on a trainer when it's cold because I get too wet from sweat and then get cold as soon as the wind starts hitting me. I also ride easier if on the trainer - doing jumps with traffic will get me going pretty hard. As someone mentioned, doing some efforts is good, and if you know you can do a moderate/hard jump without killing your legs, do so. Just don't extend it into the "hurt zone", ease before it becomes hard. Before one of my best races last year I did multiple 1200-1300 watt jumps (5?), all of them tapering down to a 10-15 second sprint. I was afraid I left my legs behind in the warm up but the race went really well (1 hour crit).
2. Corners? Hills? Accordion effect can be mitigated by paying attention more than 2-3 riders in front of you. If you can start easing before you need to slam on brakes, or ease off so you can start accelerating before the others start sprinting, you'll be ahead of the game. I hang out at the back of the field a lot since it's much smoother there than anywhere else (plus I'm dying if I try to get to the front). I'll ease a few seconds early for corners or for short roller hills, end up 10-20 meters off the back, then, without changing rhythm, ride back into the field as they naturally slow. You can try the same.
3. Unless I missed something, it sounds like you were having some difficulties for two laps, then things eased in the third lap. Next time try to use the time when you have good legs (relatively speaking) and maintain a good position in the field. Good position means at least 2 back from the wind but no more than, say, 20 back from the front. I'm pleased with myself if I'm 15th-20th at any mid-race point.

It sounds like a very successful first race. You finished with the field, you didn't crash, you were active off the front, and you actually had the wherewithall to think while you were racing (!). It sounds like you'll be fine going forward.

cdr
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Old 02-04-09, 07:47 AM   #11
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I come to a 90 degree turn, but - since I was in the back of the pack the first two laps - I am not certain if this is the turn. The cop is not paying attention and at the last minute he directs me immediately to my right. I come to a full stop to make the turn

I think making a wrong turn is a mistake many of us have made but don't admit later. (Not that I ever did)

Anyway, this is why you always ride the course at least once before the race starts. Or, if you don't get the opportunity for that, be extra sure to make mental notes of all the corners during the first lap.

Although it seems lame that the corners weren't marked/barricaded enough to make it obvious on a circuit race like that.
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Old 02-04-09, 08:38 AM   #12
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Sounds like you could have stayed with the real breakaway, had you been near the pack's front when they went off. Stay closer to the front (but not AT the front) from the gun next time, and go with the first break.
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Old 02-04-09, 08:50 AM   #13
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I wouldn't worry too much about Cat 5 tactics. It's rare that a break stays away in the 5s unless you have a pro triathlete who's trying out bike racing. Your purpose in the 5s is to build skills. Bridging breaks is a great skill to work on. So is moving up through the middle of the pack instead of the sides. Cornering, accelerating, sprinting, etc. are the kinds of skills you want to pick up in your next nine races. Nothing wrong with winning a Cat 5 race, but hiding in the pack and sprinting at the end isn't going to build as many skills.

Nice work, and welcome to the sport
Couldnt have said it better myself.... You will learn and gain more fitness by making the race happen instead of sitting in all day until the sprint.
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Old 02-04-09, 10:24 AM   #14
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I think making a wrong turn is a mistake many of us have made but don't admit later. (Not that I ever did)

Anyway, this is why you always ride the course at least once before the race starts. Nice try, but the OP says this was his THIRD lap. IOW he'd already done that corner twice before.Or, if you don't get the opportunity for that, be extra sure to make mental notes of all the corners during the first lap.

Although it seems lame that the corners weren't marked/barricaded enough to make it obvious on a circuit race like that There was a police car parked at that corner with his flashers on. The cop was standing outside his car directing traffic. Really couldn't have been more obvious to anyone but a Cat.5..
Not trying to beat up on anybody. But this is simply the kind of stuff that happens in Cat. 5 races where everything is new, the "fog of battle" commotion is amplified, and mistakes are plentiful. We've all been there, done that.

Poor racers aren't the ones who make mistakes. They are the ones who don't learn from their mistakes and repeat them.

Bob
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Old 02-04-09, 10:54 AM   #15
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Nice job on your first race! You were actively racing and stayed upright.

As for the warm up - it sounds like you should warm up a bit more. It is really hard to warm up too much for a 28 mile race. Make sure you put in a few hard sprints, and do a few 3-5min intervals around LT. Think about how hard you rode on laps 1 and 2 and how much better you felt on lap 3.

I agree with Coyote2. If you were near the front when the winning break went, you might have been with them.
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Old 02-04-09, 10:59 AM   #16
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Not trying to beat up on anybody. But this is simply the kind of stuff that happens in Cat. 5 races where everything is new, the "fog of battle" commotion is amplified, and mistakes are plentiful. We've all been there, done that.

Poor racers aren't the ones who make mistakes. They are the ones who don't learn from their mistakes and repeat them.

Bob
As mentioned, this thread was meant to help me as much as other Cat 5s. My only retort is that, although it was true the cop car was parked at the intersection, he was shooting the bull with a bystander and not directing traffic at the time. I most certainly agree that this does not save me from not knowing where the turn was given that I had made it two times before. Lesson learned.
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Old 02-04-09, 10:59 AM   #17
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Well done!
I DNF'd my first road race. (Terrible hydration, heat and cramping -- made all the wrong n00b mistakes.)

However, before that disaster, I did a team triathlon (the bike leg, obviously) and we won that (by 6 minutes). So I got both highs and lows right off the bat!
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Old 02-04-09, 11:20 AM   #18
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I questioned my fitness level coming in. I have done very little high intensity training.
Do more.
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Old 02-04-09, 11:21 AM   #19
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Not trying to beat up on anybody. But this is simply the kind of stuff that happens in Cat. 5 races where everything is new, the "fog of battle" commotion is amplified, and mistakes are plentiful. We've all been there, done that.
Interesting that you mention that... Something similar happened this weekend, as my teammates in the cat 5 race recounted to me. When they got to the turnaround, there was a marshall waving her finger in the air in a circle, which somehow half of the field interepreted to mean to cross the centerline and go around the cone the wrong way.
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Old 02-04-09, 02:43 PM   #20
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As mentioned, this thread was meant to help me as much as other Cat 5s.
Appreciated. I am starting out this year and I am looking forward to more of your posts...keep it up.
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Old 02-04-09, 08:28 PM   #21
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I should add on that right turn thing - on a 7 mile lap I may forget a turn or two myself, esp if I don't know the course. Sitting on wheels and such, I won't learn a course. In fact, in various short course crits (former Middletown, CT crit and Stirling, NJ crit in particular) I've almost turned into a mid-course road after many, many laps of the race - I'll be sitting in, decide I want to attack, go, and then realize I have no idea which of the next couple identical looking roads is the turn. Or, conversely, while sitting in the field, didn't realize the turn was coming up and ended up set up totally wrong for it (position, speed, effort, etc).

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Old 02-04-09, 09:36 PM   #22
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I've taken the wrong turn twice (!) in races.

The first was at a road race, I was sitting 2nd wheel. We were meant to take a side road on our left but for some reason there was no marshall and no signage. The guys leading the pack lead me straight past it, but everyone behind us turned.

The 2nd was in a crit, fairly recently. At our regular crit circuit we run one of two options - a short course or a long course. I thought we were racing short course, and I took off from the gun and took the first left.... nobody else did Sat up and rejoined field, then came 3rd in the end, but somewhat understandably I was relegated to last place.

Edit: Oh yeah, to the OP, it sounds like you had a good race. Like others said, you didn't crash, raced actively and learnt lots.
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Old 02-04-09, 10:49 PM   #23
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As mentioned, this thread was meant to help me as much as other Cat 5s.
Same as hocker. Glad you started the thread. Hopefully I can learn a bit from it
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Old 02-05-09, 12:57 PM   #24
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+1 on the day before "blow out" ride. And -1 on questioning your fitness. You "race what ya brung". There's no use in questioning anything other than everyone else's fitness. Otherwise, you pretty much have already convinced yourself you've lost.

And above all, congrats on putting a wheel on a line. Even if you finish DAL, you beat every other rider out there who never raced!
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Old 02-09-09, 12:54 PM   #25
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Even in the Olympics Womens Road Race in Bejing, the leader took a wrong turn...
I am looking forward to my first Cat 5 race, hopefully in March...I'll let you know all the horrible mistakes I will have made...
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