i did participate in a "group ride" last week, which is a 2500-people metric century composed of all walks of lives. The event was more of a tourism promoting event so a lot of people were just riding leisurely. I used the chance to tailgate more "serious" road cyclists, practiced riding inside small groups, drafting behind someone's wheels, accelerating/decelerating to match the pace, etc. Of course, it's not competitive but this is the closest I can get to riding with a group. I do anticipate the real race environment will be much more different.
On race day, do what I do. Warm up really well, get to the line near the front, then have VeloPromo announce that they are 20min behind schedule and be stuck there while your legs cool down and seize up.
You needed the promoter to tell you that?
I think it was more of a Velo Promo (Norcal promoter) joke than a statement of fact.
Sounds more like an organized ride event, and not so much a race. Be aware that group riding skills vary a LOT, and be prepared to steer clear of some people more than others.
one week before the race. a couple days ago during my final dry run of the full course, I adopted "training montage" :thumb: and listened to music (while making sure it isn't too loud to prevent me from hearing the traffic) for the first time. wow, my time improved 8% since the last time I timed myself a month ago. maybe it's the training, maybe it's the coke I put in the drink, but I am convinced "Rocky" style works.
finally finished the race. It was such an exhilarating and humbling experience. as eventservice said "All of the physical training in the world will not prepare you for the mind-bending panic of riding in a pack of riders at high speed for the first time." Did not quite get it initially. NOW I do.
The pace off the start was much faster than I thought, within 5 minutes I was already pushing past my LTHR just to hang with the peloton and I knew I was in trouble. 12km in when we hit the first medium climb I got relaxed a bit and got dropped within a few seconds. From that point on, I was pretty much on my own solo TT and on survival mode. I did not expect things happened so fast. Once I knew I lost them I was hoping the 1/3 of the field behind me to catch up, so I can have a second chance to ride with a group but it did not really happen. except for a few lone guys who caught me later on, there was no second peloton behind me. apparently I was the division between the peloton who got away and the other 1/3 behind who did not form a peloton (at least that's what I thought, coz if they formed a peloton, I was sure they would have caught me.) That got me wonder, if I had tried to extend myself to keep up with the peloton past that first climb, I might be able to hang with them for at least another 15km (what was flat.) Nah... all these monday morning QB did not do me any good. The fact is that I did not have the legs to keep up. didn't matter how I tapered, what I ate, what training montage I listened to. So now I do understand why some replied (implied) that I should not worried too much about all these details. Very true now that after the race, no matter what I did, I did not have the base foundation to play with the big boys.
The winner of the race, a 18-yr-old, finished at 1h10min. I finished 20 min behind at about 2/3 down the field. Achieved my personal best time (in no small way contributed to riding with the peloton during the first part) so I have achieved the "lofty" goal of keeping it under 1h30min. I know it's a slow time to all of you but 2 months ago when I timed myself I was at 1h50min so personally it was a significant gain. I wished I could have hung on to the peloton for a little bit more to observe how tactics played out. Here are the few lessons I have learned:
1. did not train myself hard enough. During the flat part I need to push myself much harder in effort in my future training. The race pace during that part broke me, leaving me so exhausted that I got dropped during the first climb.
2. did not train diversely - I focused on the climbs but neglected training to build my speed on flat roads. Those who suggested I had to get group rides ring very true now.
3. did not truly understand the importance of hanging with the peloton until I got dropped and never saw them again. I should have pushed myself harder over that first climb in order to hand on longer.
4. did not shift gear effectively. I shifted down during that first climb in order to gain some cadence but people zoomed past me once I did that. I sensed that something went wrong, not sure whether it's the timing, the gear itself or whether I should have stood and mashed.
5. picked the wrong training montage. should NOT have used "Dancing Queen."
Overall I am happy for the experience. It's my first race so the memory will certainly last. I am looking forward to more and not sure when the next race will come around my corner. I got hooked up with some other "teams" so hopefully I can train with them and improve. There is just so much I need to work on in order to finish higher. Thanks all who have made suggestions to my question. Now a lot of them make sense to me.
As far as your lessons, 1 and 3 are related. Group riding, drafting, the higher pace, that all sort of works together.
Number 2 is exactly what I experienced, as I describe in the link below. New riders focus on what is naturally the hardest part of cycling, going uphill, but typically the speed on the flats shocks them.
Number 4 is also exactly what I experienced in my first hill in my first race, except that hill was about 50 meters into the race and I was off the back 100 meters after that.
For number 5 I really can't help you, but there's a music thread in here somewhere. Me, personally, I have a Pavlovian adrenaline response to the music I like and so I put those songs in my helmet cam clips, music my brothers did with their bands. This is one of my favorite clips (that I made myself), and for me the music completes the Pavlovian training :) I have two "fake" music videos of one brother's group playing a gig in Chicago. Most of their other bands are so old there are no videos of them that I know of, and the ones that have them can be a bit edgy.
Great job out there. Bear in mind many of these guy have been racing for years, so do not get down on yourself. The important thing is you had fun and know what to correct. Now you know what its like and can get ready for next year.
Weird, the speed on the flats was way more mild than I expected, at least in cat 5. 25-27 feels like nothing sitting in on flat ground, plus no one in cat 5 attacks hard on flat ground. Spectrum ride - which is like a race but unofficial - was a lot harder, given that all categories show up. But yeah, you think you are good on hills riding constant pace for 20 to 30 minutes, and then you realize everyone else goes way into the red on the short hills and BAM you're off the back. Yeah, it's really hard to push go all in on a climb when you are thinking about the rest of the race afterwards. I need to work on that too.
^^ it's like a race only in that there are a bunch of bikes on the road. Were it a real race, the surges would be fewer, but harder, in order to hurt more. I certainly wouldn't be taking fliers off the front if I cared about what was going to happen at the end of the "race".