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First Race(s): Seward Park Training Crit

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First Race(s): Seward Park Training Crit

Old 04-20-07, 12:01 PM
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Phantoj
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First Race(s): Seward Park Training Crit

My first criterium

On April 5th, I entered my first on-pavement bike race. (Back when I was in Kentucky, I had raced mountain bikes some.) The race was part of a series of races at Seward Park: http://www.pazzovelo.com/assets/sthu...flyer_2007.pdf

My background: Age 30, been riding bikes on and off for about nine years, first MTB, then road. A "fast rec rider", I guess. Life gets in the way of getting in as many miles as I'd like to be really fit, but I like to ride intensely when I do get the time. Since August, I've been commuting regularly - up a ~400 ft elevation hill daily - and I have noticed a real increase in strength and power just from this.

I raced the 4/5 criterium, ironically named the "A" race.

The race organizers offered a "first-timers" clinic, and I found it very helpful and pretty fun. Lots of work cornering at speed. As soon as the clinic was over, it was time to race. I had tried to prepare myself as much as possible by reading "your first crit" internet articles and getting advice from those who had raced. So I was thinking:

Dont get dropped.

Hold your line.

Stay at the front of the pack; avoid the "accordian effect"

The pace will vary - might start off fast, slow down, go fast again.

DON'T GET DROPPED!


So, I decided that my objective was to finish with the main pack of riders and try to learn what I could of race tactics. There was no gun going off or starting bell. We were just told, "okay, go!" and we went. I was trying to get up in the pack quickly, but the fellow in front of me was stumbling with his pedal. In a second, he figured it out, and we got going.

I spent the race in the pack, trying to stay out of the wind. At one point, I felt I was getting too far off the back, and so I shot up the side of the pack and squeezed back in nearer the front.

The whole time I was irked by having to slow down so much on the corners, then accelerate hard out of them. I wasn't getting to use my clinic skills.

I was pretty nervous and tense, and I think that sapped some of my energy. By the end of the race, I was starting to feel kind of winded, but not really tired... more of a lung and heart thing than a leg thing.

I finished the race in the middle of the pack, and I felt like I still had some pep left in my legs. In fact, I took a short ride afterwards with a buddy who had also raced and I rode very strong in that little "cool-down". I was still hyped up from the adrenaline, I guess.

My conclusions from this race:I can ride a 4/5 race without getting dropped.
I have OK fitness, but I don't have any idea about race tactics.

Plan for the next race:
Try some more aggressive tactics and see how they work.


Part 2 to come...

Last edited by Phantoj; 04-20-07 at 02:22 PM.
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Old 04-20-07, 12:54 PM
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Cool report. It's a fun course to ride. I'll be doing it more often after collegiate season is over
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Old 04-20-07, 01:29 PM
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Part 2

My second criterium

Yesterday, I raced again, same race as before.

Because I was able to hang on for the whole first race, and had ended with "matches left to burn", I decided to be much more aggressive in the second race. I jokingly told a friend that my objective in my first race was not to get dropped, and my objective in the second race was to get dropped. My attitude was that there was no point sitting in the back of the pack the whole time for a guaranteed loss. I would be a contender or blow up trying.

I was debating what strategy to go with - take off on a solo flyer, try to get some kind of break going, or what. But I figured that my best chance for winning something (we do it to win, right?) and to learn a lot would be to try to stay at the front of the pack. I figured if I stayed in the top five or ten riders, I could avoid the dreaded accordian effect and save energy, but still get a good draft off the other riders.

The race took off, and I rode the first lap mid-pack. I had decided that I wasn't going to do that again, so on the first straight of the second lap, I shot up the side to the front. Not finding room to squeeze in, I pulled to the lead, but I eased on the pace. I'm not quite dumb enough to try to pull the whole pack. Eventually, some other riders came up and I rode the next five or so laps in among the top five spots. I think my move to the front may have been seen as an attack, because the pace of the ride seemed to really pick up at that point. Or maybe that's just perception.

It was certainly a thrill riding up front... I felt like I was really racing. But each time I came up the slight hill on the course, I was feeling a little more out of breath. I dropped out of my top position on that hill after about five or six laps -- on a prime. I managed ot hang on at the very tail of the pack for the first prime lap, but I let a gap form after the hill on that lap, and I was off the back.

I rode around for another three or four laps, suffering considerably. I passed a few other dropped riders, and ended up catching up to a young guy who had jumped to the front not long after I had made my move. So I wasn't the only one to start out strong and blow up! We chatted a bit, then he pulled off the course, so I did too.

So, I fulfilled my "objective" in getting dropped.

My conclusions from this race:
1. The first part of my conclusion from the first race was incorrect. I do not have OK fitness. OK to be pack filler, but I need to be able to ride at a high pace longer before I'll have a chance at winning anything. I am going to have to begin training. I'm thinking intervals...

2. If I could drop some more weight, I'd do better on that hill, too. I'm thin, but I am sure I could get thinner without losing power.

3. The second part of my conclusion from the first race was correct. I don't know anything about tactics. But I have learned that the back of the pack, accordian effect and all, is still easier than right at the front.

4. I enjoy this. The speed and the competition is thrilling.



Plan for the next race:

OK, getting dropped isn't much fun. Plan for the next race is try more traditional tactics: Sit in the pack, not too close to the back, but not too close to the front. Instead of making a move at the beginning, wait until closer to the end of the race (the second prime? I do need a new water bottle!) to try something.

I will again try not to worry too much about getting dropped. Also, this is a training race, so it's considered OK to latch back onto the pack after getting dropped. So in the future, I will do that. I have a lot to learn about racing, and I'm not going to learn it riding solo around the course.

Last edited by Phantoj; 04-20-07 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 04-20-07, 01:36 PM
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But I have learned that the back of the pack, accordian effect and all, is still easier than right at the front.
Hmmm. That's not my experience, so long as you're actually drafting when you're at/near the front. Was the speed of the 2nd race the same as the first?

--Steve
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Old 04-20-07, 01:44 PM
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Phantoj
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Originally Posted by zimbo
Hmmm. That's not my experience, so long as you're actually drafting when you're at/near the front. Was the speed of the 2nd race the same as the first?

--Steve
I think maybe I was too near the front. I had a harder time staying in a draft - maybe I just need to work harder on that skill. I think next time I'll try to ride about ten to fifteen riders back and see how that goes.

I really can't say the speed difference. My bike computer wasn't working on the first race, and I didn't look at it much on the second. It felt a lot faster the second time. It's possible that my zipping up the side inspired other jumpy riders to take off and that I was in some kind of breakaway for a bit. (I didn't look back to see.)
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Old 04-20-07, 01:55 PM
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These posts are very striking for me because they describe my first two races exactly.

I finished strong in the pack in my first crit and felt I had bullets to spare and I even imagined myself winning my second race.

Second race was a windy technical crit. I was off the back the whole time. Completely uncompetitive.

Next race is next week. We'll see.....
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Old 04-20-07, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Phantoj
But I have learned that the back of the pack, accordian effect and all, is still easier than right at the front.
Nooooooo. There are many factors that may explain why you got gassed after making your move but it was a good move to make. You already know that you need to work on being able to recover from an effort while not losing position. Think of it this way - you work hard to get to or near the front, but hey, you're at the front! With the accordian, you work hard to just not get dropped and you are nowhere near the front and now you are tired. I will always take my chances fighting for a good position and never settle for the back in a crit. You will get there soon enough. There's nothing like racing to train for racing.
Keep up the good work and good attitude.
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Old 04-20-07, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Ghostman
I finished strong in the pack in my first crit and felt I had bullets to spare
The weird thing is that in my first race, I still had "strength" left - my legs had good freshness - but my cardio system (lungs and heart, I guess) were getting overwhelmed at the end. So that's why after the race, after I got my breath again, I could still get out there and hammer hard with my buddy. Maybe this is typical, but I think having pep in my legs afterwards made me overestimate my fitness and underestimate how close I had come to being dropped on the first race.

I wonder if I would be smart to get out of the saddle on that hill. I generally rode it seated, but other riders were getting out of the saddle, even at the same pace. I think seated is more efficient, but it might be more taxing to the cardio system.
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Old 04-20-07, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Ghostman
I finished strong in the pack in my first crit and felt I had bullets to spare and I even imagined myself winning my second race.
Chances are that if you get to the end of a crit and have only one bullet left then it's a really small bullet and won't get you to the front. Having energy in reserve at the end--and being in the place to put it to good use--are the keys to doing well.

--Steve
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Old 04-20-07, 02:43 PM
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Phantoj
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What do I need to do to improve my fitness?

I think... I need more power at my lactate threshold...? So, like, intervals of some kind?

And I need to get more efficient at keeping up without using as much power.
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Old 04-20-07, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Phantoj
What do I need to do to improve my fitness?

I think... I need more power at my lactate threshold...? So, like, intervals of some kind?

And I need to get more efficient at keeping up without using as much power.

Sunday: Long hard group ride with "A" touring riders or race team
Monday: Off
Tuesday: 30 minute TT all out or 2 x 20 minutes at threshold (say 5 % below TT pace) or 6 x 5 minute hard hill climbs. All these types of longer efforts are to raise Lactate Threshold and acclimate you to suffering for 5-30 minutes.
Wednesday: 90 minutes at endurance pace
Thursday: Hard short intervals, say 3 sets of 6 of 45 secs ALL OUT followed by 1:15 secs recovery -- this is 18 total bursts of 45 seconds.
Or do 10 x 1 minute near all out, 2 minutes recovery
Friday: Off or 1 hour easy
Saturday: Race or 3 hour endurance ride.

Mix up the Tuesdays and Thursdays (sprint efforts versus longer efforts)

Every 4th week, take it easy. Ride easy pace or endurance pace, with just a few intense efforts thrown in one or two days.
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Old 04-20-07, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Phantoj
3. The second part of my conclusion from the first race was correct. I don't know anything about tactics. But I have learned that the back of the pack, accordian effect and all, is still easier than right at the front.
This really depends on the course.

On this course, I'd rather be second wheel than last.


Also, if you're close to the front, you can react to moves.
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