After a surprisingly strong finish in my first race of the season 2 weeks previously you’d think I’d be feeling a bit more confident. Well, I was, but only a little bit – every time I thought about the race coming up I’d get butterflies and that racing heart feeling as if my body was practicing going through the motions. Hopefully the more races I do the less this will be an issue? We will see. In preparation for the race I put in a few big effort rides, but I have maintained a less is more approach to my training – I’ve pretty much halved the weekly mileage I was putting in last year. I have much more energy and I am getting stronger to boot. I also did a session on a borrowed turbo trainer to work out my functional threshold heart rate, which I highly recommend to anyone who races. Preparation was slightly marred by troubles at work which has been playing on my mind and keeping me awake at night. But on the flip side of this I have been able to vent any frustrations I’ve had on the bike. This led to me getting a PR on my commute home one day averaging almost 37km/h for an hour, half of which is through rush hour traffic!!! So in a nutshell I knew I was strong, just didn’t know if I’d be rested enough to make it to the end of the race and still feel punchy. But I have two small kids, so really I’m never fully rested.
Race day prep (more waffle)
Put my race wheels on, drank coffee and ate some pasta. My race wheels are actually some old relatively cheap Fulcrum 5s. A lot of other crit racers ride much more expensive deep section carbon wheels but I like the 5s. The thing that makes them my race wheels is that they have latex inner tubes and nice new tyres. I can tell the difference with those tubes, even pumped up hard they soak up the bumps in the road. If only they didn’t deflate overnight. One day (soon I hope) I will get some better wheels and tubeless tyres which should help my winning breakaway ambitions.
I left for the circuit about an hour before race start. Again I didn’t really do much of a warm up. I got chatting to a couple of other riders, gave a chap from out of town some advice about the circuit. The weather was staying dry, but threatening to rain with a cold reasonably strong north westerly wind blowing up the finish straight. The hairpin part of the circuit had been coned off because a Circus had set up camp there?!? This meant the hairpin was not in play today, just as well should it have rained. It was a shame for me though, as I go quite well around it, and the uphill drag coming out of it is where I make up places each lap. “This is going to be a fast race” I thought. I ate my banana and did a warm up lap to recce the shorter circuit. I lined up and looked about – LOTS of riders, over 50 had entered online and I’d seen a few EOL signing up too, could’ve been 60+ starters. “Getting points is going to be hard” I thought.
The pace was fast from the off. I cursed myself for not warming up properly . I struggled to keep up and fell towards the back of the bunch. There were a few comings together around me, but nothing that looked too serious. Early on in the race a few riders attempted a break away. The guys on the front of the peloton sat up, the bunch compressed and there was no room for anyone back where I was to manoeuvre. I was pissed off that I wasn’t able to get to the break and had a bit of an angry shout about it. Should’ve kept my mouth shut really as the break amounted to nothing and I looked stupid for getting upset about it, lesson learned. Generally the level of riding was good, certainly better than I have experienced up until now. During the first two laps I figured out the best way of staying out of the wind – stick to the left!!! It worked all the way around the track. It gave you a tailwind up the finish straight, shelter on the back straight, the inside line around the tight corners and the faster wide line around the sweeping bends. Couldn’t always keep position there, but for most of the race that’s what I did. The race was pretty uneventful, at times the peloton was bunched up, then someone would attack and it’d get strung out. When gaps did form there were plenty of people willing to put the effort in to fill them and chase down any breaks or splits. Not sure when it was, but a break did get away. At the time I didn’t see it until I saw a couple of riders 30 or so seconds up the track, but didn’t realise what was going on. I had planned to get involved with any break if I could, but I had been way too far back and didn’t even see it go. There didn’t seem to be anybody up for chasing it down, and I was finding that even just getting to the front was quite difficult in such a large group. Lesson learned – try to stay nearer the front in future. The rest of the race was fairly uneventful, I made up places then took shelter in the bunch and promptly lost said places again. At 5 laps to go I took it easy, but others seemed to be putting in effort to get to the front. I made sure I didn’t fall back, so let the guys who wanted to put the effort in go past me and then sat in their slipstream for an easy ride. At 4 to go I started paying more attention and luckily moved up just as a split almost happened. I put the effort in to keep up with the front guys and towed the rest of the peloton with me. At 3 to go I worked my way up and ended up at third wheel in the peloton going over the line. During the penultimate lap the guy in the lead put in a massive turn around the whole lap. I expected him and the other guy in front to pull off and leave me with my face in the wind, but it didn’t happen. “This guy is crazy, whats he doing??” I thought to myself. On the last lap there was a solo attack down the back straight and this seemed to make the guy in the lead pop. I found myself on the last lap, on the front of the bunch, going down the back straight, into the wind. Shitballs! This was not good. There was also the single rider a few seconds up the road from me. I didn’t want to let him get away, but I also didn’t want to pull the trigger too soon and go pop myself. At this point I didn’t realise there were two riders another 40 seconds up the road, must pay more attention, another lesson learned. I looked down at my computer, heart rate wasn’t in the red yet, lets go for it. I kept a constant effort just above FTHR that I thought I could maintain for a lap and went round the two 90 degree left handers as fast as I could taking the racing line. I took the first sweeping corner as fast as I could too, but then I was riding into the wind and it was at this point that my body started complaining. I flicked my elbow, hoping that someone would go past me and lead me out through the last bend and up the final straight. But nobody was falling for that one. Shitballs of shit – go go go. I accelerated and took the last bend as fast as I could then put in a hard acceleration in order to keep the peloton strung out behind me. The solo rider up front was still there and I had been catching him, but in a final bid of desperation he’d opted to go for a long sprint up the final straight so had pulled out a little lead, however I could tell he was starting to blow. “If I can just bridge to him and get a small draft slingshot past him I might stand a chance” I thought! So I went at 95% to catch him, and as he went round the last slight bend in the track I got the slightest of tows flicked up a gear and went full gas to the line. Much to my surprise my plan pretty much worked, only one rider managed to get along side me and just took me on the line.
At this point I still didn’t realise there had been a 2 man break, and thought I’d managed to come first or second. Another lesson I need to learn is that I shouldn’t overestimate my placing, I was almost disappointed when I learned I’d come fourth. But actually, although I missed out on the prize money, I am well happy with fourth – especially as there was such a big field.
Learning about my heart.
I mentioned doing a FTHR test earlier, and I found this helped massively in the race. When I looked at my heart rate I knew what efforts I could sustain and when I should probably calm down a bit. As it goes I was pretty much well within my comfort zone for almost all of the race. So when I felt like I was putting in too much effort I looked at my HR and realised that I actually wasn’t, and that I could probably sustain that effort indefinitely if I wanted. I can also see on the HR graph at the point that I was properly warmed up. It looks like at about 20 minutes in my HR started recovering properly, and it was at this point when I started feeling good. Now I also know what sort of warm up I need to do next time, 20 minutes at FTHR!
Time: 1 hour 2 minutes
Average Speed: 40.3km/h