I am not a huge fan of rest weeks since my work and family life create rest weeks unexpectedly all the time. For example, this week I’m off Monday in Memphis for business and Tuesday for my daughter’s talent show. I’ll touch the bike again Wednesday, I guess. I know that rest is the key to getting stronger and faster, so I’m not someone who doesn’t believe in the value of rest. I am planning to race a crit this Saturday in Albany, then start a rest week after that to allow muscles to rest and spend time with my family since I’ve been racing a lot lately. The upcoming crit is part of the new Southeast Regional Series taking place in Albany, GA. I’ve never raced down there, so not sure what to expect. I need to remember to properly warm-up on Saturday since I often try to leave my trainer at home and warm-up in the adjacent neighborhoods. I see guys do it all the time before a crit, but it isn’t enough to get my legs warm, and I never even break a sweat, so I get shell shocked when the crit starts off. I’d like to avoid that this Saturday, so I’m bringing my trainer and will just have to sweat it out a bit. Luckily, I have a few more crits in my legs than I did back in April for Sunny King, and my CTL is higher, so I should be fine able to mix it up a little with my teammate, Tim Henry, who is leading the GBRA series for Cat 1 on points right now. I raced this weekend with my CTL around 90. After some rest, it’s going to drop back into the mid 80’s, so I’ll have to rebuild in June quickly with the Georgia State Road Race Championships hanging out there in the future. I’ve been slacking very badly on my weight. I keep saying I’m focused on diet/losing weight, but then I’ll do a business trip or a dinner out, and it all goes out the window. I’ve gained weight since March a little bit at a time. It’s crucial that I start to lose it if I have any hope of a good race in Rome. I have 3 weeks to get down to an acceptable level for racing, and that is completely doable. CTL is back at 90, so it’s all about the w/kg now. Whether I actually do it given I often gain weight during rest weeks is another story….stay tuned.
It looks like my prior email to blog attempt worked pretty well except for some strange iPhone spelling changes. So, I’ll use this time sitting in an office building in Memphis waiting for my meeting host to get me.
I’m not sure enough time has passed to properly reflect on yesterday’s P/1/2 Road Race. The start of the race was not raining, but about an inch or two had fallen in the prior 24 hours including at least an inch within the last few hours. We started with a good size field with a few more rested big guns showing up fresh for day two of racing. Not only did I skip my rest days, but now I was starting my second consecutive day of hilly racing. My thinking was that I could at least “sit in”… Wow, was I wrong. The field started attacking each other even before we excited the neutral start area. It was on like Donkey Kong was an understatement. We hit the first climb and shelled everyone. I looked around and realized I was in a break of 12 on the first lap. We looked back about eight times, and there was nobody in sight. We hit another climb hard and kept this front group together. I went to the front and pulled through hoping to keep the group away. When we hit the flat area it was too flat and the large pack behind caught us. I was working hard at this point, and we were only 6 miles into a 70 mile road race ( actual was 67 miles) with almost 3 miles of climbing each lap with 7 laps x 9.5 miles = 67 miles. If you do the quick math, you’ll see that there is 3 miles of climbing x 7 laps = 21 miles of climbing in a 67 mile race. That is a lot of climbing!
Once we were caught, we drilled it up to the final turn on a gradual rise of about 1.5%. I mean chewing the bar tape with rain pouring and tons of road spray type effort. There was only time to recover on a downhill past start finish. This pattern repeated 4 laps in a row. On the 4th lap I was tired, legs were tired, back was getting tired, and I couldn’t see. It was not my ideal conditions not due to those factors, but those factors combined with some of the hardest efforts I’ve experienced in a race. My peak 90 min power near the end of the 4th lap was 86 min = 349 watts normalized power. I didn’t get dropped, just kind of called uncle and stopped pedaling. I just quit because I knew I didn’t have 3 more laps in me, maybe not even another false flat where everyone drilled it across the top. So, I took a right turn onto a shortcut street and cruised back to the parking lot very slowly while I contemplated what just happened. Today is a rest day, I’m in Memphis eating BBQ, and I’m happy to forget Sunday, May 19th, 2013.
This is my first attempt using the email to blog feature as I type on my iPhone from the airport in Memphis. Early flight from ATL-MEM is close to the worst post race weekend morning activity.
This weekend, I headed up to Gainesville for the 2nd Annual Gainesville Grand Prix promoted by Dingo Race Productions and owned by former Australian racer, Nathan O’Neil. I assume Nathan lives in Gainesville and has started promoting this race and a new Tuesday Night Race Series. It’s a little far for a Tuesday night, but it was a 1hr 15 min drive for the Gainesville Grand Prix which fits well into my race travel distance limits. With a wife and kids, I try to avoid races over 2hrs drive and usually race most races less than an hour away regardless of form or how it fits into my training plan.
Originally, I was going to rest Saturday since I rode 73 miles on Tuesday with a hard Northlake ride in the middle. I followed that up with an 80 mile solo ride to Rockmart on Thursday night. The combination built a ton of CTL, but it created fatigue which was going to removed by resting both Saturday and Sunday. With rain forecasted for Sunday, I decided to pile on additional training by skipping Sat rest in favor of racing. It worked fine for a circuit race, but it was over ambitious for Sunday given how much climbing was scheduled.
Saturday’s circuit race was held in a small town outside of Gainesville called Clermont. If it wasn’t for bike racing, I’d never know where half the Georgia towns are located, but it’s often those small communities who embrace the races the best. This was no different with a community church in Clermont hosting the race start. It is so nice to get to use real bathrooms at a race, thank you to the church who opened their doors to us.
The Pro/1/2 race had most of the local Pro/1 talent represented with Thomas Brown, Frank Travieso, Alexey Schmidt, Daniel Holt, Emile Abraham, etc…there’s about ten more top names, but it would take to long to list them all. The course was a 2.8 mile loop that consisted of a slight downhill, slight uphill, flat / slight roller straight, and a 1 mile climb. I like any climb that is 1.3 mi or less and less than 6%. This climb fit the bill well for the bigger guys as it wasn’t that hard. However, as I’ll describe in Sunday’s report, the riders make the course, not the other way around.
We started the race easy enough with a few attacks off the front both nobody was overly concerned and several teams just road fast tempo to keep the break in check. It was the opposite of the way I’ve seen most circuit races play out. Usually, the shorter the race, the higher the intensity. The race went like this for the first 3 of 6 laps, then my teammate Anders Swanson attacked hard and got about 30 seconds. He had a great TT and finished 10 seconds behind Frank Travieso to get 2nd in P/1/2 TT. Anders stayed away the next 3 laps until we ramped up a hard last lap. For those in GA who don’t know Anders, he is one of the strongest riders in TN. He races a lot of TN races with another Litespeed-BMW teammate, Chris Brown, whi is a beast on the bike and a top Masters rider nationally.
I was shuffled back pretty far on the turn prior to the final climb. It was strung out on the climb, but the field wasn’t going all out because the climb was followed by a 1.5 mile slightly uphill false flat. I had a feeling that anyone drilling the climb would be caught and passed on the long false flat heading to the line. I didn’t like being so far back, so I decided to move up on the climb as soon as I saw that we were all lined out only 1/3 the way up the climb. Everyone was single file hugging the far right side of the lane, so I rode a harder tempo inside the yellow line. I was trying to get positioned 15th wheel, but it was such clear sailing that I cruised from around 25th wheel up to the very front two riders. I’m not sure if others were just waiting for the flat or I just had good legs. I was sitting 2nd or 3rd wheel with a good 100m from the KOM, so I tried to back off and let others go ahead. Being the an impatient rider sometimes, I did exactly what I didn’t want to do right after this move. I saw Frank Travieso attack with two others. I jumped and got on the back, and the thee of us were off with an immediate gap opening as we created the KOM. Unfortunately, the downhill was long enough to allow the pack to cut our gap in half. We made the final turn as a group of four with Frank on the front. He started to drill it up a short kicker leading to the final false flat, but he noticed the pack was now nearly upon us and allowed the deck to reshuffle know 1.5 miles with a false flat can be a long drag with such a short gap. While Frank stayed up front, I was immediately swallowed up and shuffled back to 20th wheel. I kind of set into panic mode as I’m watching a decent race with good legs slip away from me. It started to look like my usual excuse ridden race where I finish mid-pack even though I’m convinced that I was decently strong that day. Instead, I tried to stay positive and calm. I always race as though I’m trying to win the race, and I know that isn’t realistic given my work / life commitments and low level of relative training compared to my competitors. So, I told myself to calm down, regroup, and see if you can get into the top 10 with a sprint because my legs were not too tired as we approached the 1k to go sign. I was on the far left and the pack surged a bit. It was lined out on the far left, but it had fanned across the road clogging up about 25 riders back. I politely yelled at the two guys in front of me on the yellow line to move up or pull through. When riders get gassed, most have no late race ability to move up in the wind, but I can always move up in the wind if the road is a false flat or flat when higher total watts is better than high w/kg. As soon as the two riders responded to my pleas, the yellow line was clear, and I sailed up the left side and then got out of the saddle to do an easy sprint to the front of the pack. In hindsight, I should have gone Cavendish / Sagan style and gone again when I reached the front of the pack. I barely used any effort to sprint along the pack to get to 5th wheel around 500m, but by tucking behind the front row, I was boxed in. I was in shock as I had to stop pedaling several times to avoid overlapping wheels in front of me. The lead four guys in front were either creating a massive draft for me or not going hard at all. There was a head wind, so I think it was a nice draft. Either way, I had to stop pedaling several times and had a lot left in the tank. I was boxed in and couldn’t move up further, but I was able to keep position in the drops with a soft pedal on someone’s wheel. I rolled across for 5th place behind Frank Travieso who got 4th with Emile Abraham won the race. It was probably the easiest top 5 that I’ve ever gotten since I didn’t work hard or burn any matches the entire race. Some of that was due to a higher CTL which means my fitness today is back to my February pre-illness / injury levels when I was strong in Greenville. It is 13% above April levels for Sunny King / Foothills RR. So, there are a combination of factors, but it still leaves me with two big holes. First, I can’t podium races until I drop my weight closer to 2012 levels. Second, I will struggle to place high without more sprint training like I did when I was a Cat 5 fat guy racer who sprinted all the time because I was heavy and out of shape to race any other way. On the positive side, my few sprints in crits recently show that my max sprint is still very high, but the lack of sprinting means it drops off faster than past years when that’s all I did. All in all, I’ve learned or relearned from Saturday that I may need to be more realistic sometimes. If a race is stacked, I may not want to try the break or go with the late move. Sometimes I do need to gamble and be opportunistic or at least not give up so quickly when a late move fails and I get shuffled. Higher CTL affords more matches which translates into more opportunities to fix mistakes prior to the finish line.
I’ve written about the illness and injuries that have derailed this season so far, so it’s becoming a bit of a broken record. I was in pretty good form in February with low weight and high power coupled with tons of rest days. I was getting ready to add shorter / harder intervals in March when I got injured ( 1 week), then sick w/ cold (1 week), then sick with stomach flu (1 week), and then medicine related cramps (1 week + still having issues). So, the last six weeks have been pretty pathetic training weeks. I’ve had a few good Tuesday workouts on rare healthy days that have luckily kept me from falling too far out of shape and a couple of bad races thrown in, as well, that kept some partial race fitness.
However, it is obvious when I enter a crit like Sunny King last week, that I don’t have any anaerobic power or ability to make repeated efforts. To be fair, I could have spent more time training these areas on the rare days when I was healthy enough to train. However, I’m a strong believer in building the house on a solid foundation. I’ve raced Pro/1/2 at a CTL in the low 80′s with decent anaerobic power, and it is very hard to do well in the low 80′s in P/1/2 road races. On the flip side, for a 60 – 90 min crit, it is better to have high 5 sec, 1 min, and 5 min power with the ability to do hard repeats over and over. For a solid all around rider, you really need a decently high CTL coupled with a high FTP that gets layered with strong 5 sec, 30 sec, 1 min, 5 min power and repeat efforts. A lot of coaches call it icing the cake. I’m not sure if that is the best analogy, but I’ve raced P/1/2 road races with low CTL, and it is as frustrating as racing P/1/2 crits without any anaerobic training. There’s no shortcuts unless you want to focus on just crits or just road races. I decide to always rebuild using longer 30 min and 45 min SST intervals that only help with long road races. They don’t put you in position to do anything other than hang around, but it’s a launching point that will better support anaerobic training at a later date. In a perfect world, I would have several weeks to add anaerobic power now that my CTL is back into the high 80′s and getting closer to normal (about 10% below normal right now). Unfortunately, a lot of crits are scheduled in April, so it was a case of race into shape. That can work fine if you don’t care about results, but it is a slow process that takes many races over several weeks and is better done in late February / early March than late April.
Sunny King was a tough Cat 2 crit for me. I got in one move, and I was gassed after the effort. No ability to recover, and no top end power. I sprinted for a midpack finish and was frustrated. Without doing any interval training under 20 minutes this season, it was to be expected. The next day, Foothills Road Race was easier since I hid out in draft and was never put in a position where I needed to go above high end level 4 the whole race. I finished 22nd out of about 70 starters in a pretty good P/1/2 field, but I was not a factor and couldn’t go with any of the real moves, essentially pack fodder.
Athens Twilight AM Greenway race was this last Saturday. Same story again in that race. Only a week later, so Sunny King and a couple interval training days added fatigue without allowing time for muscles to repair and get stronger in less than a week. I marked several moves and got away in a 2 man break with some DIY racer dropped just as a team Novo Nordisk rider bridged up. We were off the front for about a lap before the pack caught us. My power file showed 4 separate hard moves with 2 long moves including the breakaway where my power was high end Vo2 for several minutes and burning at least a few matches. I had some weird muscle cramping in the quad this time. Since it was raining earlier, I pumped my tires to 85psi, and then let out two large pushes on the valve upon arriving. It dried up quickly, but I never put air back in. It felt great in warm-ups, but taking turn 3 at 30mph could feel my rear tire getting squishy and folding over. I could have probably raced, but when I looked down at my rear wheel after turn 4 at around 25 minutes, it looked almost flat. I pulled into the pits to get a wheel changed. The pit crew asked if it was flat. I put my thumb on the tire and felt a pretty firm tire. In other words, it was likely at the psi level that I started the race which was too low to race in dry conditions, but it wasn’t flat yet. I am pretty honest and said kind of…started to explain. He was sort of shaking his head, so I shut up and left the pits and headed straight to the car. I hate people who use the pits for their mistakes rather than true mechanical problems. I was not going to be one of those people. He was about to deny the request, so I made it easy for him, no further discussion required. The frustrating part was two fold. Later that night, I put a gauge on the tire, and it was down to 30psi. So, I probably had a slow leak, but knowing that I started the race at too low a psi made that case pretty weak. The other frustrating part was the 4 hard efforts had me stuck in the back and likely not going to be a factor for the rest of the race. However, I felt better than I did the following day in Roswell, so who knows…
The following day was the Roswell Criterium, so I lined up for the Cat 2/3 race in pouring rain. The course literally had small creeks and rivers flowing across it. It was raining hard with slight breaks throughout the race. However, the amount of water on the course made it impossible to go fast in turns. Turn 1 was very slippery and caused an early crash where nobody was hurt or even had trouble getting back in the race. I felt terrible. The lack of anaerobic power made slowing for each slick turn and ramping speed back up after the turn very hard on me. For the first time in my life, I was creating gaps in the field that I couldn’t close. I didn’t have enough top end power to close down the gap I was opening in each corner. I was very afraid of crashing, so I’m sure I took turns at least .5 mph slower which opened gaps that I struggled to close down coming out of corners. However, the front guys were attacking over and over and over. This was a 60 minute crit, so with 15 minutes left to race, the pace of the field and jumps out of corners dramatically dropped. My power files show my average power in the first 15 min was very high, then next 30 min very low, than last 15 min was very high as I came to the front and rode in the top 4 slots the last 15 minutes. It started to feel like a road race with fewer hard attacks, so my legs felt pretty good. Also, 5 minutes into the race, I had terrible cramping in my quad again, same pain as Athens. It was so bad, I almost dropped. I’m still blaming Cipro because this has never happened to me in 5 years of racing, not 5 minutes into a race. It went away with about 15 minutes to go, so that helped out a lot as I was favoring my right leg this time (left leg at Athens and prior week at Foothills). With 1 to go, I was sitting 3rd wheel behind Evan Murphy (CRCA Foundation) and another ride. My teammate, Benji Coil, went to the front and drilled it on the back section to line things out and keep us positioned. He took us through turn 4 and 5 together, and then pulled off. Evan took off quickly and got a nice jump. I misjudged the distance and came out of the draft early and pulled even with 2nd place rider, but I couldn’t pass him. I reality, I tried to come around 2nd place guy way to early. Also, I was very high up, and I need to be lower when sprinting and more aero. However, my power file showed me that it was one of the lowest power sprints I’ve ever done. That’s a combination of poor fitness, no sprinting this year in training, lots of fatigue, and maybe even cautious with wet roads so no rocking the bike hard. It was so low, I will not even say, but let’s say that my 20 sec sprint power was close to what I did for almost 1 min last year. So, I got 3rd. Yes, it’s a podium, but I was cramping and wanted to drop most of the race. I was mentally prepared for a 20th place finish and frustrated that I couldn’t make any moves. I got lucky, and had a great teammate, but it was not a good race, and I am nowhere near podium form.
This weekend is Sandy Springs, then there’s a nice two week break. I’m hoping that a decent Tues Night Crit plus Sandy Springs will be the final few workouts to get the anaerobic power starting to build prior to some rest and longer SST blocks again. This time, I’ll do at least one anaerobic workout during rebuild in prep for late May races.
Below is a picture of my teammate Benji Coil in the wet race conditions at Roswell Criterium.
Posted in Cycling, Road Racing, Atlanta Cycling, Georgia Cycling, Southeast Cycling | Tagged Road Racing, Roswell Criterium, Criterium Racing, Sunny King Criterium, Racing with Power, Speedweek, Athens Twilight | Leave a Comment »
Cycling can be one of the most enjoyable sports, but it can also be one of the most frustrating sports. I was very careful in the late winter to take extra rest days to avoid digging any holes early in the season, but sometimes the cycling gods have something else planned for your season. I entered February exactly on target with some strong numbers, good weight, and very fresh. I felt great in my first race on Feb. 20th in Greenville with a stacked field from all over the Mid-Atlantic. I jumped in two separate breaks and still finished around 15th which wasn’t a great finish, but it was the highest placed Cat 2 in a list of Pro’s above in the placings. So, things were looking good. Unfortunately, things quickly unraveled in my next race. I went into a Dalton Circuit race way over confident and went with every early move. When you enter a race alone without teammates, you need to dial it back a bit. I did the opposite and knew that I had the form to stick a strong break. Unfortunately, there were about 8 strong attacks and counter attacks before the break stuck. I hit 1,100 – 1,200 watts 9 separate times in the first 15 minutes of that race. On one of the last moves, I pulled a chest muscle. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but I had not been doing my typical routine of push-ups / core work, so I’m sure there was a massive imbalance somewhere. I was so focused on “back strength” that all my work was on the lower back. I was doing twice a week back extensions, and I ignored the chest entirely. I’ve learned that I get injured whenever I work one set of muscles and ignore another. I’m better off not doing any stretching or strengthening than doing one isolated area to create an imbalance. I wasn’t too worried, I recovered within 10 days. Unfortunately, I had just taken a rest week prior to the injury, so it was a good 17 day rest week (s). CTL dropped far. Then, I got sick with a cold for 7 more days. Then, I raced Fouche Gap and struggled in a break for 70 miles. I was useless doing much more than sitting and casually rotating here and there to avoid getting kicked out of the break. My climb up Fouche Gap was 40 seconds slower than last year. That’s a lot slower… However, the next day I went for a ride and felt like my fitness was building up. I went out and had a great Tuesday Night Crit, but on Wednesday night of that week, I got bad food poisoning, salmonella, or stomach flu. The doctor didn’t know which one, but it lasted a week, so she prescribed the next big problem, Cipro, as the antiobiotic. I started taking Cipro the following Monday, and it killed off the stomach issue within 24 hours. However, it immediately gave me really bad muscle fatigue and very sore calf muscles. I couldn’t really ride while on Cipro, so I was off for a week and had to skip the state championship criterium races that next weekend. A week later, and my calves are still hurting.
On Saturday, I jumped in the Cat 2 Sunny King Crit hoping to build some leg speed. Based on the prior 5 weeks, it was clear that so many days off the bike and a ton of recovery rides on weekends when others were hammering in races had left me with terrible form. I’ve rebuilt some FTP, but I have not high end anaerobic strengths and no repeatability. Unfortunately, I gambled in the Cat 2 race and went with a mid-race move with Matt Brooks from Novo Nordisk which was doomed from the start. He attacked on the downhill when the pack was flying. I saw the move and another rider going with him, so I sprinted down the left side and bridged up to them. We got a small gap, but we were caught within a lap. It left me tired, sore, and uninterested in fighting to get back up front. I didn’t have good form, but I’m confident that I could have used that energy to launch myself with a lap to go to position upfront for a sprint. I will not try a break in a Cat 2 race again unless there are multiple teams blocking because the pace is just too fast for a break to stick.
The next day, I lined up with a mostly P/1 field and a few 2′s at the Foothills Road Race. Last year, I rode a long breakaway with Tony Scott in the Masters Field getting 2nd. This year, I was heavier, slower, and had much lower CTL. My goal was to finish the race and maybe hang around to go with a late move. Unfortunately, the repercussions of Cipro are still affecting me. The stuff can affect your calf muscles and achilles for up to 6 months with most people injuring themselves weeks and months after taking that poison. At only mile 18 of a 72 mile race, I could feel my left calf throbbing, pulsing, and tightening up. I literally started pedaling with my right leg from mile 18 to mile 65. For whatever reason, it stopped cramping up around mile 65. I know it wasn’t due to fatigue or electrolytes because I never cramp up at mile 18 of anything. I do have cramping problems due to the low number of races I do compared to the other racers. With so few race days in my legs, I sometimes cramp in hilly P/1/2 road races around miles 70 – 90, but mile 18, no way, that was due to Cipro. In any event, it caused me to allow late moves to go away. There was a split late in the race with about 15 miles to go, but I just didn’t trust my legs and decided to stay on the back of the group I was in. The only good news was that I was able to avoid the calf pain by staying seated on the climbs, so I was able to avoid getting dropped on the steep hills like a lot of the riders in the race. In the end, I finished 22 out of around 60 starters, maybe more. It was decent when you consider that I’m badly overweight for this time of year, I’ve missed more training days and racing days than any other year I’ve raced, and my CTL is extremely low. With the exception of smashing my toe chasing my son yesterday which likely is only a couple day setup, I’m confident that I can get back into shape in four weeks. I think I’ll be fine by the state RR in Rome come June.
During the Foothills Road Race, I was descending with Isaac Howe, Alexey Schmidt, and David Carpenter. We were flying down the hill when a dog ran out and t-boned him at around 40 mph. He was air lifted to the hospital, but he is going to be ok. He’s in our prayers. The Anniston Star took this picture of David a few minutes before the crash.
Litespeed-BMW sponsored the Winter Bike League this past weekend which made for the perfect team camp. Originally, I had agreed to go to Louisville with my wife to watch the Cyclocross World Championships, but some last minute work items late Friday/early Monday made that trip too difficult to pull off. With the wife still upset about the cancelation of our trip, I headed up to Athens on Saturday for my first Winter Bike League.
It was really enjoyable to ride in a double paceline for several hours at a time and catch up with so many friends along the way. I was riding mid to back of pack with a nice draft, so I was riding very low wattage around Level 1 in my power zones. There were a few times that we crept up into Level 2 Endurance, but for the most part, I was riding in the heart of Level 1 recovery for a lot of the ride. In hindsight, I should have ridden on the front for much longer. For the last 20 miles, I rode 2nd wheel which was close to low Level 2 Endurance and a much better place to position myself. Next time, I’ll rotate on the front to a few riders back and do that the entire ride.
It was announced that there was a final attack zone that would be 9 miles long with some hills, so I was not really sure what to expect for my first time. With about 15 miles prior to the attack zone, I moved to the front and sat with the first two riders so I would be in position when the fireworks went off. Without knowing the course, it was a little hard to gauge was what real and what was just senseless attacking ahead of the real moves. Like usual, I went with every single move. The first move was a hard attack followed by three riders bridging up. I latched on and rotated with them to pull back the first rider. We rode off the front for about a mile until someone counter attacked. I did the same thing with the next group. This year, I am smarter than prior years, and I remember to look back and see if the pack is chasing or not. When I first started racing P/1/2, I’d get the blinders on and hammer in these small moves without realizing that the pack was 50 meters back and charging hard. Now, I have a better feel for when to give it 100% versus 90%. I’m stronger now so my 90% is decent enough to continue lifting the pace for a small break without leaving me exhausted when we’re caught a minute or two later. Now, I have a better feel when we are likely to get caught and ride the attack and break accordingly looking for the counter move. After three separate moves and catches, Joey Rosskopf of Hincapie attacked hard past the front group. There was a chase group of two consisting of Jake Andrews (Georgia Neuro Cycling) and Chad Madan (Litespeed-BMW). Thanks to my teammate, Tim Henry, suggesting that I go with that move, I bridged up to them about 50 meters up the road. The three of us worked together about a half mile before Frank Travieso from Smart Stop/Mountain Khakis attacked the chasing pack and bridged up to us. I looked back and could see Frank bridging hard, and I knew he was going to fly right past us. So, I jumped hard to get my speed up and latched onto Frank’s wheel. Frank and I spent the next several miles crushing out 450 watts in a nice rotation and quickly built a decent gap to the field. After about 5 minutes, I started breathing hard and noticed that my pulls were down to high 390′s. I rotated off and Frank took a hard pull as we hit a slow riser. I started to redline and come off a bit. At this point, I couldn’t see the field behind us and computer showed only 2.5 miles from the finish. I knew that I could solo that if I didn’t blow up. So, I let Frank pull away and hovered about 30 meters off his wheel. With about 1.5 miles to go, the pack was breathing down my throat. They were about 100 meters back, but I had settled into a decent, yet slower rhythm. I was struggling to push mid to low 300′s which meant that I had blow. My 20 min power is around 370 watts, and I was pushing around 300 – 330 watts depending on the terrain at this point. I had clearly blown and didn’t have enough to hold the move as I was caught with less than a mile to go. As I was caught by a front group of four who rode off the front of the pack, I jump their wheel and tried to ride with them. That lasted about a half mile before I came off the back of that pack and was swallowed up with less than a half mile to the finish line. In the end, I realized a few things. First, I could have easily stayed in the rotation with Frank had I not gone with three or four early moves. Frank is a much, much stronger rider, but those early bridging efforts in the first two miles of the attack zone were difficult. Second, I can easily hold about 370 watts for 20 min with a steady pace, but I can’t hold that wattage after multiple jumps and bridging efforts. My undeveloped Level 5, 6, and 7 were clearly the limiting factors. Now that we’re into February, I’m going to continue Level 3/4 intervals, but I’m dedicating one day per week to focus on the hard jumps that take so much out of me in crits. My major limiter is jumping hard three or four times followed by a hard 20 minute above threshold interval. This is the key limiter in my racing and training right now. If I can train that area, I’ll be able to have a strong 2013.
From a training perspective, the day was pretty good. Since I rode in the pack sheltered from the wind, I only achieved 225 TSS which included 10 min at 375 watts –> 20 min at 340 watts. I can’t imagine how low my TSS would have registered if I hadn’t jumped in the final attack zones which were 9 miles long. My take on WBL is that it is an awesome experience. If I was a pro rider and trained 20+ hours a week, it would be a nice way to add 5 to 6 hours on a Saturday without adding any fatigue. Since we rode easy except for the last half hour, I didn’t have any fatigue on Sunday. This is ideal as you build up winter base hours in the saddle. However, I would suggest that a time crunched cyclist who is training for less than 8 hours a week should likely consider a higher intensity ride. This ride is great if Sunday is a hard zone 3/4 ride followed by two midweek zone 3/4 rides, or if this ride is part of a 20+ week. Given that I left the house at 8am and returned home at 4:30pm with no stopping in the car to achieve 230 TSS, I think my family prefers me doing those dangerous hammerfest Sunday rides where I get 240 TSS in 2.5hrs while leaving our house at 9:45am and arriving home at 12:55pm. However, I highly recommend WBL and will definitely make it up there once or twice a winter from now on.
It’s that time of year again when racers around the Southeast start to receive the racing season calendar and begin to plan their events. The common approach for most racers is an “A”, “B”, “C” designation. I don’t really subscribe to that approach only because I prefer to race well at 90 – 95% for the majority of the season than peak for one race. I’m not riding the Tour de France, I’m racing a Pro/1/2 race calendar in the Southeast where I rarely see races longer than 90 miles (Road Race) or 90 minutes (Criterium). So, I like the “more is better” philosophy to racing versus peaking. However, this year I am planning to race Masters Nationals in Bend, OR. Since it comes a week after River Gorge Road Race, I’m not planning to alter my schedule much, if at all, except I’ll likely focus on my hill work in August.
Last week in Atlanta, we had a passionate discussion regarding one of the local group rides. I weighed in a little on Facebook, but I don’t like to get caught up in long threads on FB, so I’ll add a few points on my blog. The discussion centered around a handful of crashes that were caused by a variety of factors. In the past, the Airport Ride has been criticized for being too fast and too dangerous. First, I’ll address the too dangerous part. I try not to do too many group rides anymore, but I’ll occasionally stop by the faster rides in town from time to time. From my perspective, they all have weekend warrior type riders at the front who are willing to risk life and limb to beat the next traffic light or pass a row of cars that are slowly getting up to speed. There’s always a few people who push the limits and do these types of things, but that shouldn’t reflect on the larger group. For whatever reason, the Airport Ride seems to be viewed as the worst offenders. From what I’ve seen, it’s par for the course, no better, no worse. This isn’t to excuse those who ride dangerously, but it is important to acknowledge that every ride needs to improve in this area. As a much larger ride than any other ride in Atlanta, the Airport Ride likely has a few more incidents than other rides, but on a percentage basis, I’d say it’s about on par for what I see on other popular rides in terms of obeying laws and or not obeying laws in many cases. The key point is that it is still a small handful, and nothing that can’t be controlled with a few polite words at the next stop light. The second issue that many people have with the Airport Ride is the pace. I’ve been doing the ride about three years now, so I’ve only known this ride as a fast paced ride averaging 25+. This is the only reason why I bother to show up for this ride. There are at least 10 rides all over Atlanta on a Sunday, and this is by far the fastest ride. Evidently, it didn’t used to be that way, and many people are frustrated with the faster pace that has taken over the ride. My feeling is that anyone can ride the other 8 – 9 rides in Atlanta if they want to go “winter pace”, why do we need yet another ride at the same pace as every other ride in January? I think the ride is so popular because there are many people who now train with power and use modern training based on CTL and daily TSS. With these tools, they can see gaps in their fitness and quickly identify ways to improve even when time crunched. A lot of old school riders have no idea that riding 2.5 hrs at level 2 isn’t going to improve their fitness. They compare the WBL ride in Athens to Airport Ride and suggest that Airport Ride should take a page out of the WBL book when it comes to speed and slow rotating double pace lines. Many racers don’t understand that you can go slow and long, OR you can go short and fast. However, you can’t go short and slow while making progress in your fitness. Level 2 rides must be longer than 3+ hours to make any sort of real adaptations. This is why a time crunched cyclist has to ride at a higher level of effort to create a similar adaptation in much less riding time. The Airport Ride – Long Option is still only 2.5hrs, so a pace consistent with Level 3 with bursts of Level 4/5 is a very effective ride for many P/1/2/3 riders. Given that yesterday was January 27th, most P/1/2/3 riders are less than 4 weeks away from their first races and less than 8 weeks away from some big name early season events. So, riding at level 3 with bursts of level 4/5 is potentially a good workout since they are only riding for 2.5hrs. If someone sits in the pack on this ride, they’ll likely nail these levels perfectly. If they are attacking and sprinting a lot, they will have higher number of time in levels 5/6/7. Either way, everyone has different training objectives, and many of the Georgia racers use the ride to tune up for the upcoming season just around the corner. These riders are told they’ll be “January” stars while everyone applauds the guys riding 120 miles in the bitter cold like that’s a much “smarter” training day. Drilling a 2.5hr ride is much easier physically and mentally than riding 6 hrs in the cold in a double pace line. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to build up my base with 6hr weekend rides, but the kids and wife don’t appreciate the long days away from home. So, until the kids move out of the house in 16 years, you’ll find me riding hard at the Airport Ride….unless it gets killed off so we can have a 10th Atlanta area “winter pace” ride.