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Posts Tagged ‘Criterium Racing’

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.

Roswell 2013

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Last night was a freezing cold Tues Night Crit practice.   There were only about 8 – 10 people riding at anytime.   I stayed up front and pulled or got pulled most of the time, but I was tired for some reason and quit around 7:30pm.   With my sights set on my first 1/2/3 race and first race as a Cat 3 on Saturday, I am getting a little nervous about my ability to “hang” with the 1/2 racers.   With the race falling on Easter Weekend and small payouts for 1/2/3, I doubt the really fast 1’s will show up.  However, as my wife and her friend Jennifer say in the women’s 3/4 races, someone goes and “it’s on like donkey kong”.    My goal is to go easy this week on the trainer at level 2/3 the rest of the week and take Friday off with only a few openers to get ready.  Other than that, there’s nothing I can do to raise fitness at this point.  I am happy to be racing this weekend, but I really should be using the weekend to elevate my training and get more base miles in since the Cat 3’s do much longer races.  I may just end up racing Cat 3 crits and Masters road races since the Masters often have shorter distances in the Georgia Cup.  However, if the Masters are going hard, I’d rather go longer and a slightly slower pace.  It’s a crap shoot really, so I’ll just have to see what I can handle.  You don’t know until you try, so I’ll give it a shot.  On the power side of things, I’m seeing my FTP go up and 20 min increase, but my 5 min and 1 min are making no progress.  My sprint power is dropping like a rock….  This is normal when you go longer distances and add more fatigue to your legs.  However, I think a good week off the bike would spike the sprint back up quickly.  Unfortunately, I don’t really have anything like that planned until a trip after Memorial Day to Vegas with my wife, Beth.   Right now, I’m about 305 watts – FTP, 1300 watts – 5 second peak, 680 watts – 1 min peak, 321 watts – 20 min peak, and 400 watts – 5 min peak.  My weight has come down to 184lbs after last nights workout, but it’s safe to assume that I am still hovering around 185lbs – 186lbs which is about 8 – 10 lbs above my ideal race weight.  If I could get to 180lbs, I’d be happy and likely see a huge improvement in road races or rolling hills courses.  I am worried about cutting calories leading up to a race or during hard training blocks, so I have not had the opportunity to really diet much in the last two months.  Something has to give at some point because I can’t have my cake and eat it too…..sometimes literally.

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Yesterday was my first day joining the Team Cycleworks Cat 4 team for a race in Rome, GA.  So far, the criteriums in the Georgia Cup this year and other races like Roswell Criterium have been typical crit type flate courses.  However, the Rome course featured a nice hill follow-up by another short incline after a quick right hander.  I felt pretty decent for the first 30 min, but this race was scheduled to go 35 min + 3 laps.  At 35 min, my body told me that it was done.  Whoops, didn’t budget enough energy for the extra 5 min of racing…so, that didn’t end well for me.  If that race was 5 min shorter, I had plenty in the tank.  I used up quote a bit of energy trying to work a little harder this race since I was trying to assist the other team members who were actually riding for something other than fun.  They won the morning team time trial, so it was important to help wherever possible.  I wasn’t able to position myself very well to assist much, but I spent a lot of energy trying to get into position to assist in a few situations.  In hindsight, they would have been better served with me conserving energy and being in the thick of the race at the end to help lead out or block.  Oh well, it was a fun race either way.   Coming up…Georgia Games on July 12/13th, Elberton on Aug 2nd, and Gwinnett Bike Fest August 26th/27th.  I might do both road race and crit at the Georgia Games, not sure, we’ll see….

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