Racing's hard, that's probably why they call it "racing"

Sam gets a taste of the action but things don't go exactly to plan...

by SamShaw   April 3, 2012  

The groupetto

So my pre-race plan was 50% successful

The plan was: stick with the bunch and don’t crash, and I managed not to crash.  I got dropped on the 2nd lap on one of the short climbs, up until that point I was out of my comfort zone but keeping with the bunch, staying in a solid mid-pack position but then my legs refused to respond and I started going backwards.  After that a group of 5 developed and we made it round, getting lapped on the last lap, finishing just behind the bunch.  Riding at an average of 25mph is a lot harder than averaging 20mph.

 

I should have really anticipated that I wouldn’t stay with the main field.  Last year I did no intensive rides at all, not once going out with my club until winter training had started so I missed out on vital weekly chain gang pummelings that would have toughened me up for the burtalising I got on Saturday.  The year before that I did a few chain gangs with the slowest group so I can’t really say that I had much pre-race experience.

Excuses

This paragraph is where I’d like to list the things that led to me not being prepared: son born last year, constant illness since November, fatherly duties, work commitments, 2 months off the bike last year due to injury… the list could go on.  It’s really rather pointless looking back at why I wasn’t able to ride fast enough, I know why so I’ve got to put that behind me and look forward.  First thing is to plan how I’m going to improve over the next month in time for the next race.

Planning ahead

Immediately I need to start pushing myself to get used to hard efforts, I’ve been doing a lot of base miles and that makes it easy enough to ride at the aforementioned 20mph average, but increasing that is difficult, I tire as soon as I start pushing the pedals harder so I need to get used to it and toughen up.   I used to do a loop to work taking in a 25% climb, I’d do it three times a week, this year I think I’ve done it four times.

The good thing is that my fitness has consistently improved since I started cycling in 2008 when I couldn’t make the 3 miles home from work without getting off the bike twice to die by the roadside. 

I know I’m going to get faster; I’ve just got to figure out how.

19 user comments

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Best of luck! 20mph doesn't sound bad to me! 5mph extra is going to be mega difficult. Due to air resistance increasing with speed it's more than 25% extra effort. Lots of lactate threshold I think.

posted by Alan Tullett [1461 posts]
3rd April 2012 - 21:23

4 Likes

Don't forget, though, that at 25mph you'll have more chance to shelter in the bunch, whereas once you've been dropped you're doing a lot more work yourself.

Try some interval training to get the speed up - it sounds like your base fitness is there and that with some speed work you'll do just fine!

posted by step-hent [697 posts]
4th April 2012 - 8:18

3 Likes

Explain further this 20mph average, do you manage this on your own, on a flat or hilly route over what distance? Over a hilly 60mile route I hold a high 18mph and have been fine in 3/4s so far.

The main problem will probably be your tactics, from my limited race experience so far (2) I've seen that lots of people can't actually hold a wheel. And the majority that do think they are holding a wheel are actually sat too far out and they too are taking a pounding from the wind.

New to racing, 3/4s 12th, 4th only 1st.

posted by x8swift9x [15 posts]
4th April 2012 - 8:25

4 Likes

I've done two races too, 4th cat finished mid pack.
3/4 - lapped.
25mph average I'm guessing this wasn't a 4th cat only race.
What race was it?
I figure that I'm not a "natural" cyclist so I'm not going to just jump in and do good straight away, I think tactically I'm aware, but I've obviously got a lot to learn about getting in moves, holding a decent position, following the right wheels etc.
Just started read the book by Chris Carmichael which is great, and am starting the TCTP plan - which is basically lots of hardcore max, and close to max intervals.
I'm quite excited about the prospect of racing this year, even if my improvement is simply not to be dropped.
Personally coming from Triathlon and running I can always console myself with the knowledge that I'd probably overtake a lot of the racers if there was a run bolted on at the end!!

posted by pmr [174 posts]
4th April 2012 - 8:47

6 Likes

I really should not have read this blog, it just reminds me of how much work I have to do.

posted by kobacom [85 posts]
4th April 2012 - 9:09

2 Likes

I stopped road racing when I was about 18 after a good four year run with good results. I guess I realised that racing is about pure pain - taking in and also dishing it out. And, moreover, enjoy dishing it out. Moved over to MTB which is a lot less aggressive as you are not so directly punishing people, it's much more about what you can do, like a fun TT.

But road racing, yes, it's hard. I remember that the first 10-15 minutes hurts the most and you just have to suffer like hell to stay in touch. If you shell out early there's not much point, but if you can hang in then one day you will find that you are the one launching an attack later in the race. If you think about the END of the race you will shell out because you will think you can't do this intensity for that long. But the pace will ease in the middle a little, unless you are being done over by a rival club of course Sad

And when I say hurt I mean feeling properly ill but still pedalling fast anyway. I was never a vomiter but lots of my riding buddies where. Sprint for the line, get off, vomit. And these were fit guys who went on to represent the country (NZ, for the record).

Even with lots of conditioning it hurts. It's all about who can hurt fastest. And experience in reading a race for which there is only one way to learn... Good luck!

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [286 posts]
4th April 2012 - 9:43

3 Likes

PS, I loved it mind you... there is something about racing fast that is just not equalled anywhere else in life. Being fit and fast and of form is magic, something the Clarksons of the world will never understand.

alotronic's picture

posted by alotronic [286 posts]
4th April 2012 - 9:45

3 Likes

But you did it. And by the sound of it you'll do it again. Full marks for that. Real racing. Nothing fantasy about that. Good for you! Applause

Low Speed Wobble's picture

posted by Low Speed Wobble [140 posts]
4th April 2012 - 10:38

4 Likes

x8swift9x wrote:
Explain further this 20mph average, do you manage this on your own, on a flat or hilly route over what distance?

A look at Garmin data shows a recent ride to work at 20.7mph, 30miles, 280m climbing.

Fastest ride over a distance was 75miles at 20.2mph.

The reality is I'm not used to going flat out for even short periods of time, high intensity riding is what I need.

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [274 posts]
4th April 2012 - 14:34

3 Likes

pmr wrote:

25mph average I'm guessing this wasn't a 4th cat only race.
What race was it?

PMR, it was a Cat 3&4 race and I was told that there were quite a number of last years Cat 2 racers in the bunch, the general consensus was that the field was strong. It was the Jack Murray Memorial Road Race organised by Dunfermline Cycling Club.

alotronic wrote:

But road racing, yes, it's hard. I remember that the first 10-15 minutes hurts the most and you just have to suffer like hell to stay in touch.

I think I may have stood a chance of sticking with the bunch if I'd hung in there a bit as things may have settled down after those first few laps.

Thanks for the comments, everyone - it's good to hear experiences/opinions from others!

Twitter: @velosam

SamShaw's picture

posted by SamShaw [274 posts]
4th April 2012 - 14:42

4 Likes

Well done Sam, just doing a race that tough is an acheivement. I know one of the riders in that race and he is good, so you've done very well entering and finishing.

posted by dreamlx10 [143 posts]
5th April 2012 - 9:20

5 Likes

Awesome. My cap has been doffed continuously for
most of the morning, just thinking about the performance
levels velosam has achieved. Makes me realise I'm just
playing it. Out of interest what is the average training-week
for a cat4 (or above) racer, what commitment does it
take ?
cheers,
Oldnslo

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [125 posts]
5th April 2012 - 10:30

6 Likes

Congratulations on finishing your first race!

Yep, you do need some high-intensity training, but the good news is that it does get easier as you do more races.

I have to agree with a couple of the others, though; tactics and positioning in the bunch are vitally important. For instance, starting closer to the front on a climb can mean the difference between just hanging on, and getting dropped.

Good luck.

posted by rgmerk [2 posts]
6th April 2012 - 12:39

3 Likes

@Oldnslo - i'm a first year junior (16) starting off as a 3rd cat and am trying to get a 2nd cat licence fairly soon. my training over the winter consisted of:

Monday - easy spin/20 minutes on the rollers
Tuesday - turbo
Wednesday - turbo
Thursday - turbo
Friday - Turbo
Saturday - 50-60 hilly miles 18mph av. speed
Sunday - 50-60 hilly miles 18mph av. speed.

hope this helps Smile

posted by jamjam [61 posts]
8th April 2012 - 21:37

5 Likes

Is there a route to racing if I'm 46 and never raced before? Done quite a lot of triathlon and over that last few years a hand full of sportives including Tour Of Wessex and the Etape. Can I be 46 and a novice? Thinking

Ironbloke

ironbloke's picture

posted by ironbloke [61 posts]
8th April 2012 - 22:20

3 Likes

ironbloke wrote:
Is there a route to racing if I'm 46 and never raced before? Done quite a lot of triathlon and over that last few years a hand full of sportives including Tour Of Wessex and the Etape. Can I be 46 and a novice? Thinking

I'm 46 too, and i'm not thinking of racing the bike ,but i do triathlons and sportives too, i'd think that there is absolutely no reason not to have a go,what have you to loose?

keith roberts's picture

posted by keith roberts [186 posts]
9th April 2012 - 8:08

6 Likes

jamjam wrote:
@Oldnslo - i'm a first year junior (16) starting off as a 3rd cat and am trying to get a 2nd cat licence fairly soon. my training over the winter consisted of:

Monday - easy spin/20 minutes on the rollers
Tuesday - turbo
Wednesday - turbo
Thursday - turbo
Friday - Turbo
Saturday - 50-60 hilly miles 18mph av. speed
Sunday - 50-60 hilly miles 18mph av. speed.

hope this helps Smile

I'm also in my last year of Youth A cat racing, which is less racing in the traditional sense and more:

"Sprint, slow down, sprint, slow right down, avoid crash, oop, a hill, sprint."

I do similar training to you, because I have soo much work to do for school.

I can normally burn most people when I meet them on the road though. Smile

Thing is about riding at threshold, IT HURTS and ITS NOR NICE, but if you don't do it, then you won't do it.

It's not like you can suddenly expect to ride faster if all you've done is some really steady winter training and just kept that going up until now.

One of my things is to always try and keep up with four door cars when they pass me. Big Grin

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1733 posts]
9th April 2012 - 8:36

3 Likes

Look on the bright side Sam, at least you didn't crash!

awkward's picture

posted by awkward [62 posts]
10th April 2012 - 11:20

2 Likes

wow. many thanks for the advice and response and apologies
for not responding sooner. more race reports velosam. awesome,
well done.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [125 posts]
14th April 2012 - 8:50

1 Like