• Bloomer Park, Rochester Hills, MI

  • Racing the Provincial's Crit 2014

  • Forest City Velodrome - London, ON

  • Larkenville Challenge, Buffalo, NY

  • Winning the Sprint at the ForestCity Velodrome

  • Track Nationals 2014: Keirin

  • Track Nationals 2014: Points Race

  • OCUP #1: Feb 2015

After watching the Real Deal team race down at Speedweek in April, winning preems, and such, I got kind of hooked on the notion of crit racing. One of the issues with which I struggle is getting enough racing time to work out all the details of how to race a bike. 7-8 OCUP races per season make it hard to learn to race. Further, I also have a hard time "racing" for 2 hours in a road race for one sprint at the finish line. Maybe racing up mountains in France would make it fun, but this is flat Ontario. I'd rather do the Toronto Donut Ride. It's more of a challenge. My "success" on the crit circuit has largely mirrored the efforts I had to make learning to race the track. It took two years to become competitent racing the track (noticed I didn't say good - the 14 year olds on the track know what I mean) and this is the first year taking crit racing seriously. I still have a lot of work to do. I have too many letters like DNF or DFL for results - but I recall that happened a lot on the track as well when I first started.

Part of the problem has to do with physical aspects and part of it with mental aspects of the sport. 6+ years ago I had a hard time getting out the car and climbing stairs because the most exercise I got was lifting the TV remote control. I can still recall struggling to get up a 5% grade that was 100m long on a bike when I first started out. So, because this "old" body has never been athletic, it has never was taught thinks like balance, flexibility, strength, etc.. Top that off with a broken femur in my first year of racing bikes. I can highly recommended never breaking a leg. With a lot of help from physio/personal trainer at FITS Toronto over the last 1.5 years, I have managed to overcome a lot of the physical issues; however, issues that still remain to this day (ie. questionable controlablility of my right leg). I still have some work to do. Prior to breaking my leg, I could sprint 1200W without much effort - now I struggle to get 1100W giving it everything I have.

 

Then, there is the mental aspects of the bike racing. This is probably my biggest issue. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. But, do the tough always keep going and not quit? Because of the desire to get better at racing crits, I've done things like drive to Buffalo to do the Lackenville Challenge, cycling out to the Midweek Crit, etc. which means I've been racing 2-3 times per week including racing in the rain. Because of the desire to do races like the Dandelion Crit, Preston St. Crit and CHIN Picnic Crit - all hour long crits - I've moved up to CAT3 in the US to race the CAT1/2/3 race in Buffalo, and got bumped to the second race at Midweek - so, I've been challenged more than I've been in the past. Racing a 30 min crit is easy. Racing a 60 min crit with attacks that lead to breakaways and preems isn't. Holding onto the right attitude to hang in for 60 mins has been a struggle and that includes show up to the race holding a positive attitude. Today at CHIN - our Ontario Provincial Crit, I was a nervous reck before the race. I was racing against guys in the M1/M2 category (CAT1/2 US), and against guys just got back with great results at Nationals and these facts were playing havoc in my mind. My result largely reflected my attitude. I just wondered if I belonged.

The mental aspects of the sport at huge. I can recall last month following the Real Deal Racing team to the Dandelion Crit in Kemptville, ON. The race didn't go as planned and the team didn't get the results they wanted. I recall afterward the race at the team post race debriefing it become clear that two things are really important: 1) You must believe you belong in the race and can compete competently and 2) you must believe you can win. A couple of the Real Deal guys limits were being tested with the pace of that race in Kemptville. Prior to that meeting, it never really hit home to me that both of these items are important. This season, like when I started at the track, I am testing my limits, and by-golly folks, it's tough. I've forced myself to race in the rain. I've driven miles/hours by myself to race in placed I have never been before where I didn't know anyone. I'm now racing races with guys wa-a-a-y better than I. All in the effort to strengthen my game, stronger, faster, and race competitively in a 60 min crit. So, like today at CHIN - a 60 min crit with some hard corners, I struggled believing I belong racing in the pack with guys better than I. However, I experienced the same issues on the track and I figured that out. So, it is a matter of experience. I need to keep racing. Keep suffering DNF/DFL results to get to the point where that stops happening because I start believing I can race with these guys and hold my own.

While everyone is working become provincial champion, I could care less about that. Sorry, I'd rather sit in a warm car in April as Commissaire watch you lot freeze at the Good Friday Road Race or go race in the southern US. If I wanted to race in cold weather, I'd take up Cyclocross. Along with winning preems in such races as the Dandelion Crit, Preston St. Crit, and perhaps the CHIN Picnic Crit, I want to race on the downtown course in at the Terrapin Twilight Crit in Athens, GA. It's about the cash, man - who cares about the points. (I have successfully won a preem in Buffalo). I watched the pros race the downtown course in the Terrapin Twilight which is part of Speedweek, with a $1000 preem on the first lap, the drunken crowds of 1000's of people chearing them on, and girls clamming after anyone in a skinsuit. Any ameteur placing in the top ten in their race in the morning, races on the downtown course at 5:30pm for a lot of the same prizes as the pros.

So, with road racing season largely over, I have some things learned (in no particular order):

- Crit racing is tougher than road racing but can be a lot more fun. The pace is generally higher and there less chance for error. Snooze for 5 secs, and you are off the back of the pack. Race done. There is no chasing back on.

- Crit racing is closer to racing the track than road. Racers are shorter and far more intense.

- I need to work on cornering. A session with Ed Veal of Real Deal Racing pointed out the drills I can use to get better. I just need to cornering part of my warmup routine for workouts outdoors and warmups for crits. I need to get out in the pouring rain in a parking and figure out how to corner on wet roads. This includes wiping out to see how far I can push the grip on the tires in sloppy conditions.

- After riding Ed Veal's bike for a minute and finding his setup far more manuveable, I changed the stem on my bike and lowered the seat which make cornering far easier. I just need to change the wheel set to 19mm or 22mm tubulars to further increase maneuverability and and maybe 160mm cranks to prevent clipping pedals on tight turns. I discovered on the track last week how much a difference there is in maneuverability between tubular and clinchers clincher wheels.

- Fairweather racers stay home when it rains. Only the top guys show up for a crit in the rain. This makes the pace of any crit in the rain higher than on dry roads. In the rain, I've DNF'd in every 60 min crit, and stuggled to remain connect to the pack in any 30 min crit. Of course, this means, if I can get good at corning and maintaining pace in the rain, it means there are less guys to fight with for preems.

- Preems are easier to get than a good finish. Not everyone will go for a preem (especially in the last few laps), which making winning the sprint easier but position is key. Never be on the front into a sprint.

- Unless you can sprint 1600W after riding at threshold for 10mins, sitting in the pack saves the legs for the final sprint. You would think this would be obvious. I had to learn it the hard way. This includes chasing down solo breakways. Unless it's a star riders, he'll be catch back the pack. Save your energy.

- I need to work on believing I can finish a mixed category 60 min crit. I started this process a few weeks ago. I moved up to CAT3 in the US to race the CAT1/2/3 race in Buffalo (video evidence of a finish HERE). I moved up to the late race at the Midweek Crit. This is all part of working experiencing the effort for the hour long crit. 30 min races don't train one for the hour long effort. I need to move from "hanging on for dear life" to getting comfortable with the pace and have enough of headspace left to move around the pack. I can ride at threshold on the track for 10 mins and keep a mindseye for openings and opportunities, but I need to learn that on the road.

- Training for road racing starts in December or January (or year round) and not in April. Another DOH! moment. Honestly, if I can afford it, I would like to be racing track in London and crits in Florida through the winter along with training workouts at home and the Real Deal Performance Center.

- Any race raced with any result is a race raced for something learned. A DNF is heartretching, but it is always a learning opportunity.

If you think of anything else I should add or change, please leave me a comment.

 

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