The easiest race I have ever won!
So, I have been accused of being a bit down in the dumps recently; what with my disappointment at the Tour of Sussex parcours and all of that chat about my hardest ride ever. This post is all about putting things back in balance and being a bit more positive, taking a look at the easiest race I have ever won. It is also the only race I have ever won that isn’t a club time trial.
Project Cat 2
One of my main goals this year is to get my Category 2 road racing licence. The reasoning behind this is inexplicable, even to me. This goal does not really make any sense for the following reasons:
- I can enter any of the races that I want to as a Cat 3. I can fill my boots on Cat 2/3 road races and if I feel the need to have my arse handed to me I can pick any number of E/1/2/3 crits. And, yes, I can enter the Tour of Sussex. So there is no obvious reason to become a Cat 2 other than to get to Cat 1.
- I will never get to Cat 1. Now, don’t fret – I am not getting back down in the dumps again. This is simply a fact of life.. My life. I already push the boundaries further than I should at times and to get to Cat 1 (after getting to Cat 2) I would have to train and race a lot, lot more than I do. And even then it would be a stretch… so there is no reason to become a cat 2..
Yet still, I want to be a Cat 2. Let’s hypothesis as to why:
- A couple of my mates are Cat 2 so there is some self inflicted form of peer pressure at play here.
- It requires some progression from Cat 3. You can reach Cat 3 with a bit of fitness, a bit of power and a bit of luck. To get to Cat 2, you need more than this. You need some race craft.
- Cat 2 sounds better than Cat 3.
- Once you get to Cat 2 you have to perform to a level to stay there each season. Once a Cat 3 it is pretty hard to be relegated.
So having established that Cat 2 is a season goal we need to have a plan to achieve it. What do we need to do? Uncle British Cycling defines a 2nd Category licence holder:
Any junior or senior licence holder who has gained 40 points during any one season whilst holding a 3rd category licence. To retain a 2nd category licence for the following season, a rider must obtain at least 25 points in events open to that category of rider.
So we need 40 points. The ‘easiest’ place to get points is in crit races (several laps around a closed circuit, high pace lasting from 45mins to and hour or so). Road races are another option but these are mostly Cat 2/3 and a much tougher gig. For me my venue of choice for points is Lee Valley as:
- There is a weekly Wednesday evening crit that I can get to from work
- The series runs from April to August giving lots of opportunity for points
- It is relatively flat
The story so far
As of the morning of the 26 April I had 6 points to my name. My results consisted of the following:
- 29 Jan: Preston Park Cat 3: 5th place: 5 points – see previous blog for a full report
- 12 March: Preston Park Cat 3: Bunch finish: 0 points – Boxed in
- 12 March Preston Park E123: DNF: 0 points – Silly unhinged plan to do this race as training after the Cat 3 race
- 5 April: Lee Valley: Cat 3/4: Bunch finish: 0 points – no legs
- 12 April: Lee Valley: Cat 3/4: 9th: 1 points – no legs (it was around this point that I realised that I needed to be fresher if I really wanted to compete in these races)
Race Report – 26 April: Lee Valley: Full Gas Summer Series Cat 3/4
I was more rested for this race. I had completed the Liege Bastogne Liege ride on the previous Saturday, had 2 days complete rest and prepared the dogs for 30 mins on the Tuesday. I had also got about 2 weeks of Altitude Tent action (on and off) into my system.
It was a windy evening and with my imaginary DS (real person, imaginary in the sense that he is not actually a Directeur Sportif) we hatched a plan. He had checked out the local weather conditions (works in Stratford) and his extensive race briefing over SMS went as follows:
I think I would take my chances and sit right on the back moving to the side as required to stay out of the wind. 3 laps from the end move up and let them have it!
I was happy with this plan and executed it as follows:
- I sat at the back and watched the race unfold ahead of me.
- I had fitted a comfortable armchair kind of saddle and complemented this with some popcorn. A mixture of salted and sweet in the ratio of 60:40.
- I noted all the watts people expend when sprinting to close small gaps that appeared at the front. As Cat 2 (and soon to be Cat 1) racer, Tom Percival, aptly puts it: “a bunch sprint reaction”.
- I saved these watts for later by anticipating these surges and closing gaps with a sensible amount of effort.
- I practiced moving around the bunch by gliding around. I was channeling recently retired cycling legend, Tom Boonen, when I did this. (Just noticed the unusually high incidence of Toms in this post – I will see if I can squeeze a few more in at second edit).
- At some point i looked down, expecting to see my HR at about 140bpm. It wasn’t. It was in the 160’s. This is normal in the mid stages of a crit. I didn’t expect this as the perceived effort was way lower. I reflected on this point as a finished off my popcorn. Fortnately there was a glut of sweet popcorn at the bottom of the pot which give me a real psychological and physiological boost.
- A couple went up the road with about 7 laps to go but I stuck to the plan. Others pulled them back in. An element of risk with this strategy but a calculated risk. And, as actor of Magnum P.I. fame, Tom Selleck once said, “Risk is the price you pay for opportunity.”
- 5 to go: got on the drops for the first time in the race.
- Moved up.
- 3 to go. Moved right up. 3rd wheel.
- 2 to go. Held position. 2nd wheel.
- Felt strong.
- 1 to go: Held position.
- Final corner: Led it out. Took the inside line. Put it in my biggest gear and Unleashed hell. No one came around. I remembered to get low during the sprint as advised in the Unhinged Anthem: Girls Like: “Go low, Go low, everybody get low” by Tinie Tempah – real name: (and on this occasion not a Tom) Patrick Chukwuemeka Okogwu.
I pretty much stuck to the plan with the main deviation of “Unleashing Hell” rather than “letting them have it”. This was a tough call made in the heat of battle and , to be honest it could have cost me. I felt that by Unleashing Hell I would have a much better chance of staying away in the final few hundred meters. I think if I had let them have it I may have seen a few wheels appearing in the wing mirrors. I guess that the proof is in the pudding and the correct decision was made on the day.
It was my first win in a crit race.
It was also the easiest race I have ever done.
Funniest chat at exactly 36mins into the race:
Young lad: “How long have you been racing”
Me: “A few years, you?”
Young Lad: ” No, I mean how long has this race been going?”
Me: “Oh, 36 mins. I thought you just wanted a chat!”
As you can tell, I was feeling pretty relaxed! As you can also tell, his Garmin had probably decided it was time for a day off.
Standrad crit race stuff with an average HR of 162 bpm, avergae power in Z3 and peak power of over 1,000w in the sprint. What the numbers do not show id how easy the overall effort felt.
The Unleashing of Hell
973w for 16s over 200m at 51.4 km/h.
W’ Bal whilst unleashing hell
This is a bunch of very small numbers on a blue background which is fairly meaningless in this medium. What it tells you is that my W’Bal, or Anaerobic Work Capacity, went to negative 12.3 in the sprint. This in turn tells you that I have the number for my Anaerobic reserves set incorrectly in the package that gives you the ineligible blue screen and the tiny numbers. However, it also tells you that, whilst unleashing a moderate amount of hell, I completely emptied the tank.
What can we learn from all of this?
American Actor, Tom Cruise has an interesting perspective on this:
I disagree with people who think you learn more from getting beat up than you do from winning.
I am not sure sure about that, Tom but we can learn the following from this victory:
- You have a better chance of winning a bike race if you are moderately fresh when commencing it.
- Conserving energy throughout said bike race is also a key contributing factor to one’s success.
- There is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from a lot of Toms out there.
- The Altitude Tent is definitely working – as evidenced by a lower perception of effort during the race despite HR being in normal ranges. This requires further consideration and will feature in a future blog once I have had more time in the tent. The good news is that I have sourced a head tent which, unsurprisingly, just covers your head. This may make matters easier in a number of ways, some of which are obvious, some not so much…
And finally, I would like to leave you with a pertinent quote from Welsh crooner, Tom Jones:
I’ve tried wearing more than one ring on one hand and it doesn’t look good. It’s overkill, I think. So I think a ring on either hand. Nine times out of ten I’ll go for pinky rings, but not always.
Sage advice from Tom for both on and off the bike.