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It's the little things... (some race reports)(14 posts)

It's the little things... (some race reports)lonefrontranger
Jun 24, 2003 4:29 PM
Sometimes making small changes can add up to a big difference. I've been struggling at racing lately. One of my more notable blunders wasa miserable 33rd at New Belgium, the State crit championships mid-June. Yeah, I finished with the field in a technical crit that averaged over 26mph, but I wasted a lot of effort and opportunity by sitting at the back all paranoid and terrified to move up.

The next week, I completed exactly 1 1/4 laps of what is to be the only Cat 3 only women's race this year at State Roads. Yes, there's 350' of climbing per 3.5 mile lap, but I did well there last year and the excuse of "dead" legs (overstress?) didn't seem fair at the time.

After Andy Finch, my coach insisted I needed both a mental and physical break from racing. My teammate coerced me into doing a 35+ race the next day, and I went into it with the attitude of "who cares". I didn't even turn on my HRM. We concentrated on some really great teamwork, and it was a small field that broke up. I was able to pull off a win there. We had done some skills work with my coach a couple days before, and it helped us both to concentrate on how to win the race, rather than how to avoid crashing. A simple switch of focus can mean a lot.

Last week, I finally did something I've probably needed to do for some time. I took a complete mental and physical break from training. Four solid days off the bike. Thursday was another 2-hour group skills session, again with my coach. We had about 8 people there, and it was a blast. He set up one of his diabolical pop-can crit courses out in a soccer field, and we went at it. A couple hours of learning how to hold your line in a corner while four other riders are trying to take it from you does amazing things for your bike-handling skills and confidence in close quarters.

If you've never done this kind of bumping drills practice before, it's not very physically demanding, and mostly pure fun. My coach, my SO, one of his teammates and five Boulder Women's riders made a nice mix. About halfway through the session, Mac Caldwell and his protege' Allison showed up and asked if she could join in (see link): - we said "no problem, jump in!", and Allison worked with us for a while, too. I think that's the first time I've ever seen her smile when she's riding a bike. We all had fun! My coach made a huge hit with everyone, and we're planning on doing these as close to weekly as time and weather allow. (continued next post)
Jun 24, 2003 4:53 PM
Saturday I went to Sara Kay, a circuit race with a hill sprint finish, because I really wanted to see how the course changes (finish uphill instead of flat sprint, reversed direction) would affect the course. I wasn't so interested in results, rather I wanted to do some practical application of the things I'd learned in Thursday's clinic. I raced 35+ again, and this time they combined us with the 4s, so we had a sizeable field of twenty-some riders. Right off the bat, I noticed I had far more confidence and was a lot smoother in the pack. The finish on a short power climb definitely didn't favor me, on top of which I felt a bonk coming on with about 3 laps to go. The late afternoon start (3 PM) is still messing with me - I need to learn how to eat properly for the later races. Anyway, I didn't have any teammates there, but kept my head up and despite the uphill sprint, finished about 8th or 9th on the day, and 5th 35+, which was okay by me. I was happy with being able to stick on the climb, even running out of gas as badly as I was. I got back to the car and drank what seemed like a gallon of Gatorade, and downed 2 gels. As I was putting my bike away, I noticed my rear wheel was rubbing the brake. Rats, that may have affected my finish... I inspected things closer, and realized the problem was a busted driveside spoke on my 303's Damn! Maybe that's why I felt like I was bonking in the final laps - the wheel was so out of true it was not only rubbing the brake pad, but also the chainstay.

Well, the wheel needs a new cassette body anyhow. In the meantime, this meant I had to race the next day's postage stamp crit (Highlands Ranch) with my boat-anchor Cosmos on the back.

Ahhh, it's not about the equipment, right? Well, HR has a slight uphill finish, and on Sunday, it happened to turn right into a headwind the final 50 meters. This is a nutty little course. 4 corners, 1k (barely). The Pro/1/2 men did 1 minute laps. At one point the front end of their field almost touched the back end!

I planned to race the 4/35+ again in the morning, then see how I felt. I left the Cosmos on the bike, and joined my teammate for warmup. She's the one I sent off on a solo break for a win earlier this year, and she's got a keen grasp of tactics and a lot of power under the hood. We had a short discussion: I would take a flyer from the gun, don't worry about leadouts for the primes, just counter, and I'd try to get her into a break. After that, we'd play it by ear.

The first half of the race went according to script. My flyer lasted about 2 1/2 laps, and Patsy countered beautifully after the first prime. This put her about 20" up on the field, and I alternately blocked, let the 2 strong riders from an opposing team (Lee's) chase, and tried to get one of the Lee's riders across to her to aid the break - a brief discussion as one of their riders was attempting to bridge meant they would block if we could accomplish this.

20 minutes of flailing around with no real progress, and the gap was coming back down. The Lee's gals and I threw in the towel and let the field reel her in. On the next prime, I countered hard, taking one of the Lee's riders with me, and Patsy went up to block. The field once again brought us back, and we diced it up for a while. 7 laps to go... I got Patsy in position for one of the only primes worth sprinting for (a bunch of protein powder), and strung things out a bit, then sat on. On the bell lap, she powered me to the front, then strung the field out with the most perfect leadout I have ever been privileged to sit in on. I lit it up about halfway up the last straightaway, held hard coming into the final corner, and crossed the line with 3 bike lengths on 2nd place! Patsy came across sixth, and we were ecstatic. (continued)
Jun 24, 2003 5:26 PM
Patsy's husband says he loves to watch us race together. Of course, he's only seen us race together at two events, one of which she won, one of which I won. Both were courses that complimented our specific abilities, but riding on the offensive can bite you in the bum as well. We've been lucky so far, but the Lee's girls claim they've gone to school on our tactics. We'll see...

With the confidence of a win under my belt and 2 weeks of skills practice, I was curious to see what I could pull off in the Women's 1/2/3 race. My SO was a little bored with sitting around all day waiting, but it gave us the opportunity to watch some good friends race the Pro/1/2. One got in a break that ultimately lapped the field, and we howled and cheered and beat on things for him. He's had an exceptional year.

The women's 1/2/3 race came 'round, and I lined up feeling less intimidated than usual. I got near the front early (3rd wheel) then realized I was doing too much work in the strong crosswinds, which had kicked up in the afternoon. I slid back, and buried myself deep in the field, something I've not had the confidence to pull off all year. Katrina Grove of T-Mobile was there, and decided she wanted the wheel I was on. The pros tend to pick on the 3s as easy targets, and in the past this was true of me as well. As she did this, the field strung out in eschelon, so I played the "how close can you get to that curb without going over it" game and she finally backed off. That gave me an amazing rush of confidence, so I stole 2 more wheels from her later just for S&G (subtle steals, as I slid into gaps other riders made but a steal is a steal).

That race was incredibly hard. There were a number of times when things got strung out and shattered. I was actually dropped - not by lack of confidence, simply lack of legs - several times. Each time I got lucky and/or stubborn and was able to chase back on, either because the field sat up suddenly, or because I was able to latch on to a good group of chasers. In times past, I've had neither the confidence nor the conviction to just go for it, but somehow this was different.

With 8 laps to go, the field shattered into 3 pieces, with most of the 3s at the back. Two of them utterly buried themselves for two laps to chase back on, and when they cracked, I struggled to the front and bridged across. I just barely made it to the safety of the main bunch and sat in for a bit, when the bell rang. I found the best wheel I could, and hung on for dear life. At the same spot I won the 4/35+ race from, I decided to have a go with the last bits in my legs. I actually passed some riders in the field sprint and got 10th overall! Later, I found out that I was the top finishing Cat 3, which is the first "win" I've had in the 3s as well.

The icing to the cake is that I also beat one of the pros from Team Diet Rite in the field sprint, and she was going for it! My coach is right, they're humans just like the rest of us, and they have bad days, too. (concluded)
it's the little things (concluded)lonefrontranger
Jun 24, 2003 5:28 PM
So what, may you ask, are these little things that have made all the difference for me these past 2 races:

I've stopped worrying so darned much about racing, and concentrated on having fun instead. I've been taking a chair and a cooler full of drinks to watch some of the other races so that I can hang out and socialize with my friends. I've not been going through a detailed warmup routine, hell, I've hardly warmed up at all. I've not had my Polar whiz-bang downloadable HRM / cyclocomputer turned on at all, ever. I've not wasted time agonizing over equipment. I've just gone out and "gotten the job done" as my coach puts it. And it's been real fun doing it.

To those of you suffering from burnout, lack of confidence, overtraining, whatever... Find a mentor, or get some ride buddies together and have fun practicing drills. Get on your MTB and go ride some trails. Take the roadie and do a long hilly tour. Cycling is a lifetime sport, and bike racing psychologically taxing. In the end, it's not about the numbers, it's about how much you enjoy it.

Bike racing, when you get right down to it, is just a bunch of grown men and women tearing around on kids' toys (expensive ones, but still) - so stop taking it so seriously and learn the art of play!
Great advice, LFR! Congrats on your new 'tude! (nm)Dale Brigham
Jun 25, 2003 5:58 AM
Everyone email cyclingnews and demand an LFR diary.(nm)TFerguson
Jun 24, 2003 7:14 PM
I second that. Great report LFR!!! (nm)jesse1
Jun 25, 2003 3:21 AM
I don't race but............Len J
Jun 25, 2003 4:01 AM
I wouldn't miss your race reports for anything.

You make me feel like I'm there, Thanks.

I also learn alot about confidence, relaxation & going for it from reading your posts. Believe it or not these things transend bike racing and are great reminfders of how to live life.

Congratulations on having fun again.

Jun 25, 2003 12:43 PM
Let's keep the talk about training to a minimum, please!!! We have a lot more drills to work on and some of them are real trade secrets (like some of what we've been doing) so I would appreciate if you would keep the training stuff on the QT. Other than that, good work in the races. I hope that this shows you how much you are capable of doing, and this is the tip of the iceberg. Later.....Your Coach
Where's the big secret?Dr Lizardo
Jun 25, 2003 2:51 PM
I've been away for sometime and now it's time to go home.

You need to tell me the part of the above post that is the secret and you need to tell me now. Hey Sherpa23, you know you want to tell me all of your trade secrets. Tell me the trade secrets!

Tell me now!Dr Lizardo
Jun 26, 2003 9:04 AM
Or I will bring out da ants!
I doubt it's 'secrets' that makes you a good coach. (nm)TFerguson
Jun 27, 2003 5:54 AM
What are you tinking?Dr Lizardo
Jun 27, 2003 6:00 AM
You musta know den, tell me what the secret is. Hey, why doncha you bea a good boy and tella me da secret eh?

Lord John
LFRThe Human G-Nome
Jul 1, 2003 2:29 PM
that was absolutely inspired writing. ever read "The Long Season" by chance? it chronicles the story of Bruno Schull, a Cat 3 whose dream it is to upgrade into the Pro/1/2. it's a good read, but i swear that when it comes to detailing actual races, you're twice the writer he is (no offense Bruno because i liked the book). there's no reason you can't focus this posting energy into something much more.

i'm just getting into racing this season for the first time, but you have a knack for inspiration. keep up the great work!