Tuesday, May 18, 2010

WestLake Crit: Learning to Sprint

Tonight I finally made it out to a Westlake Crit training race. I had always wanted to go but found stupid reasons not to go before. I have to admit, my confidence in racing was really low. I'm doing real road races and also moving up a class in Mountain Biking. I should be ramping up my fitness and I should be feeling good, I've done everything right, but my first two races ended in complete failure. I got dropped from the field on the first couple laps each time, leaving me with nothing to show for it. So there were a couple weeks where I couldn't bring myself to go race. It tore me apart to do this and I hated that I had got to this point. I had glimpses of greatness on some of my training rides, won a bunch sprint with the Summit Freewheelers and had some good moments but when it came to race day, I had nothing.

So today I decided to hell with it, I'm going. I packed up and on the way there my wheel flies off my roof rack and bounces down rush hour traffic on 77 north. Luckily it bounces into the median and not into traffic, wheel is ok and the wheel carriers will be used no more. I arrive at the race and just as I'm signing in, a familiar white car pulls in. Now I'm freaking out, I haven't seen this person since spring break and there's still bad feelings. I decide to not let this person ruin my race, I was going to ride my race.

My main goal is to finish this race. I just wanted to ride smart and be at the finish with the group. It's also a mixed field of the lowest three categories (I'm in the lowest) so I know there will be some fast people in it. We start off and I make my way to the front, safest place to be, and easiest to react to moves by other riders. My big problem has always been cornering, I have never felt confident in my cornering but today with new tires on, it was a huge difference. I didn't have to brake going into the corner and I was pushing hard in each corner and came nowhere near pushing the tires past their grip threshold. With that problem solved I was able to stay near the front the entire race, only going to the back once to rest after a sprint.

A couple laps in the primes started. For those who don't know, primes are races within the race. Every couple laps the bell is rung and a prize is displayed. Whoever crosses the line first on the next lap wins the prize. There were no breakaways in the race today so every prime was a sprint. The perfect chance for me to work on my sprinting. I decided to have some fun and go for every prime. In total I sprinted for 7 primes today. I won one, and finished in second in 3 or four. One I lost by only a wheel length at the line. Each one I was topped out at 30 mph, and my fastest was 34.6 mph which is a new personal best for me. Overall, I was very pleased with my showing. At one point the pace was slowing and I was feeling good, and I decided to try for a break, so off the front I went, it didn't last long, but it was worth a shot. Then a couple laps later, that unnamed person took a chance and went for a breakaway. If it stuck I wasn't going to let them get away with it, so I quickly jumped on their wheel and followed them till we got reeled back in.

After having to add another lap because a car slowed us down right before the start finish line, we came around for the final sprint. At this point I had burnt all my matches and there was no way I was going to be able to sprint for the win. I ended up midpack but I'm ok with that. I finished in the pack and that was my goal. I also did a lot of sprint practice and I think I really animated the race. I got a lot of comments on my race and the big one was that I was a sprinter. Who thought the skinny climber could hold his own in a sprint. I had an inkling but I'm glad I got to test my legs. The important part is I had a ton of fun. I'll be there next week.

Thanks for Bike Authority, Camba, Rudy Project, Kenda Tires, Crank Brothers, and Ritchey products for supporting me in my racing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to Win the Polka Dot Jersey

So I've been thinking about how I climb recently. Last year I mainly climbed standing up. It cam from riding a lot of short steep hills, and also poor fit. I was to far back so I wasn't over the pedals, blah blah blah, Doesn't matter the specifics but needless to say the proper fit has changed my riding style so that I can do things I couldn't before. Thanks to Mike at Performance in Green for that.

Well, this year I've been trying out new things and watching races on tv and youtube seeing how I can better myself. Trying to figure out how they got away. I've come to three different versions of winning a Polka Dot Jersey.

1) The Contador (aka uphill sprint)
The first one is best exemplified by Alberto Contador, and Armstrong (in his heyday). For those keeping track that is the first time I mentioned Armstrong in a blog post. What this consists of is waiting till the last moment and standing up and sprinting to the top of the climb, much like a final sprint. The goal is to get enough of a gap on the followers and then either keep lengthening that gap or just not letting it close. The benefit of this style is you can surprise the other riders and if they aren't watching it can be easy to close that gap. It's best to do this when you see your other competitors tiring and won't be able to respond. The downside of this tactic is you go past your anaerobic very quickly and if you can't get away it gives the other riders a chance to attack while you recover. This is probably my used tactic and does work if you can get going fast. Here's Alberto Contador attacking on Verbier. It's a textbook example.

2)The Spartacus (upping the cadence)
This one is a little more sly. All it involves is upping the cadence, thus upping your speed until you pull away from the other rider. The beauty of this one, unlike the uphill sprint, is that you don't show your cards before hand. Stay seated pick an easy lower gear than normal, wait for your moment and just spin up. I've done it where the other rider didn't even know I attacked, the next thing he know I was 50 feet up the hill and by then I was gone. The beauty of this one is that you stay aerobic so if it doesn't work you aren't in the red zone as bad. Fabian Cancellara used this tactic to win this years Tour of Flanders on the Kappelmur. Watch the video below about 1:14 in they hit the climb and watch the gap he gets in a short amount of time.

3) The Cadel (uphill grind)
Ok so this one isn't an attack, per se. All it is is just keeping the pace high enough so that your competitors drop off the back. It's that simple. No videos of this because there's really nothing much to watch on this one.

Hope you enjoyed reading this. Up next is a review of the Cannondale Cross bike I wont from OMBC, and the transformation of my ratty white Fixed gear into something I want to ride.