Georgia Games Criterium (Cat 5)
Race Format: 30 minutes + 2 laps
Date of Race: 12 July 2015 at 9:15am
Total Time: 0:30:16
Overall Place: 3/12
Pre-race: It felt good to sleep in as compared to normal race morning. For a triathlon I might wake up anywhere between 4:30 AM and 5:30 AM depending on how far away from the race I wake up. I woke up feeling pretty nervous. I’m embarrassed to admit this but I actually drove to the course the day before to scout it out and ended up leaving my front wheel on the ground there. I live about 45 minutes away and didn’t notice until I got home and tried to pull my bike down. DOH!
I ate a pretty typical breakfast that included some combination of bagel, peanut butter, and honey along with more water. I left for Marietta around 7:15 AM in order to be there by 8:00 AM at the latest. I wanted to give myself at least an hour to pick up my packet, get my bike together, warm up, stretch, and do anything else I needed to do.
Warm-up: My warm-up consisted mostly of spinning and stretching. Everyone had brought their stationary trainers but it didn’t even occur to me to do this. I warmed up on the course going the other direction (4 lane road with a median in some places with only 2 lanes being used for the course) for a while, stretched at my truck, and spun in the parking lot a little more. Some of my time on the course was full speed, but the bulk of it consisted of light to moderate spinning to get the blood flowing to help with the stretching and to get my heart rate a little elevated.
Ride: I had no idea what to expect. I thought it was going to be a pretty fast race, but when the gun went off I was out front pretty quickly. I was surprised at how slow everyone was going. The race started on a slight hill so this could have been the reason why, but once we got to the top of the hill to the first turn I think I dropped back. I wanted to get a feeling of how the race was going to go before deciding on whether or not I was going to lead it.
The laps run together in my head (thanks brain injury) but hopefully I can paint an accurate picture of the important parts.
This race is about tactics. Unless you can break away from the field by yourself. Then it’s about speed. Ideally you don’t want to sprint to the finish line with a big group of people. If you’re going to sprint it out, you want the number of people you’re competing with to be a small as possible. So during the race, people will attack at random times. They’ll break away from the group and try to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the field. This happened pretty much once (sometimes twice) every single lap. For the first 5 or 6 laps no one got away. The group would surge with them or the person attacking was just bluffing and fell back. With about 5 laps to go I decided I wanted to attack once. I felt like I had the fitness to try and wear some of these people out based on how hard they appeared to be working for the first 5 laps.
But something weird happened. No one went with me. I had a significant lead on the rest of the field and they just let me go. I was out of sight at one point I was so far ahead. Reviewing the GoPro video that someone posted they appeared to talk about whether or not they were going to try and catch me as well. I was nervous about this. I had been doing some pretty hard bike workouts but I wasn’t sure how the race really worked in the end. I’ve sprinted against a field before during group rides on the weekends, but I just let my inexperience take over and I didn’t continue to push the pace and basically allowed the field to catch back up.
When the field caught back up it wasn’t the entire field. I had successfully thinned the field and the stronger riders had clearly created a gap between the front few and everyone else. For the last 3-4 laps or so we rode it out, rotating who pulled, until the last lap.
Here’s where I made a tactical mistake by allowing myself to lead the pack into the last turn. They fed off my wind tunnel and were able to sprint by me such that I couldn’t make up the ground in time. Two people passed me during the uphill finish and a third tried to but I wasn’t about to let the podium slip away altogether. I ended up about half a bike length ahead grabbing third place.
Total Time: 0:30:16. The race time seems pretty irrelevant to me, but I list it as an indication of how long it took to cover the 12.1 mile total distance.
Post Race: I didn’t do much post race. I rode the course for one more lap to cool down and walked around the parking lot for about 10 minutes to continue lowering my heart rate and cooling off slowly. I made sure I was around when the results were posted and the protest period started because I was told that it’s not uncommon for them to be incorrect.
What would you do differently: There’s two scenarios here for me to consider doing things differently. The first is whether or not I let the group catch back up after I was able to break away. If I don’t break away, I certainly don’t lead going into the final turn of the final lap. If I had to do it over again I wouldn’t let them catch me. I would have pushed it hard on the downhills, coasted around the turns, and let my hill climbing practice really show it’s true colors. I think I got scared and wasn’t confident enough in my own abilities to tell myself I had enough fitness to make a go for it. If I could get away with the same lead again, I’d go for it. I think I might not try to get away as early as well. If I’m going to be able to get away and really make a go of it, I should try to do it later in the race. I think 5 laps is too soon. I didn’t try to get away out of inexperience, I just wanted to experience the race and not just sit in the back of the pack the whole time. I had never done a cycling race and I wanted to have some fun as well because I had literally no expectation except for trying not to finish DFL and trying not to crash.
Rate your overall experience with this race: Seriously 5/5. The race was awesome. The entire first lap I was just grinning from ear to ear I know. I think at one point I was talking out loud to myself about how cool it was. It was definitely a new and fun experience. It’s not like the normal running or triathlon race I’m used to. There’s no food at the end. You don’t wait around for the rest of the field to finish. The group finishes close together and then everyone heads to cool down, change clothes, and watch the other races. I didn’t really know anyone else at the race (though I did race a friend of a friend and met another guy that has run some Atlanta Track Club races against me) so I was sort of on my own. I would do it again, but I would prefer not to do it again alone.