(Photos curtest of Kirsty Baxter)
Race date: 28/02/16
As you may know, my race on Wednesday didn’t go so well. I needed to make amends. I do not like losing. I don’t even like not winning to be honest. The only time I don’t mind not winning is when I have a different goal: be it using the race as a hard training session and therefore sitting on the front or attacking a lot. Even then I will still try and go for the win, I’ll just be less disappointed when I don’t win.
I decided to enter the St Kilda crits the day before the race, however I’d missed the online entry deadline. This wasn’t n issue though, because I still had a free entry to use from volunteering. So free entry. Win!
The day before I went on a nice long and very relaxed ride with Maeve. The two of us are taking part in a triathlon next weekend and so I’m trying to help her train on the bike. She’s getting there but doesn't have that raw competitive nature, so doesn't feel the need to ride fast. Nevertheless, she's a powerful little unit, and likes to grind away. Either that or she doesn’t know how to change gears and just leaves it in the big ring and smallest cog (in other words, the hardest gear) ;)
On the commute over to the course I was still feeling a bit of fatigue, but not much. Probably the amount that I'm now accustomed. My confidence was knocked a bit from Wednesday's race, so I wasn’t going into the race like a baller. I was a bit more cautious with my expectations. Of course I wanted to win though. It’s about time I won at St Kilda. I’m still in D grade there and I want to get up to C before the season ends. I had that goal if you remember my first race post (it’s at the bottom).
A couple of weeks ago my mate, Ryan Carus (there’s your mention), broke away and stayed away, so he was one to both keep an eye on and/or try to join for a break. He’s a strong rider, a bit of a diesel engine. He just goes and goes! We chatted before the race about trying to get a break going. He said to go early and go hard.
We warmed up and lined up. Got the usual spiel about race rules and such and then we were off. The first ten minutes of the race was pretty straightforward. A few mini attacks but nothing threatening. I had my own strategy in my mind, which was to attack after ten minutes. There was a headwind on the back straight, and so that would be my area for attack. Attacking with a tailwind is too easy for everyone else to catch you. I was going to wait for the most opportune time, but instead I threw that idea out of the window and veered to the right hand side and went hard. I surprised myself, so no doubt surprised others... No one chased and I was away. I spent about a lap trying to build a decent lead, but didn’t manage to get comfortably far enough ahead to relax. I was pushing 300 to 400 watts for a full lap, way above what I can maintain. My threshold power is around 262watts, that's apparently the wattage I should be able to hold for an hour (I probably can't because I don't have that kind of muscular endurance, but that's the idea).
I kept on pushing, hoping someone would bridge the gap and give me a helping hand. Just as I was thinking that, none other than the breakaway specialist himself, Ryan, joined me. Along with Doug and another guy wearing a TFM kit. I've seen him around a bit, I should chat to him. He's pretty strong and the more friends you have in the peloton the better. Anyway, the TFM guy shouted that we had a good little gap so let’s push on and try and make it stick. This gave me enough motivation to push out a few more watts and sit on their wheel, attempt to catch my breath, ready to work hard again on the front. We managed maybe another couple of laps before I looked back and saw the bunch within spitting distance. I was absolutely destroyed, physically and mentally, so I decided to sit up. Within seconds they swept me up and a few more seconds swept up my fellow breakaway compatriots.
Now was a good time to really catch my breath. And for the next couple of laps that’s what I did. I sat in, about fourth or fifth wheel, and waited. It wasn't long before someone attacked. Hard. Two of them in fact flew off the front. I figured they’d get caught, but then I realised it was Ryan and Doug going at it again. I knew they’d work well together, as they were mates, and so I figured I’d give them a bit of time to build a gap and then attempt to bridge that gap. I tell you what! Bridging a gap is hard work, it's just as hard as breaking away, you have to put in a full effort to make sure you don't drag the rest of the field. Then you have to get your head down and go faster than both the main bunch and the breakaway. The only difference is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You know you have people to lean on, and a wheel to sit on when you make it. That said it put me straight into the red.
When I caught them I gave them a heads up and took the first turn on the front, as they'd been working hard for a little while longer. We then worked together, rolling turns really well. We looked so pro—at least in my head we did. We stayed away for another couple of laps before again being swallowed by the main bunch. It was at this point I decided to give up on attacking and instead would save myself for the inevitable bunch sprint finish. There was only around 15 minutes + 3 laps left. Plenty of time to recover.
I was sat in a nice healthy position, about fifth wheel, and it’s at this point that people want you to work on the front. As time rolled on so did people off the front. I had no intention of working on the front. I’m not wasting my energy. I’d broken away twice; I was riding my own race. So as people rolled off the front, I kindly offered them a gap to fill, just in front of me. This way they'd hit the front again and not me. All but one person accepted my kind offer. The person that didn't was Doug. Smart rider. When he’d done a short stint on the front, he pulled off and I gave him the usual gap and nod that had been working so well. He quickly told me where to shove it and jumped on my wheel behind. I laughed and then thought, crap. Now I was like second wheel. Never fear, it was about time someone attacked...
Well, someone did attack. Ryan, again and again. There's no doubt that he became the most hater rider that day. He also earned a lot of respect and the unofficial 'most aggressive/combative rider'. The good thing about having lots of attacks is that it whittles out the weak. If you can’t handle the pace, you get dropped. Either that or you don’t really stand a chance in the final sprint. So personally, I give my thanks to Ryan for wearing everyone out. I can't say I appreciated it at the time though...
On a side note, what has been happening quite a bit lately—maybe it always has happened—and it happened in the supercrit race, is that B grade have been overtaking us in D grade right near the end of the race. This leads to our grade being neutralised. It’s a shame as it gives people chance to recover, but it’s understandable that B grade gets priority.
On this occasion we had a breakaway in our grade, so as a bunch we did not want to slow down. This meant that B grade’s overtaking took quite some time. We basically kept up a similar pace to them in order to catch the break. Once we’d caught the break, we were neutralised and waited for B grade to get some distance. I think the marshalls did a great job in allowing us to do that, rather than neutralising the main field and allowing the breakaway from getting away. I certainly thank them for that!
The two laps to go board was shown shortly after, yet no one wanted to push hard at first. But then, all of a sudden someone attacked, probably Ryan to be fair...I might be wrong, but I'm not. I knew it would be chased down immediately, so I prioritised my positioning over trying to help him or chase him. I was sitting around fifth or sixth wheel, and I have learnt many times that positioning is paramount when heading into the final corner. If you’re boxed in, you have very little to no chance of competing in the sprint. Therefore, leading into the last lap I made sure I was right near the front, and made sure I was not boxed in. I like the outside, on the right hand side.
It took a bit of effort to maintain the position I had, but once I was there it felt like the perfect position and I was not letting it go. Swinging around the final corner and everyone went wide, to the right. I saw a nice gap open on the left. I pitched in and came out of the corner hard, into the gap on the left. I made my way passed the few people that were in front of me, including Doug, and continued to push as hard as I could all the way to the line. I don’t know what it was but I felt so much power flowing through my legs, that power was getting smashed right into the ground and propelled me forwards. I reckon all the squats in the gym are starting to pay dividends. There is one thing I really need to improve upon with my sprint, and that is that my back wheel can often jump a little over the road—losing contact with the floor, which means I’m losing power. I must work on that. But in general I had the biggest sprint on the day and crossed the line in first place. See photo above.
All in all, I think the day went perfectly, having won and worked hard I was feeling on top of the world. And as a bonus, it felt like the safest race at SKCC I’ve had in a while. No crashes, no near crashes, and everyone seemed to be racing pretty sensibly. Nice.
I can take away the fact that I worked hard to initiate a solo breakaway and also managed to bridge to another breakaway. If I wanted to learn from these, and I do, it’s to try and maintain a more manageable power output to maintain the gap, in the hopes I can stay away. But to be honest, there were strong guys doing the chasing, pulling the bunch along to catch any break. If these guys had had more sense and broken away with us, we might have easily stayed away. Just a couple more guys would have done it, but that’s racing. Sometimes breakaways stick, sometimes they just have no chance. This day was a no chance day. Regardless of their success, it’s a great way to tire people out without sitting on the front though.
I won $45 - $0 entry = $45 profit... I’m seriously considering handing in my notice at work and using these winnings to fund my cycling career. What do you think?