It has been almost two full weeks since my last race and will be another one until I make a final run at the season. Despite having opportunities to race, I decided to pull the plug for a few weeks in order to rebuild my form ahead of the regional and state championship races. I have and will continue to spent nearly all of my time at FTP and SST in order to hopefully generate a few more watts. I’ve discovered over the past several races that what is holding me back is sustainable power and the ability to ride and recover at or slightly below FTP. Will this short rebuild work? I don’t know, but I feel like I’m in a bit of a rut at the moment and had to change things up before the season ended.
I’ve made another change that will hopefully garner some results, changing pedals. For the last three races I’ve had problems clipping in during the later portions of the race because my current pedals (Shimano XTs) keep filling with debris. In fact, during Sienna Lake I went nearly a quarter of a lap over bumpy terrain without being clipped in, which I feel cost me a top 20 finsh. As such, I have purchased a set of Crank Brothers Candy 3 pedals, which, thus far, are really nice. I like the size of the platform and the 4x entry makes them easy to clip in to. I’m still not as solid clipping in quickly as I am with the XTs, but I’m comfortable enough to finish my season on them. The only thing I don’t know yet is how good the mud clearance is. Fundamentally, there is a lot more open space in the pedal body, so I would think the mud clearance would be fantastic. We haven’t had any since my last race, so this isn’t something I have been able to test.
Back to training. I still have a nagging goal of getting a top 20 finish and only two very difficult races left to accomplish it.
Starting Row: 6th
Call Up: 46th
It felt like torture, but this was my best race of the season, by far. Not only did I achieve my best overall placing, I also accomplished a season goal of finishing in the top half of the peloton. It’s not the most inspirational goal, but, being my first season, it seemed appropriate (24th out of 60).
The biggest takeaway from this race was the importance of clipping in. I spent a large percentage of the race not clipped in due to mud clogging the cleat. I suspect I would have had a top 20 or better finish had I been able to get into my pedals. However, this is something I am actively looking to deal with. I recently purchased a pair of Crank Brother’s Candy 3s, which will hopefully solve the problem. They should be here in the next week and I plan to debut them at the regional championship in three weeks.
As far as my “mental” goal for the race, I accomplished it, with a caveat. My goal was to commit to the first couple of laps, hard. I wanted to commit to the point where I wasn’t worried about blowing up and I did this beautifully. My aggressive mindset had me in ~18th. However, the caveat, I did indeed implode after two laps resulting in a slow third lap and lackluster 4th and 5th laps. I’m happy I rode like I did because I doubt I would have finished as high as I did without it, but the cost was a 6 place slump during the final half of the race.
Overall, I’m happy with this race and I look forward to the Regional Championships in three weeks. My focus until then will be working my FTP and ability to recover from hard efforts at or slightly below it. I think if I can generate a little more sustained power that I will be primed for a successful final two races.
- Toe spikes made a HUGE difference on the run ups
- Committed hard to the first two laps
- Blew up after two laps
- Couldn’t clip in after the second lap
- Took bad lines when I started to fatigue
Starting Row: 7th
Call Up: None
I would be lying if I didn’t concede that my call up position isn’t bothering me. I’m currently ranked in the 55% percentile in the state of Colorado (40% nation wide), but my call up isn’t reflecting this. I can only assume that those that are showing up are ranked lower than I am, hence why they receive good starting positions and I don’t. Despite starting around 56th place, I still managed to pass 20 riders to end up 36th, which I can feel reasonably good about. It helps my confidence to know that once I do start getting a decent call up that I’ll be able to give the top 20 riders a run for their money.
Aside from the poor start, I’m happy with how the race played out. My two biggest goals of the race were to get a good sprint off of the starting line and to avoid the “complacency” that I have experienced in previous races (my wife calls this a doberman vs golden retriever mindset). I can vividly remember several moments where I caught myself within seconds of having this complacent attitude and pushing forward instead of riding safe. I feel like these were mental moments that I can be proud of.
On the equipment side I feel like I might have to rethink my choice of pedals; I currently run Shimano XTs. This was the second muddy/sandy race in a row where I had trouble clipping in after the second lap. I wouldn’t be surprised if I lost 10 seconds a lap on two distince sections trying to clip. I’ve heard that the eggbeaters are nice, but I think they would have the same problems that the SpeedPlays would have. I have seen eggbeaters with a platform, so I may try those next season as the mud clearance should be significantly better.
Overall, I think this race is showing me that most of the problems I currently have will have to be solved next season. My technical skills are close to on par with those around me, but I just need more power, specifically FTP, which can’t be built during the racing season. I’ll continue riding strong for my last two to three races and learning valuable handling lessons from those, but I’m already beginning to think about what needs to happen to make next season a great season. Once the state championships have concluded I’ll write up a postmortem of the season as well as goals for the next one.
- Solid, albeit imperfect handling skills
- Kept passing racers throughout
- Faded after the second lap, especially on the steep stuff
- Poor mud clearance from my pedals had me losing time
- Need more FTP to compete with better races; has to be fixed in the off season
Starting Row: 4th
Call Up: 31st
The long and the short is that everything seemed to go well, but that I was outclassed by others on the dirt. I think I’ve spent so much time practicing on the grass that I’m not as comfortable on the other mediums. This was evident on Sunday as about 30% of the course was on grass and I was consistently making up time on others, but when we went to the dirt I was having trouble keeping speed during the technical sections.
Despite the lackluster results, there’s actually an upside. In nearly every race that I have completed I have been getting closer and closer to the winner’s time, with this race being no exception. Since the beginning of the season, I have shaved 3:00 off this differential, down to 5:00. It’s not much, but it is an improvement.
Lastly, I came into this race with two clear goals. The first was to rid myself of what I am calling “complacency”. This is when I get stuck behind a rider doing a modestly hard pace and, instead of passing, I draft that rider to conserve energy. The problem is here is that most of the team this rider has blown up and I’m feeling good enough to pass them, so I should and continue to leave them in the dust. I did a great job of this, but, in doing so, I found myself riding a slightly faster modestly hard pace then the riders I pass are. I suspect that I am subconciously metering my efforts so that I don’t blow up. In my next race, I want to keep the same mindset, but ensure that I am exploding on the non-technical sections and conserving only where I absolutely must.
The second goal was to have a good start and this was my best start to date. I put a lot of emphasis on my starts this week and I estimate that I made up ~10 spots in the first minute of the race due to some aggressive positioning (the start was on grass). The biggest success here was pushing the full 30 seconds of the start and looking for places to move up instead of accepting my poor start position from the whistle.
Something to note, nearly all of the positions I lost were in the first 1.5 laps, so maybe it’s a matter of going deeper at the beginning. It didn’t help that I got wrapped up in the course tape at one point which cost me ~5 positions and a lot of momentum.
- Best start thus far
- Handled “complacency” well
- In dealing with my “complacency”, I found myself riding at a medium hard pace throughout
- Fumbled the sand pit in 2/4 laps
- Uncomfortable on the dirt sections
- Not enough “gusto” during the first two laps