Starting Row: 4th
Call Up: 30th
My best result of the season! This result also completes my final goal of the season of being in the top 20, albeit barely. The race is made all the better because I have been sick for the last two weeks and have only had a few rides leading up to this race. Additionally, during the second lap, I had a bit of a mental breakdown where I really wanted to quit. In order to push myself, I started breaking the course up into pieces in order to manage where my effort would be spent and was able to push on. I can only credit Matt Fitzgerald’s new book “How Bad Do You Want It” for these kinds of tools. Mental toughness is a weakness for me and this book has helped me steady myself during difficult moments.
Lastly, this was my first chance to really test the Crank Brother’s Candy pedals that I purchased a few weeks ago. Previously, I had been riding on Shimano XTs and struggled to clip in at several muddy races earlier in the season. The verdict: the Candy pedals are amazing. Today’s races was a complete mud batch and I NEVER had issues clipping in. These things clear mud like I never thought possible and I will not be switching again any time soon. My only complaint is that the pedals disengage a little too easily, but I’ve learned to work around this. Additionally, I read that if you flip the cleats around that you get an extra five degrees of float, which will help me disengage the pedals alter; this might be worth investigating in the future.
- Overall handling was good
- Made a strong comeback during the second lap
- Rain pants during the preview lap were a great idea
- New pedals have far superior mud clearance
- Fell apart during the beginning of the second lap
- Illness kept me from riding and I felt it in my form
- Poor clip in and sprint at the start
UPDATE (12/24/2015): I went to the doctor yesterday and it turns out that I have had pneumonia for the last three weeks. This would explain my lack of energy and the mental collapse I had during the second lap of the race. It really makes me wonder where I would have come in if I was totally healthy. Anyway, back to taking in some nice off season recovery!
Starting Row: 4th
Call Up: 28th
Not much to say about this race. Overall, I placed slightly higher than I was called up, but, as the race unfolded, it was clear that I need more sustained power in order to realize better results. This is something that I can’t do much about until the off season. A few bobbles aside, I had consistent lap times which allowed me to pass others whom blew up as the race went on, but there was still a significant gap between myself and the top 20.
The only real issue I can find with this race that was within my control was the number of sections that I bobbled. None of the mistakes were huge in and of themselves, but, combined, I suspect I lost 20-30 seconds. The most evident place that I had issues was entering the second sand pit after a 90 degree turn. In about half of the laps, I missed the entrance to the grove in the pit and had to dismount because of it. The other place I lost a couple of seconds each lap was on the fast decent during the transition between pavement and grass. There as a little ramp leading into a 45 degree turn that I instinctively kept braking for each lap. By the end I was only feathering the brakes, but I was still unnecessarily feathering. Again, not a ton I can do about this now, except make note of it and hammering my technical skills during the off season.
Hopefully I can pull a rabbit out of my hat for the final race of the season, but I’m bracing myself for a missed goal this season. I’m not overall concerned about it however as I have big plans for the off season!
- Consistent lap times allowed me to make up positions
- Strong sprint off of the line
- Remounts with the new pedals were flawless
- Need more sustained power in order to achieve better results
- Too many bobbles on technical sections, especially the sand pits
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