Monday, May 3, 2010

The Difference With Road Racing


Did my first cycling road race in two years on Sunday. Was perhaps in over my head based on where my fitness is at, but I re-learned what is a key thing with road racing. The main difference compared to what many people do with their bike riding is the unpredictability of when and how long you are going hard and how much time you have to, "recover", before you have to go hard again.

I was able to hold my own in the group for the most part, but what really caught up with me and did me in, was exactly what I stated above - there was no rhythm or reason to when we were going really hard and I was above the red-line and then the time that we were not going so hard, and I was below my red-line. It's not like I can say, "Hey, guys. I am over my heart-rate, power cap here can we back off a bit?" When there is an acceleration in the group, you don't know if you will be going hard for 20 secs, 2 minutes or maybe even 20 minutes! Furthermore on the other side, you have little control over your recovery - you have to somehow figure this out and recover on the fly - in most cases, you have to recover, while still going nearly all out.

It was a 70k race and I made it to about the 40K mark before coming off the back with three other guys on a false flat. This is when you realize, when the main group is gone, they are gone! The four of us had a go at getting back on, but 2m becomes 20m, becomes 200m, quickly in these situations! We agreed to work together and to ride it in from there. That was fine with me as I was merely looking for a good hard effort today and no heroics, so we all took our tuns with good pulls on the front and finished it up. And in another strange twist of road racing, the guy who had been clearly the strongest in our quartet, and I figured would take the sprint amongst the four of us, was not a factor at all when we had a go of it at the end! Appearances are never what they seem, at many levels in road racing.

There really is no substitute for racing in terms of gaining the key and specific fitness needed for bike road racing. You can do all the interval training you like, but when matched with riders of similar ability and fitness, it is that specific race fitness that is key. In particular, being able to handle the randomness of when you are going really hard and not so hard and being able to recover quickly and be ready to go hard again!

I need a few more weeks and a few more races to get that back.

2 comments:

MarkyV said...

Au contraire! :)

"There really is no substitute for racing in terms of gaining the key and specific fitness needed for bike road racing. .... being able to handle the randomness of when you are going really hard and not so hard and being able to recover quickly and be ready to go hard again!"

Train to acquire the tools that you will need to handle those instances and you will be better off. But racing into fitness is 1) a good way and 2) a helluvalotta fun!

Fleck said...

"Train to acquire the tools that you will need to handle those instances and you will be better off"

Mark,

You are absolutely right about the above. I guess I forgot to mention that I don't really "train" that much any more. I ride where and when I can and I leave it at that!

Still, it's really hard to simulate exactly the physiological demands experienced in a longer harder road race in training. That's why racing is key to get you into the type of shape you need to be in.

SF