I’ll be splitting my blog posts between here and the one on the company site, but this one squarely belongs here because it talks about racing.
So – with the huge number of wheels going through the shop right now I have needed lots of help with the small details like tire prep for gluing, pulling orders, packaging, etc. The other night 2 riders were extremely helpful in getting some things done. While there something came up in conversation. The riders names have been hidden to save the public from their awesomeness.
Rider 1: “Rider 2 – what’s your plan for the race this weekend?”
Rider 2:”To finish with the pack”
Rider 1:”I think I need to challenge you on that. That’s kind of a BS plan.”
That got me thinking too. We had a great conversation about it and while I won’t go into details I plan on talking about the main point. This is bike racing. RACING. This isn’t, “hey let me see if I can motor along with everyone until the end.” It’s more supposed to be like, “I am a dog in search of a meal and I need to eat RIGHT NOW! Look! There’s a weak one!”
Many come into this sport with the same progression in mind. I want to start by being able to stay with the field and finish the race – not get pulled. Then I want to slowly improve my finishing position while learning where I should be and what my strengths and weaknesses are. I would like to get on the podium before upgrading. A win would be great.
Lather rinse repeat.
In my humble opinion this is a formula for ending up a loser. In the truest sense of the term. I have only known a few people who I have seen who can really go about a plan like that and actually pull of a few victories. They are genetic freaks BTW. If you are reading this then odds are you are NOT a genetic freak. Time to change your train of thought.
I often find myself describing what it is like to race to new racers or people interested in trying it out. Inevitibly the conversation comes down to that same question new people seem to always have – “How fast is it really?” This question comes out of the misplaced notion that by giving that person a number that they can somehow go home and dial that number in as some sort of target and then progressively train themselves into the needed fitness to do well in a race first time out.
I blame the decades of American movies for this. OOOoooo here’s a goal. Let’s train hard and we will achieve it.
The fact is until you have been in a race you have no real idea what the intensity is really like. Speed is meaningless. Accelerations, extreme speeds in sections and extreme changes in tempo. Thinking and reactions…things you have no hope of knowing about until you experience them. Until then you are effectively training for the wrong sport.
What do I mean by that? Take tri-athletes as an example. Many recreational triathletes can develop great general fitness an train to achieve extremely difficult goals through metered practice and continuously pushing the body to it’s next limit. Then they can get into a crit and get dropped on the first lap. Can some of these guys destroy a road racer when doing a long drawn out time trial? Sure, but that’s a different sport. A triathlete doesn’t train for accelerations every couple of seconds. They aren’t forced into learning how to take a corner at full speed within inches of their best friends.
Effectively this same situation applies to those road racers who set the goal as “being able to finish. With the pack.” This is the wrong sport.
I go back to a quote I saw in one of Lance’s books (stop rolling your eyes). It was from Jacques Anquetil. It was something like – strange people that think that a racing bicycle is made to go fast. It is made to cross the line first.
This is the essence of racing in my opinion. Especially when it comes to crits. I would apply it to this situation by changing it to say, “Strange people these cat 4/5’s who think racing is about getting fit enough to finish with others – it’s about finishing alone. Either in front or behind.”
I am as guilty of this type of thinking myself from time to time. “Oh I haven’t been training much and I am too fat. I just want to finish and not embarrass myself.” Bull-crap. We are there to race. Get in there and kill it. Look for weakness. Go off the front. Stick your nose in the wind every now and then. What are you saving it for? The next race? The “sprint?” Get over yourself. You’re probably not going to take either of those. You’ll learn more by trying something new and aggressive RIGHT NOW than you will by trying to conserve for some mediocre performance later.
Everyone reads the same books. Everyone learns to race from the same people. They all learn the same stuff and as a result are always trying to do the same thing. There’s 75 or 100 of them. If you do the exact same thing as all of them then you might make it into the top 10 on a good day. If you do something different. Something aggressive. Something risky then you have a chance of at least learning what it’s going to take to be in 1st. It doesn’t happen by sitting in and waiting for the sprint. It doesn’t happen by learning how to finish a race with the pack.
and now – time for a German Panzer Tank made out of balloons: