Video on Youtube (being edited)
It’s been an odd few weeks of cycling for me as I’ve been feeling terrible almost all of the time. Golden Cheetah suggests this is down to racing so much (Hog Hill stands out in particular..) as I’m carrying anaerobic stress to an extent I haven’t experienced before. Earlier in the year I was racing once a week and twice at most. More recently, it’s been two or three times a week with back-to-back race days. This has hit my ability to get out and train because I’m feeling fatigued and always worried that I won’t be fresh enough for the next race – this starts the downward spiral: The less you train, the less you can train…
Anyway, after a lacklustre showing at Palace on Tuesday (my bars twisted sprinting out of a corner and I was dropped after I couldn’t fix the problem with a lap out), I was keen to see where I’m at in a 2/3/4.
This was the 4th iteration of the Crits @ the Park series – every week it has been running I’ve unfortunately been away or busy at another race instead. This week, Crits @ the Park was organised by 4T+ Velo and there were ~40 guys racing the 2/3/4. For those unfamiliar, the Cyclopark is a 2.9km long circuit dominated by long, exposed straights that run NW and then back SE. Funnily enough, the Cyclopark has an orange windsock in the middle of the circuit where you can see the wind direction. It was proudly flying perpendicular to the track, confirming wind would be strong and gusty from a SW direction. Which meant crosswinds. The whole time. Ouch.
Before jumping into the racing, the organisation by 4T+ of this race was amazing and great to see. Everyone was enjoying putting on the race, the results were basically instant and the 4T+ guys racing were attacking (a lot) to show off at their colours at their own race! It certainly is a huge contrast to some other races where there isn’t the same enthusiasm for the racing (or publishing results…2 weeks after the event…)..
There was shelter from the wind though, right?
Actually, no. Despite the number of wheels to follow in the bunch, it was lined out pretty much from the gun. Attacks were flying off the front at the same time people were flying out of the back. The race was in the right hand gutter all the way down the hill, before switching to the left hand gutter all the way back up the hill. People frequently visited the grass when the wind gusted hard or when focusing so much on holding the wheel that the slight bends in the track caught them out.
The trick was to find a wheel who wasn’t that experienced at riding the crosswinds. Being a 2/3/4, most guys knew where to sit, depriving the rider behind of any draft. There were a few riders who didn’t quite get it and left an inviting draft to their side, leading to an intense battle for these lucrative wheels between everyone else.
The first 3 laps featured the usual craziness of flicking between 0w coasting and 600w-1000w sprinting. Despite averaging 316w for the first 11 minutes, I barely spent any time around this wattage. I focused on staying sheltered as much as possible – the wind was so strong that any early move was unlikely to get away and the matches would definitely be better spent later in the race. As good an idea as that was, it’s much easier said than done. My heart rate quickly hit 200 and w’ depleted to ~2kj (though I didn’t feel like I was about to be dropped).
The big difference I’ve noticed between E/1/2 and 2/3/4 is the recovery period after the race has been full gas for a while. The 2/3/4 race can be as intense as the E/1/2, but once the strong guys have attacked and been brought back by the other strong guys, the field generally slows. The Es and 1s… don’t.
Settling in (sort of)
After a tough opening section, the race settled down as some small 1-2man breaks were allowed to get away and have a little bit of rope. There was still a lot of surging and sprinting to be done out of the corners, but much more sitting on and recovery was achieved than earlier in the race.
During the relative downtime 2 guys got away with about 30 minutes to go – 1 from Quickvit Trainsharp and 1 from HR Owen Maserati – and built a respectable 20s gap. 4T+ and Dynamo went to the front and switched between organised pulling and the odd attack to hold the gap. The move really looked like it might stick at one point but as soon as the 5 laps to go board came out, the breakaway’s gap reduced by a few seconds each lap until a surge up the drag coming into 3 laps to go reeled them in.
Impromtu final lap
The surge actually split the group in two, with 10 guys in the front riding away with the captured breakaway, and someone blowing up on the wheel causing a big gap to open. I was in a bunch of ~20 as a gap of about 50m opened up. I thought it would come back together, but then on looking around at who remained, I wasn’t sure what my group had left in the legs to ride down the lead group. A guy from Dulwich was thinking on the same lines and attacked to start making his way across the gap, so I joined in.
This is where the race got confusing. The lap board should have read 2 to go, but read 1 to go, and the bell was sounded only after we passed the line. Some riders started shouting ‘it’s the last lap, 1 to go‘. I realised now I had to bridge a fairly big gap if I wanted to be anywhere near the finish, with 1 less lap on the board and on the final lap. The other riders probably weren’t going to bring it back, so I’d have to do some work if I wanted to be involved in the finish. I should really be in a better position at 3 (2?) to go.
I was fairly happy that we would catch the leaders as the riders were all from different teams and would probably cat-and-mouse at some point as it was going to be a bunch sprint. It was just a question of how much do I spend catching them, and will I have anything left at the end?
The answer to the former was almost 3 minutes @ 400w, with the hardest minute being just under 500w as I attacked out of the hairpin at the start of the lap and through a bunch of dropped riders on the downhill. To the latter…Once I caught the front of the race, I was feeling pretty ruined. My HR was floating somewhere around 205bpm and breathing was loud and heavy. I caught the group coming out of the first of the 5 corners, so I still had a bit of sprinting to do. I hit 800w out of each of the next 3 corners and follow a guy from Fast Test RT to move to the front right to the front out of the final corner and on to the long, uphill finishing drag.
Momentum brought me all the way up to 2nd wheel which was a bit too far forward considering the wind that was coming very strong from the right hand side. I sat up a bit over the hump hill and let 4 guys come passed on my right side so I had some shelter. I was thinking that this is on right up until the point when I saw Matt Holmes (Arctic RT) launch on the inside of an Adalta CC rider, just as the road narrows.
I tried to follow but the shot closed at the pinch in the road. I’m not sure what I could have done differently here – to be on the other side of the line of riders to my right would have been in the wind, and there was no room to follow his wheel up the left. I could have been further back, but those guys (see below) were nowhere near catching the winner either and they beat me too, even sprinting on the more exposed side of the track.
My sprint was good, but I’d spent a lot of energy in the last 5 minutes getting into the sprint, so I faded towards the end. Two guys came over the top of me with an awesome contest for 2nd place (below), and another was just behind me but sprinted to the wrong line and sat up 20m early!
4T+ had the action at the line:
Some stats & analysis
The uphill drag-iness of the sprint is particularly cruel at the Cyclopark and my legs felt suitably shattered afterwards. This was something that GC confirmed later:
My w’bal went negative and the CP model was broken. I’m being told my CP is at least 377w (not 350w), which I think is a little over-the-top for how I feel now. But that is the model – if you do 390w for ~5 minutes and then 15s @ 900w to finish, there are implications. I know it generally overestimates, but the minimum CP number increasing can only be a good thing.
Finally, with 4th place and 6 points, I cross the 100 point milestone for the year. Considering I only scored 1 point in the whole of 2015, I’m pretty happy with that.
Final ride stats:
Wordy write up, but as ever, thanks for reading.