Yesterday was the Bike Bug 500 - another handicap criterium at Sydney's Heffron Park circuit. With $500 for 1st place, there was a pretty good turn up with all the usual suspects. This one was a little different to the others I've ridden in that it was an open A, B, C grade group handicap run over 15 laps (30.6km) - but in the reverse direction. Now I've raced at this circuit for a decade but never the other way round! It was a pretty interesting experience. I don't plan on riding the velodrome the other way round though!
We were lucky as a big thunderstorm blew through not long before the start dumping a lot of water on the circuit but a wet track and a few puddles wasn't going to stop the race going ahead.
This wasn't an important race for me, just a bit of fun and a good workout. Since I had done 30 minutes of time trial effort at 99% of FTP the day before and earlier in the week some heavy tempo work, I wasn't expecting the freshest legs on the planet. Certainly the routine on day before a race is typically not TT efforts!
That's because I am now in race prep stage for March and race results now are inconsequential and subordinate to training. Coach is helping me to avoid the mistakes I made last season, where I was constantly staying fresh for racing and intense efforts and that left me with little in the tank by the time the Championships rolled around. Don't get me wrong, I had a great season but there sure was room for improvement. The Performance Manager Charts really made that stick out for me. Here's what I mean (click/right click to see larger image):
Basically I ended up never really having a proper CTL build phase to start with. There was a short one around this time last year but I tried to ramp up too quickly and got sick. After that, regular racing and a change of focus to efforts of increasing intensity meant CTL was flatlining or heading south.
Back to the Bug
OK, so how did the race go? Well I got onto the podium, so that's not bad! Here's the WKO annotated to show the various phases of the race. I applied 30 second rolling averages to smooth out the data as the power line was highly variable - the smoothing makes the phases of race a little easier to pick out. Again click/right click to see a larger, clearer image.
The chart pretty much tells the story. I started with the B-grade bunch and they really weren't going fast enough to hold out a determined A-grade. And as usual only 6-8 guys were doing the work while the other 20 or so would sit on. Not the way to win a handicap but I expect no less from these guys.
So about 6 laps in I was sick of just hanging around and decided to see how my legs really were and put in an attack. That lasted a couple of laps but at least it got B-grade to pick up the pace a bit and made A-grade work a bit longer before the catch. Seeing that effort was futile, I went back to hide in the bunch for a while and recover in time for the A-grade train, making sure I had good position when it came steaming through. Shortly after we picked up and passed the C-grade bunch.
Scratch the Handicap
Then it was a matter of managing position and marking the attacks which were inevitable as the race was now reverting to a scratch format given all bunches had been caught. The pace was certainly higher now and I had to dig in a little here and there but I was sufficiently in control to maintain it with the leading riders.
As it turns out I was the last remaining B-grader in the lead group and that earned me a place on the podium, a large Christmas Pudding, a bottle of wine, 2 Veloflex Black tyres (one of my favourite road race tyres) and $50. So an early Chrissy present! Always good to get the new club kit up there for the photos (which I don't have yet BTW).
These coming weeks I have some
really solid training in front of me.
Coach reckons I'm a chance of abusing him at some stage for what he's dishing out but I got through week 1 of this phase with only minor expletives emerging as I struggled towards the end of my sets.
All's looking good for 2007!