So I'm in my first year of racing Masters Cat 3/4 (and my first year of racing period) and I'm wondering if anyone has any advice about race pacing?
I have tried a few different things and I find if I go hard on the first lap to set up a position, I don't have a lot left in the tank for the last two laps (of a 6 lap race). Yet if I don't go hard out the gate, it is even hard to work your way up through the pack. On average I am finishing top 20 in a field of 40-60.
I realize pace is highly individualistic and dependant on course conditions and fitness but I'm interested to hear what strategies others use and why.
thanks in advance!
I think that is exactly what makes CX difficult. You've got to manage those two aspects as best you can. I believe the basic race strategy is to go out hard on the first lap and get on with the lead group, and then try and recover and save something for the end. I've tried both strategies. If I go hard to beat the rush into the first corner and hold a good position through the first lap, I burn my legs out and they never come back. If I start at a manageable pace, I get stuck in the scrum and never see the race leaders again. I think the trick is starting out hard, but not crossing that line where you won't recover. Maybe it's one lap, maybe it's a half lap. Maybe it's just to the first corner. Also, make sure you are doing a decent warm-up before the race. Make sure your muscles are already dealing with lactic acid and you've worked through the first burn in your legs. You don't want to be doing that during the first lap of a race.
Agreed - this is the thing that kills. The first corner is the key ... I would say almost to the whole race. A good warm up and make sure in training you do some simulation intervals. That means little to no recovery after the initial sprint. If you are ahead of the scrum you can actually use corners to do some recovery (entry, not exit) by taking the best line. Sure you may get jostled or passed but you are making everyone else work harder to do it.
Your sensation of dying at the end is what separates those that finish in the top 5-10 from the rest. Everyone dies at the end ... how long you go with your eyes bugged out is the key.
There is no pacing..... Its go as hard as you can the whole race. If you make the lead group, then can sit in and be tactical, otherwise its all you got. Your body will adapt to the all out effort after several races and use its self governing system to keep you from blowing a gasket. Remember, if you are not gaining ground on the people in front of you and behind you are losing ground.
Another important thing to tell yourself during races is that if you are hurting, everyone else is hurting as well (especially those behind you). Keep hurting so those behind you have to work hard to get to you.
Pretty much what's been said. It's easier on you to be passed than to be stuck behind someone and having to try to pass. Usually there are easier sections to rest, a little if you went into the red zone off the gun (most people do). The starts are important, no way of getting around that.
The rest of the race is paced at just below red line something you can maintain but definitely not easy. I used to think of it as a technical time trial with traffic (or mtb time trial), you're always going as fast as you can but trying not to blow up. The big difference though is that there's little sustained effort, you have to be trained for a lot of short bunchy efforts. Kind of like the difference of running basketball vs running in track.
From a clinic this year led by a pro, "you can't win the race at the start but you can sure lose it."
As far as strategies, I pretty much make sure I'm in front of people at the start since I'm good at starts. Towards the end of the race I try my darnedest to block those trying to make end of the race passes. Usually things are very stretched out so you're in mini-groups so taking up all of a corner shouldn't cause a crash. You're probably with people that are about you skill level. If you know the guy behind is trying to attack for a pass, counter. I find a lot of passes into corners can be countered by an attack after the corner as they probably will have poor corner exit speed if they neglect to get back on the gas. If they pass and "close the door" meaning they've blocked you're counter, good move on their part. It's frustrating sometimes but that's part of the fun, a little cat and mouse.
Also, I'm a pretty darn good sprinter so if I need to make a pass I'll usually go blazing down the straights. It's also a spot to keep others from passing as they'll use the straight to pass as well if you slow down at all. This is where "point and shoot" riders (the ones that suck it up in corners but are fast on the straights) gain ground to either hold people off in the corners or to make passes.
A lot comes from you're riding style, if you're a corner carver, you can rest a little in the corners because you're being efficient. If you're a big dummy like myself then hauling butt down the straights is the "rest" since it's a sustained effort that allows a little break from all the short punchy stuff that kills my legs.
Thanks guys, everything said confirms my thoughts; getting the hole shot, resting into corners etc. I've tried full out but I don't think my body has a self governing system ;)
A double header race weekend this week will give me a chance to try some of this out, one more race then provincials so hopefully I've got it figured out by then!
You could try single speed too, you'll figure out pretty quick where you can and can't rest. Single speed in a geared race is pretty tough at least for me, but it helps keep things simple and all you have to worry about is pedaling the bike, cornering, and dismounts. Never have to worry about being in the right gear because you'll always be in the wrong one.
Chad - yep, I only own a single speed. I have two speeds: run, pedal. Good when the brain is dying from lack of oxygen - no thinking required. I have found that the worst courses for a ss is open and long - you really miss gears there. On the short, tight, punchy stuff you just kid of go....
I'm the opposite, I hate trying to push too big of a gear out of a lot of corners. I really like hitting those high rpm's and hauling on the flats with the ss. One of these days I'll try some track riding.
Ah the track... Since I left Texas I have not lived near one. Similar but very very different. Cross translates best to probably the points race ...
BTW, I never push too big of a gear... key for me is less is more and I am weak. Funny thing is on a gravel grinder I will run a 42x17 down to a 39x18 but for most cross stuff I am sort of comfy in the 39x17 or 18 range ... super blender legs!
Nice, I like my 40x18 setup for most races. Tried 40x19 for one race since it was the 2nd one of the day and it was just too slow. Might be okay if we race on a beech or mud pit or something, every now and then we get one of those in Michigan.
Rumor in my parts is that they're trying to put in a velodrome in the neighboring city, I'm pretty stoked about it since the closest one now is 3 hours, which is a bit much if I don't take a vacation day from work. Seems like a lot of guys like it but everyone says fixie is a good deal different than ss, just have to try it and see if it's for you.
I tell people "go as hard as you can *almost* until you puke, then hold it there. But in all honesty I struggle with this too. Starts are usually bad for me, i am gassed by the first corner and folks blow by me. In a lap or so then I come back around and start picking them off but again, since I couldn't hang with the lead group to start I usually don't make it back to them. Seems I am more like a diesel than rocket.
I am finding that a good long warmup works better for me. And taking the first few corners blocking, more than my preferred line helps. I want to enter a corner wide and then about 1/3 of the way through, cut down and make a straightaway out of the rest of it. But in the beginning of a race if I do that I get run up to the tape and the train goes by. Have to cut the inside of the corner early and be prepared to sprint out of it.
Still a very long learning process for me. Hard as hell and a whole lot of fun.