Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Riding is Not Racing; cycling for honor or keeps.

I love riding my bicycle, I love a good group ride, but that is not racing. Let me begin by stating that everyone starts out riding a bicycle. You have to walk before you can run, ride before you can race.

A fast group ride can seem like a race. The group rolls out, there may be a neutral section for a few miles, or the group may sprint out of the parking lot. Regardless the pace, the last few town lines may be sprints. A new rider maybe clinging onto to the back of the bunch by the end, just like racing. Veteran riders may be worn out from the pace and the sprints. The beauty of the fast group ride is that the training ride can include the dynamics of a road race.

But it is not a race. No one has a bib number, there is no pace car or officials, there is no finish line, there are no prizes. Everyone rides for honor, not for keeps. That fact makes the dynamic different. Sprints may go 4 wide, but not 10 deep. Attacks are as likely to be met with indifference as with counter moves. The pace may be high, but the intensity is not the same.

Racing is a different game. This weekend I failed horribly at my first race of the year. The race was a short time trial that I came to over geared, under rested, and not mentally prepared. I have plenty of legitimate reasons for my poor performance; among them an injured hip from hitting the deck last week, a cold that preoccupied my sinuses, & early season under training. But it is never fun to produce a mediocre performance. At some level I planned it this way. I had low expectations for the first race of the season. If anything it was a chance to practice my pre-race routine. I did manage to get all my gear together and arrive on time to the event. But that was my only very small accomplishment of this event.

I had been doing well in the early group rides, until a slipped pedal vaulted me to the tarmac. But even before that incident, I knew that I was lacking in race fitness. The ability to dig deep into your reserves and then hit the pace hard again & again is what seperates riding from racing.

This week, I will recover, and hit the intervals harder, so that when we are racing, i.e. riding for keeps, I can perserve my honor.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The successful solo break; winning with grand panache

There are many ways to win bike races; from a high octane lead out train, with a well timed sprint out of group, grinding it out when the weather forces most everyone else into the car, even the dumb luck of the chase group going off route. But the most satisfying and most difficult way to win, is the solo break away. Rarely do these moves work. You are setting yourself up for a spartan like battle. It is you against the rest of the pack, or atleast against a motivated chase group, and they all want to steal your glory. It is a fight of one against a dozen.

But every so often, a racer has the talent, the tenacity, and the luck to pull it off. Some guys just seem to have the legs and the guts for this kind of win. A week ago, Fabian Cancellara reminded me of how beautiful that sort of victory is, twice. Joe Parkin described winning this way as the most beautiful victory. When a racer has so much gap coming to the line that he can sit up and enjoy the moment from 100 meters out, he calls it "no one else in the picture".

Another racer a generation ago had the same knack for hard solo victories at Roubaix and Milan-San Remo, Francesco Moser. Cancellara may be his sucessor in race style. Moser was also a tremendously powerful time trialist and attacking racer. He was fluid on the pedals and a mentally tough racer like Cancellara. I hope Spartacus goes on to win many more classics and breaks the hour record too.

I have never won a race this way, perhaps someday I'll find the courage and the opportunity to pull it off.

P.S. Congratulations SoloBreak on a long awaited solo victory.