My second full season of cyclocross is over. I utterly failed at most of my attempts to add some order and planning to my training. Training Journal, never got off the ground. Training plan, I trained plenty, and it helped, but often there was no plan except for Wednesday cyclocross practice. Overlapping cycling, running and weightlifting, was fine in the preseason, but once I started racing I had to back off the weights, and eventually the running in favor of cycling. I bought a great indoor bike trainer, and had hoped to use it weekly to do sprint interval, but I only managed a few good workout. It’s just so damn boring.
What did work well this year was that the weight lifting significantly strengthened my body, letting me push myself harder for longer. I’m still working to get faster, but my technical skills off road are pretty good, from all the trail riding I’ve done. I mastered a good dismount, and remount, as well as a good carry by the end of last season. That not only allowed me to be faster and smoother off and on the bike, but it helped my confidence since I wasn’t so self-conscious of looking like a beginner.
After not being asked to race for a local team, I joined a grassroots cycling team, CyclocrossWorld.com www.cyclocrossworld.com
No special benefit except for a few deal and discounts on their website, but being able to wear a team kit instead of a plain jersey, again helped my self-confidence. I was asked to race for a local team this year, but after having bought several hundred dollars of team kit items just last fall, I can’t afford to do it again this year.
I had hoped to upgrade from Cat 4 to Cat 3 this year, but despite racing 18 races this season, only 8 of them qualified towards the 10 needed for an upgrade. I was pretty disappointed, but after considering my season, I think that it may be for the best. Staying at Cat 4 will give me another season to place better and work up in the rankings, and with so many Cat 4s upgrading this year it should leave me in a field with a lot of beginning racers to pick off.
I managed one third place win this year at a race on my home course. On average I was finishing 10th in a field of about 30 racer in the CX4 35 yr and up races, and 6th in a field of 20 in the single-speed races. I’m overall pretty satisfied with my results, given how much the number of racers has increased this year, and the caliber of the racers with similar results as my own.
While I had a few off races, for the most part I placed as well as I put out the effort for. During my last race of the season, I had the realization that in some races I was a lazy racer, settling for an easy 7, 8, or 10th place, rather the working harder to catch the riders in front of me.
Racing against the same people in most of my races has helped me see not only where I can get an advantage on them, but an advantage in most races. I also have been figuring out some strategy, such as the right time to break away from a rider who I know can catch me. The most crushing thing for me, is to get passed, then go around a corner and the rider is just gone, it’s much harder to chase down a rider I can’t see, or is on another section of course. I learned to best use my bike handling skills by passing another rider before a very technical section, leaving a bigger gap coming out of it. Even though the rider might be faster, the gap he sees makes it less likely he will think he can catch me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am friends with most of the guys I race with, and when they race well I’m happy for them. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to beat them, and when I do finish ahead of them, knowing how hard they rode, how much they’ve improved each race, just makes it all that much sweeter. When they beat me, I know how hard they worked for it, and I’m happy to have lost to them.
There were three weekends where I was racing two races a day both Saturday and Sunday. Unlike last year, those races were not that far apart, so there wasn’t much recovery time. That takes a bit of a toll on me, and I think I need to just figure on the first race as a warmup and hold back something for the second one. In two of the Sunday afternoon races I was just lucky to finish. This season was also tough for me due to how closely spaced the particular races I go to we’re spaced, last year I had a month long break mid fall, where I trained hard and had improved a lot when I finished the second half of the season.
Racing is a very social activity for me as well, and I know so many of the racers from around Atlanta now, so it’s always great to see them. They have really been friendly towards me, making me feel welcome in their circle of friends, and I really do appreciate that. What’s different this year is that I’ve gotten to know a couple of the faster racers, and a few kind words from those guys has helped me feel even more like I belong, that I’m not just some moron on a bike out there, pretending to race. I’ve also made friends with several of the newer CX4 racers, the ones I consistently finish in front of. They ask me about things like gear choice for singlespeed, and tire pressure. The same questions I was asking last year. I tell them what has worked for me, but just like I was told, the only way to really find what works is to try it themselves.
Now that the cyclocross season is over, it’s time for me to take a break from training, before heading back to the gym for more weight lifting, and back to running, and whatever road racing I get in this summer. I have two post season events first, a fifty mile gravel road mountain bike race in the mountains of North Georgia, and an offroad sprint triathlon, (my only running event all year)
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