Thursday: 4 hours, v-endurance with 5x15x5 tempo
Friday: 3 hours, v-intensity with 3x12x10 progressing intervals (tempo to high threshold)
Saturday: 5 hours, v-endurance
Sunday: 3 hours, v-intensity (Group Ride!)
“My spidey-sense is tingling!”
I think that most everyone is familiar with the pop-culture icon Spiderman. One of his many superpowers is the ability to detect danger and criminal activity psychopathically through his “spidey-sense.” It’s a useful ability when you’re fighting crime. It’s also incredibly useful when racing your bike. Granted, I don’t expect any readers to develop psychopathic powers through training or even deep, cycling-related meditation. Rather, I encourage you to hone your powers of observation. I’ve often found myself in a situation where I’m racing in an event for the first time, and I am unsure about when and where the decisive moment will come. Many of my competitors have competed in this race before, so they have a profound tactical advantage. Studying the course and the profile is useful, so is talking to friends and colleagues who have raced the event in the past before and during the race. However, these strategies will not be enough.
Weekly group rides are a great way to hone your race-reading skills; especially if the race follows a predetermined route with sprint points throughout. A few weeks ago, I went on my first Santa Barbara “Worlds” Ride. This Sunday tradition pits some of Santa Barbara’s fittest amateurs and resident professionals against each other in a two-hour battle royale. For the pros, their pride is on the line, for the amateurs, it is their golden opportunity to “stick-it” to the hotshot professionals. The ride starts without about thirty minutes of easy riding, and then with little warning, bang, we’re off!
There are two key climbs on the course, as well as a sprint point along the way. This being my first time on the ride, I didn’t know precisely where any of these points were or how best to time my effort. Should I attack early on the climb or wait until the last pitch to really pour it on? Where should I start my sprint, and more importantly, where does it end? I won’t bore you (or embarrass myself) by telling you how I did on that first ride, but I will say that I would have done much worse had I not used my “cycling-sense” to follow the right attacks, and save my energy until the time was right. A racer’s cycling sense is made up of dozens of tiny observations. Watch the body language of your competitors. Has someone moved from their hoods into their drops? Is someone standing on the pedals or adjusting their cadence for a rapid acceleration? Watch where riders have positioned themselves in the peloton. Have riders been zooming up the sides of the group? Are they jockeying for a choice wheel?
The true challenge to developing your cycling-sense is cultivating it into an innate and instinctual response to the situation developing around you. There are sports in which it is advantageous to block out the world around you and focus exclusively on the physical demands of the activity. Many endurance sports fall into this category, and there are even moments in a bike race where this approach is helpful. When you are off the front with one kilometer left to race, the time for observation and strategy is over. There has to be one thought on your mind and one thought only: the finish line. However, no racer will ever launch a race-winning attack without first paying careful attention to the conditions around them. When a crucial moment approaches in a race or competitive group ride, the atmosphere in the peloton takes on an electric intensity. Being cognizant of that energy could be the difference between reacting to the winning attack and finding yourself chasing in vain.
Training is going well, and I recently found out that I will be competing in the San Dimas Stage Race at the end of March. Keep your eyes on VeloNews to see how the racing goes. In the meantime, enjoy what’s left of the winter, and take pleasure in the all-too-slow arrival of spring!