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August 26, 2010
Photo by James Broadway
A reader who left a comment yesterday gave me a good idea for a post. He wanted to know what I’m thinking during a race. It’s a good question because I clearly remember a time when I was doing absolutely nothing during a race except for holding on for dear life. No thinking whatsoever. I was just making up the numbers. However, the beauty of bike racing is that it’s a thinking man’s game. Once you progress and stop worrying about the physical aspect it’s a very tactical sport.
Let me present some scenarios during a typical road race and what I’d be thinking during it. Note, this is very different from how I’d approach a criterium. Also note that this fictitious scenario puts me in top form and in a winning position (unlike my Tour of Geelong where I got absolutely shelled). Keep in mind that this demonstrates my particular racing style which is highly dependant on my strengths and weaknesses. It will be much different than that of a pure sprinter, a climber or a Jens Voigt.
I’m almost always late for the start. My best case scenario is that I’ll rock up just as the commissaire is their instructions. In a road race I’m not too concerned if I line up at the front or the back unless it’s an Open event where there is a wide range of abilities. If a mix of pro riders all the way down to Z graders are there, I’ll fight my way to the front. Otherwise I’m not too fussed.
The race starts and things are calm during the neutral zone. I’m usually catching up with a mate I haven’t seen in a while BS’ing each other about how unfit we are and how we’ve been sick. What I’m thinking while these tales are taking place:
The commisaire’s car pulls off and the race begins:
A short climb approaches:
There’s a road marshall up ahead waving a flag indicating a left-hand turn:
The peloton turns left and the crosswinds are howling:
Now I’m rolling turns in the echelon:
The split in the peloton has occured and there’s only 20 of us left.
The road turns again into the open crosswinds
The pace settles in again
There’s 8 of you left. A climb approaches and there’s 20km left in the race:
Someone tries to bridge across!
We catch the lone rider out front. There are 4 of us only 2km from the finish. Only 3 of us are working together. The teammate of the other guy is not doing a thing.
400m to go, we’ve almost caught the rider out front.
300m to go and we’ve caught our man. 3 of us left.
I hit them!
100m to go
10m to go
That’s a very typical race for me. I still have races that I think about absolutely nothing except for hanging on. The National RR Championships is a good example. When some Garmin or HTC-Colombia guys attack there’s nothing going through my mind except for “hold on….this is going to hurt!”.