Monday, September 8, 2008

Sandra’s Bike Racing Experiences – Season 2008

At the beginning of 2008 it became apparent that, due to Osteitis pubis, I would be unable to run consistently. As such, I needed to focus my energy on something else; I was bent on bike racing all three disciplines of Time Trialing, Criterium and Road Racing. I had done a bit of bike racing previously, but only to the extent of committing to a couple of races each year. This year I raced my bikes a lot (maybe not as much as Frank or Trevor) and Trevor thought it would be a wise thing for me to share some of my learnings, as I pretty much said that I sucked at the whole bike racing “thing”. I really don’t mean that to be negative as I had a great deal of fun, learned a lot and want to get better at racing.

The most fun I had, and the discipline I enjoyed the most, was the criterium. Every Tuesday night I did the Midweek races at the U of C research park. The first two criteriums I did left me with the taste of blood in my throat. Anyone who has raced indoor track is well aware of this taste and the nagging cough that goes along with it. However, I was determined to get stronger and better at the event. I learned to corner really well and learned to hang on to the front as much as possible. I even managed to win a couple of sprints. This Tuesday night racing resulted in me being extremely comfortable on my bike, learning to hang on, and to respond to tactics. I love the criterium!

The Time Trial is not all that new to me as I do have a bit of a multi-sport background. However, I learned from the Criterium to push myself harder in the Time Trial. This year, I was not as comfortable with my time trial bike as when I was when I trained for Ironman. In the end, I feel that I would have benefited from riding my time trial bike once a week doing some time trial type efforts. When it came to climbing in the time trial bike, I just seemed weak.

Now for the Road Racing: three races taught me a lot. They were the Bearspaw Open, Provincial Open and Masters Provincials. In each of these races, I actually was able to work with a pack of women. In each of these races, I tried something different.

In the Bearspaw Open, I performed most of the climbing duties with the pack I was in. I just happened to be the strongest climber in the group of four that I was in. I was fine with that, but when it came to the very last climb, the legs of the other women were fresher, and I had no sprinting capability whatsoever (not that I ever had any in the first place). Reflecting, I feel I could have attempted a break on the back side of this course, in an attempt to bridge myself and use my climbing strength. However, I am not certain if I would have survived. I do know that I often waited on two climbs of this course for the other riders to come back to me. I am not certain that the result would have been any different if I had not done this. In the end, I had a great time and was happy with the outcome.

In the Provincials Open, the race started with 9 women, and two women broke out on their own very early in the race. I worked with a group of 7 women which eventually ended up being 4. Three of these women essentially pulled away and eventually split up to race individually (I guess they wanted to time trial). This left 4 of us who shared the work. Again, I was faced with doing most of the work on the hills with one of the other riders. We agreed to work together and wait if a rider fell off the back. This is a really foreign concept to me. But I agreed and was even scolded once for going too hard on a climb, which resulted in two of the riders falling off the back. I am not certain what the etiquette in cycling is, but I thought I was in a race. After thinking about being scolded for the next 20 km or so, and the race nearing the finish, I decided with about 8 km to go to attempt to pull away. I hammered up a hill and down the other side. I was feeling good and darn proud of myself…. But then with about 3 km to go I was caught by two of the women. They went by me like I was standing still. They got a minute on me over the next 3 km. Hmmm--- not sure if my strategy was an effective one or not. Certainly, I am open to anyone who has some advice.

In the Master’s Provincials, I was not sure what to expect. I did know that two of the riders were strong, and amongst the best in the World for their age, and in Alberta period. They both happen to be very strong climbers as well, particularly on short steeper climbs. I was happy to ride along and see how things would go. The first loop was very comfortable. There were 8 women but one fell off on the hills and eventually dropped out. That left 7 of us. We worked in groups of two and the pace seemed to vary a great deal. There seemed to be a lot of testing by the most experienced rider in the group (at least from my vantage point). There was an attempt by this rider to break on one of the downhills. I reacted quickly to her and by the time we finished the decent, the group was back together. Near the end of the first lap, the pace became really slow and I decided to pull out from behind and attack on a hill. The two strong hill climbers were on my wheel immediately. We got to the top of the first rise and bang, another attack by one of the riders. We finished that rise and bang, another attack. I tried so hard to stay on the attacker’s wheel along with another woman. I started to feel myself cracking and wham, I cracked. The remaining women caught back up and I found myself unable to get back in with the other four riders. They left me behind. I felt I needed a bit of recovery and needed some help from someone, but no one was there. I found myself riding the last 20 km by myself. I cursed myself for attacking. I wondered how things would have played out had I not initiated an attack. I do know that if the pack stayed together until the end, that I would not have been able to sprint with these women. So it is unlikely that my placing would have been any different but my time would have.

In the end, I have had lots of fun and really am eager to figure out the strategy a bit more. It is unfortunate that there are not more women out there racing. I don’t think that there is a huge gap between the A and B riders in terms of fitness. However, there is a huge gap between riders when it comes to experience levels. I really like this sport and it is my hope that more females will get involved and not be intimidated by the sport. There is a place for everyone and a pack to work with. If anyone out there has some tips and tricks for me…. Lay it on me.


Rob said...

Wicked post Sandra, I really hope this will draw out some other ladies to bulk up the team.

Strategically, I think Trev/Alex/Frank/SteveG/MikeG can offer more insight. I'm not great at following wheels as I want to be at the front all the time (which is a terrible strategy).

I suspect you will crush everyone next season.

Anonymous said...

Cant wait to race with you this year! You will have to show me the ropes since you are the experienced pro now.

Anonymous said...

oops...above is from Amy

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