Thursday, May 22, 2014

Racing - Approaching A Training Race

My last couple posts have generated some on- and off-line discussion, some of it quite substantial. The primary cause is the idea of Cat 3 racers entering the B Race on Tuesday Nights. Historically at the Rent as well as in other midweek Series, the B races belonged to the 4s and 5s, while the A races catered to the 1-2-3 crowd.

The New Tuesday Night Races

For 2014 the (new) promoters have labeled the A and B races differently for the Rentschler Field races. Now the A race is posted as a "P-1-2" race and the B race is for "Cat 3-4-5". That's the flyer, the recommendation. However, my understanding is that if a racer pays for one race, they can start/enter the other. Since the races aren't necessarily categorized (the categories mentioned are simply suggestions), a Cat 3 can enter the A race. I suppose a Cat 4 could also enter the A race although I don't know of any that have done so.

Implications for the B Race

The vast difference in experience between the 3s and the 5s means that in the B race you'll find a huge differential in speed, pack riding skills, and tactical awareness amongst the racers in the field.

In addition the more experienced Cat 3s will be racing better overall than the new Cat 5s. This makes the B race extremely challenging for anyone just getting into racing, the Cat 5s and even some of the Cat 4s.

On the other hand it seems virtually all of the 3s that enter the B race are doing the race for reasons other than to win or demolish the field. I've seem some 3s make moves (I made one the first week) but generally speaking the 3s seem to consider the B race the domain of the 4s and 5s. They'll do some work but generally seem to let the 4s and 5s battle it out.

My Own Approach To The B Race

Although I'm one of the more senior Cat 3s, being in my 32nd season of racing, my life situation is such that I'm okay entering a race (and paying for it) without any thought of trying to win. Instead my goal has been to try and help the less experienced racers as best as possible. Recently this started with the clinics at Bethel, but historically it's always been a passion of mine. In fact I have notes I made for other racers dating back to the mid-90s, advice on how to tackle particular courses, advice on how to improve a person's general racing capabilities.

Unfortunately my season has been such that most of the B racers are actually much stronger than me, making it difficult to offer any kind of help without getting shelled in the process. This means I need to offer assistance off the bike because, frankly, on the bike I'm getting pummeled.

In the last race, before I went into the red, I tried to offer some advice and gave a couple riders pushes to try and get them back on wheels. Then, well into my red zone, I faded into survival mode. I rallied for the last lap to try and help my teammates but instead managed only to wreck the pack's cohesiveness (although it replicated some finishes I've seen from the pack point of view). Overall I'd consider my effort to help others "well intentioned but poorly executed".

Requests for Advice

I've been asked to help out the less experienced racers, by some of the less experienced racers. This isn't a promoter thing, it isn't a coaching thing, it's just that some of the racers have reached out for help.

What I'm doing in this post is making this offer more public. If you're struggling in the B race, if you're doing laps without a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, then you can let me know if you want.

Ways to contact me:
1. You can post a comment here, asking me for advice. I moderate every comment so you can start your comment with "Please don't post this" and I won't post it.
2. You can also message me on Facebook, where I'll have a link to this post.
3. You can email me or simply talk to me at the races. For Tuesdays I can barely make the B race on time (on a good night I'll get there at about 5:45) and I have to leave shortly after it finishes, so a quick, "Hey, I'd like to get some advice if you have time" would be great.

Goals and Exercises

Your first thought should be thinking of what you want to accomplish. Do you want to try and win the race? Do you want to get lapped less than 4 times? Do you want to get more comfortable cornering? Do you find yourself struggling with the peak speeds? Are you out of position when the wind hits? For me, as an experienced racer, those are weak points that immediately jump out at me, and I either saw them or overheard racers talking about problems with the above examples.

You should think about everything that you want to work on, that you want to improve. Your goal may be simply to figure out what you want to work on because everything I listed above sounded like a great idea.

Think about what you want to do. Describe to yourself the thoughts running through your head. Is it "stay in the top 10" or "what should I do now?" or "I want to attack" or "I can't believe I got shelled again"?

Based on your goals I can recommend some exercises. Treat them sort of like training for your mind, or, if it involves actual racing, then training your mind for training for racing.

So let's take the examples I have above.

1. Win the race.
2. Get lapped less than 4 times.
3. More comfortable cornering.
4. Struggling with peak speeds.
5. Out of position with regard to wind.

If any of these concepts are foreign to you then those concepts should automatically be on your list.

You can tackle these problems with some basic ideas and approaches, stuff that integrate well with actually racing. In other words you can tackle these problems using thoughts and techniques that also allow you to race.

Does that make sense?

If you have questions on those five factors that I saw on Tuesday then let me know and I'll give you some exercises to help with them. I'll cover them in future posts, one at a time.

Well, except the winning one. That's a culmination of a lot of other stuff and it would take hundreds of pages to even begin to cover the things you can do to win, and even then there's all sorts of random factors that affect the outcome of a race.


There's an aspect of racing that I didn't touch on in the list above, that of teamwork. I mentioned it a few times in the post about the race but it's a separate thing. Once you, as a racer, can handle staying in the field for a given amount of time, then you can start thinking about teamwork.

One nice thing about teamwork is that you can incorporate teamwork in even short term "race exercises". For example one year I entered a road race (Jiminy Peak RR) with the sole intent of "leading out" our climbers to the base of the climb at the end of the first 11 mile lap. I had no intentions of doing the next four laps, nor of finishing, and in fact I hoped to be home (a 3 hour drive) before the racing finished.

I had a spectacularly hard opening 8 or 9 miles, with someone launching an attack in the parking lot where we had staged. Ironically I found myself at the front with a number of "crit guys", all of them working for teammates, trying to keep things together until the first time up the hill.


Bike racing, at least for me, is a never ending process of discovery, learning, more discovery, re-learning, and so on. When I explain things to riders I remember things that I forgot I learned, things that I now take for granted but that aren't natural for a new racer.

I've been there. I've been afraid of sitting on a wheel, of diving into a corner. I've gotten shelled so fast people asked me if I had a mechanical.

Bike racing can be brutally hard.

Bike racing can also be wonderfully rewarding.

My hope is to help others experience the latter, and this is the post explaining that. That's my offer. I hope that some of you take me up on it.

For inspiration I'll post an example of one of my better Rent races from the past.

 And another:

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