I call a criterium a hammerfest where everyone is basically riding as fast as then can around a loop for a certain amount of time or number of loops. Typical average speeds of some of my past races have been around 25-28mph. I used to excel at this type of race 6 years ago but now I was just hoping to not to get dropped at the start of the race. The course was just under a mile in an undeveloped neighborhood in the town of Howey-in-the-hills, Florida.
I got to the course early to sign some waivers and get my chip to attach to my bike. Since the race was in an undeveloped neighborhood, there was no shade around and the sun was baking me. I set my bike up on the trainer and warmed my legs up. I tired not to pedal too hard, just get the blood flowing through the legs. I finished setting up my bike and got ready for my race. The races were running behind schedule and I went out on the road to warm up some more.
It was finally time for the 45 minute Cat 4/5 and I made my way to the start/finish line. Before the start of the race, I kept telling myself to ride towards the front of the peloton to avoid slinky effect of riding at the back of the peloton. The riders at the front can maintain their speed through the corners while the riders at the back have to slow down entering the corners and then sprint coming out of the corners to catch up to the front of the peloton. Below is a short video I took of the Pro 1-2 /3 criterium race going through a corner. Their peloton is must less hectic than our Cat 4/5 peloton.
When the race started, I drifted to the back of the peloton. The speed from the start of the race was fast, reaching up to 30 mph on the sprints out of the corners. I have not been training at those speeds and my heart rate showed it. My heart rate was hovering above 180 bpm, which is higher than my heart rate when I run a 5k. Seeing my heart rate was a big mistake because it put the idea in my head that I would not be able to last the whole race. Once I had that idea in my head, I started to doubt myself and that’s when I got dropped.
15 minutes into the race, I got dropped from the peloton. Luckily, this race allows a rider to get lapped so I sat up and waited for the peloton to lap me. It only took them a couple of minutes to catch up to me and I hopped onto the back of the peloton. I rode with the peloton for a couple of laps before I got dropped again.
I was trying to keep my speed up so I would not get lapped again but the peloton caught me with just two laps to go. I rode with them until the end. My GPS data from my Garmin for the Criterium Race.
I did not realized how overheated I was until I stopped after the race. The temperature outside was 97o F but it felt like I was in an oven. I took off my helmet and realized I needed a haircut.
I soaked a hand towel in the ice water in my cooler and covered my head to cool down. I almost dunked my head into the water in the cooler. It took me awhile to started to feel better and I drank a ton of fluids to rehydrate. I ended up finishing 38th out of 48 people who started the race. Not the best result but it was a good learning experience. It also showed me I need to rethink my training if I want to compete in future races.
I started to set my triathlon bike up to get ready for the time trial later in the day. I did not want to eat a big meal to upset my stomach during the time trial, so I packed some fruit to eat. My mom would be shocked to hear that I packed fruit to eat since I hated to eat fruit and vegetables when I was a kid.
I learned my lesson from earlier in the day and found a tree to park under to stay out of the sun to warm up. I put my road bike on the trainer to loosen up my legs. Some dark clouds were moving in fast and it started to thunder. It started to drip some but luckily it did not rain hard during the time trial. I headed over to the start line when it got close to my start time. They were sending off riders every 30 seconds and they had volunteers holding the bikes so riders could start with both feet clipped in. Before I knew it, it was my start time.
My first mistake was that I started out in too high of the gear. I shifted down and started to get my cadence up, but it felt incredibly hard to pedal. My speed was only 17 mph and then I noticed my back wheel was rubbing hard against my brake pad. It must have shifted when the guy was holding up my bike. I had to stop to fix my rear wheel to realign my wheel which killed my chances of placing well.
I had two riders pass me while I was stopped and was getting back up to speed. I was able to catch up to one of the riders who passed me. The 7 mile course was not easy because of three big hills on the course. I was hoping to average between 24 to 25 mph but because I had to stop to fix my wheel, my average slightly over 21 mph. With all my triathlon training the past couple of months, I was hoping to place well in the time trial. My GPS data for my Garmin for my Time Trial.
I decided to stay at a local hotel to save gas and toll money. It was also nice to sleep in some on the second day. Check out my sweet single twin size bed suite.
The road race consisted of six laps around a seven mile course with 350 feet of climbing in each lap. The race was a total of 42 miles and had 2100 feet of total climbing through the Alps of Florida. So much for Florida being flat.
I found another parking spot under a tree to warm up on the trainer. I was just trying to loosen up my legs because they were tight from the pervious day’s races. The race was supposed to start at 11am and the temperature was already 97o F. The race started about 15 minutes late because they were waiting for the juniors race to finish and for the Pro 1-2/3 race to pass through. I placed myself towards the front but before the first corner, I already slipped towards the back of the peloton. Since the race was a combine Cat 4/5 and 15-18 year old juniors, there was around 100 people at the start of the race. The first 2 miles were mostly down hill so riding in a group of 100 riders was fun. The beginning of this video shows what it’s like to ride in a large peloton.
I was worried before the race started that they would attack going up the hills, but pace was calm going up the first big hill. Not getting dropped on the first hill was a huge boost of confidence and I started to think that I would be able to hang with the peloton the whole race. The first couple of laps were uneventful and it was fun going down hill at 47 mph. I kept my fluid intake up because the heat was baking us, especially going up the hills where there was no wind to keep us cool. There was a feed zone around the start/finish line where people were exchanging water bottles and I wished I had a teammate on the sideline handing me new water bottles. I only had two 22oz bottles and by the third lap, my drink was hot.
I noticed that the peloton keep getting smaller as riders were dropping off left and right. The pace was starting to pick up by the fourth lap which was when my legs felt like they were going to start to cramp up. I kept with the peloton through the forth but the fifth lap started up tough. The first downhill section was fast and I had to work a ton to bridge a couple of gaps. Working hard down meant my legs were shot for the next hill. I was staying with the peloton up the hill until the end when there was just a small gap. I tired hard to close that gap once I went over the hill but I just saw the peloton ride away from me. I got dropped half way through the fifth lap around mile 32 of 42.
The next 10 miles felt like hell. The heat was really getting to me and my legs were cramping bad. I completed the fifth lap and noticed a bunch of other dropped riders stopping and not completing the last lap. I decided to continue the race and finish the last lap. May not have been the smartest decision because I was probably severely dehydrated, but I want to finish the race. I took it easy the last lap just to ensure I would not keel over and die. I was happy to have the third chain ring on the front to help me get up the hill easier. I saw a couple of riders walking their bikes up the hills because their legs were also severely cramping up. I was able to cross the finish line in under two hours. My average was over 24 mph before I got dropped and the last 10 miles by myself caused my average to drop to 21 mph. My GPS data for my Garmin for my Road Race.
I ended up finishing 36 out of 72 Cat 4/5 racers and 12th overall in the general classification. I am happy with the road race results even though I still got dropped by the field. Less then 30 riders were able to hang with the peloton. This weekend showed that I would need to refocus my cycling training if I want to complete in some more cycling races in the future. Definitely gained a ton of racing experience even if it emptied my wallet.
What is the fastest you have gone on your bike down a hill?