They say those that don’t know history are doomed to relive it. With that thought in mind, I jumped into the data of my last race to determine what I might have done differently to come up with the result I’m seeking. The good news is I think I learned what I should have done differently. The bad news is that I wonder if I can execute the way I need to in order to win.
My coach has taken to calling me “Podium Boy.” He means it as a compliment. I’ve finished on the podium in my last five races. In my mind the name should be “First Loser” or “Third Place Johnny.” I don’t mean to complain, I am excited about the success I have had. The only thing is that when you are that close to a win over and over, you start to wonder if it will ever happen.
A second or third place would mean a lot more to me if I was sometimes finishing farther down in the field on occasion. Believe me, I realize that could happen in any race I enter. It just hasn’t happened yet. Rather, I’ve been within meters of a win. I’ve never lost to the same guy twice. I just can’t seem to do it myself.
It comes down to the sprint. Take the Patriot’s Trail Road Race this past weekend. Jim tells me that I managed the race very well. He pointed out that my efforts were spread out and that I had plenty of matches left in my match book. I seldom went anaerobic and when I did, it was for short periods. My cadence distribution was good with around 14% non-pedaling. So, I came to the end prepared to make the most of the finish.
Then it was time to sprint…
First I thought I wasn’t producing as many watts as usual. However, that proved to be false. I was putting out just under my best numbers (considering it was at the end of the race, I would expect that) and for nearly as long as I typically can. I just came up short. What I realize is that the way I could have given myself a better chance to win was to use my head.
Jim told me, “Execution looks good in the numbers. Your sprint is .26 miles in duration, do you think maybe you went too soon? Your power kicks back up towards the end and I suspect this is when the 2nd place guy comes around you; I wonder if you could have been putting out more power without that impetus.” Looking at the graph and thinking back to the sprint. I would answer, “Yes.”
Robert Kendrick with the Outspokin Bicycle team came up to me before the race. “Watch the finish. Every year people start the sprint too soon,” he warned. “Wait for the stone obelisk on the right before you go.” As I went out to warm-up I found the stone column and marked it for future reference. It was just at the 200 meter marker.
All that went out the window during the race. Yes, I remembered what Robert told me. Yes, I did see the stones. No, I did not wait. I did wait until about 10 meters before them, but I should have waited longer.
I had fought my way out of the field by risking a pass on/over the white line in some rough pavement and sand. The adrenalin was pumping and I just didn’t use my head. When I found myself on the front and a rider to my right started to go, I matched him side-by-side — knowing we were going before the advised distance.
Here is where I think about what I should have done. At that point, I should have “let him go.” Meaning, I should have got on his wheel and let him pull me toward the finish. From that vantage point, he would not have been able to gap me. I know that because I was with him nearly the whole way. That would have worked him and given me the draft.
Since there were three of us at the finish with a gap to fourth place, I would have only had to deal with the two. I could of passed the rider in front by coming fresher out of his slipstream. That freshness would have also helped me hold off the third rider. I’m not saying I would have won, but I can say that I would have had a greater chance.
I can hold 1000+ watts between 12 to 15 seconds. I need to be patient and try to save that burst until it is absolutely needed. I don’t have the sustained power to make it last for 200 yards! I need more than my legs to get a win. To get ahead, I need to do a better job using my head.