I had an absolutely humbling experience today at my first criterium. I was entered in the mens category five race, which was 30 minutes around a 0.8 mile, P-shaped loop. This meant there were six turns on each lap, and approximately 60-70 in total (over the whole 30 minutes).
Unfortunately, I had high blood sugars for most of the 24 hours leading into the race, including the morning of the event. It’s pretty frustrating to be so meticulous with my blood glucose but still have unpredictable glucose spikes. Still, I reminded myself that I had nothing to prove in this race, and thus I proceeded to go into the event with approximately twice as much glucose in my blood than I would’ve liked (225 mg/dL).
The race organizers gave us a slow intro lap in order to make sure we were familiar with all the turns and kinks in the road. I made sure to get up near the front by the end of this first lap. By the time we finished the first loop, everyone started hammering away for the “real” start of the race.
Coming out of the first turn, I realized just how painful the remaining 27 minutes would be. I immediately had to ride at 600 watts (while in the draft) to stay on the wheel of the rider in front of me. We had a few seconds to recover as we approached the second turn, and I again had to sprint at around 600 watts to maintain my position. In retrospect, I should’ve been even further up in the group in order to reduce the magnitude of these efforts, even if meant working a little harder outside of the corners.
The first 10 minutes of the race followed the same exact pattern: spring, recover, sprint, recover, and so forth. Within these 10 minutes, I had to go anaerobic (450+ watts) 28 times just to stay with the group. This resulted in a normalized power of around 260-270 watts, which was at the upper end of my VO2max. At this point, my power significantly started to fade, and I began to lose touch with the lead peloton.
I went into damage control mode for the remainder of the race. A small group of us that dropped off the main group started to work together, though we were never as organized as I would’ve liked. Despite losing time to the main group, I was still riding at a normalized power that was right at my FTP. Thus, I tried to be optimistic and look at the rest of the race as a solid workout.
Despite finishing outside the lead group, I was happy to finish my first event without a crash. In addition, I had a lot of experience that should be insightful going into my training and my next cycling event.