Last Sunday, I competed in a criterium event put on by Red Kite Racing in Livermore, CA. The race consisted of 12 laps of a 1-mile course, which was dead flat and contained four turns. I was competing in the Category 5 race, which had approximately 40 athletes.
The start of the race was actually quite relaxed, and there weren’t any serious attempts to break away. The only efforts were being put out on the corners, each of which required an anaerobic effort (120+ percent of FTP). I made my way to the front 5-10 riders as soon as I could in order to minimize the impact of the accordion effect. However, I made sure to never let myself be completely exposed to the wind.
A few riders were being dropped off the back every couple of laps due to fatigue, but a majority of riders were able to stay with the main peloton. Things didn’t start to pick up until the final few laps. The leaders started taking the corners faster with four laps to go, and thus we had to accelerate significantly more to keep up. However, nobody was eager to drive the pace at the front during the straightaways, so the field would catch up between corners.
The pace picked up significantly with two minutes to go. However, there still weren’t any substantial attempts at a breakaway. Coming into the final turn, many riders started to sprint quite early. I jumped on someone’s wheel to save a bit of energy and then made a pass to sprint for the final 10 seconds. I don’t pride myself on being a sprinter, so I was happy to finish in the top 10-15.
Over the 28 minute race, I went anaerobic 56 times, and 28 of those efforts required neuromuscular power (200+ percent of FTP). My normalized power was 240 watts (0.96 IF), which is actually quite low given recent training data. However, I entered the race to get experience, and thus I am very satisfied with my performance.
In the spirit of constructive criticism, I believe I made a tactical error halfway through the race. A 10-meter gap opened up in front of me, and I spent 15 seconds to close it. In retrospect, I probably should have either closed the gap sooner and quicker or let someone else close the gap and get on their wheel. Either scenario would have conserved energy.
Overall, the race was uneventful. However, I had a lot of fun, and it made for excellent training and experience. I’m still getting the hang of bike racing, so I gained a lot of confidence by being able to hold my own in the pack and make it to the final sprint.