I had two races this weekend. A 42 miler, and a criterium.
I had done the first one the year prior and knew the layout pretty well. Unfortunately, I got dropped exactly in the same spot as I did last year. A choppy dirt section, and I couldn’t find a clean line through until it was too late…unlike last year though, I met up with a few other dropped riders and worked with them, and was a bit faster than last year.
Today was the criterium, and definitely was feeling the legs today. I was a moron and didn’t muscle up to line up at the front. And the race split within the first few seconds, and was pulled 7 minutes into the race. I guess the positives were that I am cornering a lot better than I use to. Plus my heart rate was super manageable and had a lot left to give. My friend told me something the announcer was saying about how some of the riders “Don’t give the time or dedication needed to reach the higher categories”. Which I guess is accurate, since my normalized power for the race was 34 watts over my FTP.
Just feeling a bit frustrated, this is going to be my second full season of racing (2.5), and it just feels like I’m just not going to be good at the sport. I also wish I could tell you all that, I’m 20-21, but alas I’m 35. I really want to be competitive, but I really am trying to figure out exactly what I’m doing wrong.
edit: I’m sorry if this comes off as a pity party, I’m trying to not think/feel that way. I do see improvements, it just doesn’t seem to be enough.
Find joy in the process, not the result.
Bike racing is really hard and is nothing like a running race where people go there to have fun and get a finisher medal. The last 2 years have had the majority of people either quit riding all together or train their faces off. I have been proud of my ftp but its nothing to brag about with several faster and stronger.
Those who are still around in the sport, doing road races or crits, are going to be really fit and want to rip legs off.
Decide what you really want to do.
There are some that can jump right in and start winning bikes races, but the reality is that, for the majority of us, it takes a long time to learn how to race bikes. It probably took me a solid 2-3 years before I felt comfortable toeing the line. Not that I was regularly getting dropped before then, but until I felt like I really “knew” what was going on.
Best advice I can give you if to race a lot….experience matters. The more you race, the more you learn and the better you get. Bike racing is as much an experiential event as much as fitness.
Keep at it!
Problem with crit racing is the more you race, the more chances you have to get caught in a big crash. I shifted my focus to XC MTB and gravel and haven’t looked back.
The comment made by the announcer is troubling.
Not everyone wants to reach the higher levels. For some racers, it’s nothing more than a chance to catch up with friends, travel or just test themselves. Whilst climbing the ranks deserves acknowledgement, it’s not the be-all and end-all.
If riders stayed away from events purely based on their ability to commit time to training, I personally believe that many race calendars would quickly resemble those in 2020!
Do I think you should quit. No. That said, if the joy is no longer there, maybe a break is required. See if that fire is still burning after a period away from competition.
I don’t think my mate has ever won a race (at least no in the 10 years I have known him) but he enjoys it; you are doing nothing wrong if you enjoy it. If you enjoy it I’d continue and if that enjoyment is waning take a break for a bit and see if that fire comes back. If not do what you enjoy
A different discipline for me but I like to TT. At 46years (having only started in late 30s and un-be-knowingly suffering from cancer at the time) I’m never going to win them either but I enjoy it and competing against myself.
My first crit, I was pulled after a few minutes also! FF a few years, and I was winning races. Improvement happens slowly for some of us - just keep working at it and focus on enjoying the work. Note: the announcer was just trying to figure out something else to say about people going around in circles. …obviously not meant as a direct slight at you, I’m sure!
Let’s be honest, losing sucks. No one wants to lose, but in every race there are a lot more losers than winners. However, if you take a page out of @ambermalika 's book, maybe you didn’t just lose. Maybe, you learned that racing a crit the day after a 42mile race means your legs are too fried to hang. How was your fueling for the races? How was your pre-race routine? Is there something you’d rather change? Every time you toe the line, you have the opportunity to win and/or learn something!
Another idea: It might help to talk to some of the racers in your area (or teammates if you are on a team/club). Ask them if they saw anything you could work on. Sometimes, an outside perspective is useful.
Don’t give up! Some of the best racers in my area are in their early 40’s!
Maybe try a different challenge. There are other kinds of racing you could do (cyclocross, gravel, mountain biking, etc). It might change your perspective a little bit. If you are not sure you want to do something, making the time and applying the dedication will be exhausting. You have to want to do it.
Take it a step at a time. Instead of worrying about winning, making a break, being competitive, or whatever other expectations you went in with, accept that your first challenge is to consistently and reliably finish in the field. eg to not get dropped.
The adage is: One cannot finish first until one can first finish!!
Do you have a teammate or friend who might spend a race or two showing you the ropes of how to sit it, conserve energy and just hang? There is skill to doing those things and those skills need to be learned. If no buddies are available, identify the smoothest “old guy” in the field and commit a couple races to just sitting on his/her wheel. Following a skilled rider will let you learn a ton.
His/Her above is purposeful. Sometimes you’ll see a good woman rider cruising in a men’s field. Guarantee she is strong but also skilled. Get on her wheel and learn technique.
35 is nowhere near “old”. We have plenty of 55+ guys who can hang in cat 3 fields. They aren’t going to win but they will finish in the field using learned skills and tactics. You can too.
TL;DR. Don’t give up. Everyone wants to be the guy who wins his first race and goes cat 5 to cat 1 local hero in a season. Most of us start off by getting dropped or just hanging on and most of us never get past cat 3 and being able to hang on for dear life in a 35+ or cat 1/2/3 event. It takes a while to learn this whole racing thing so reset expectations and go forward.
You Racing Friend Darth
The answer to “Should I quit?” is maybe. We all quit at some point except for the small handful of stalwarts that race all their lives.
I raced 7 or 8 seasons. I ultimately quit because it was a 20+ hour per week commitment to train, race, and drive to races.
I never won a race but I had a handful of podiums, and more top 10s than I could count. I guess it was enough to keep me coming back.
Overall, I’m glad I did it. I still have good memories from those days 30 years later.
I did improve year over year every year. And we had no idea how to optimize training back then.
So stay in if you like the social scene, you like the training, etc.
Sadly, most of us don’t have the genetics for the early wins and fast rise through the categories. Even the guys with the natural talent hit the wall at some point sooner or later.
Not sure how long you’ve been seriously riding but 2 years of racing is nothing. I’m on my third year and still learning something new each race.
If you enjoy racing and training then keep doing it. You aren’t looking to go pro so ‘being good’ at it shouldn’t be a determining factor unless it affects your enjoyment.
I just had a similar thing happen. 60 mile gravel race with hills starting 1.5miles in and 25mph crosswinds. I didn’t start as far up as I wanted and some traffic cone pinch points prevented me moving up and I lost the front group less than 10 minutes into the race. It kinda sucked but I still enjoyed the rest of the race (in a decent group racing for like 60th).
That announcer sounds like a dick. Don’t listen to him. An NP of FTP+30W for a 7 minute effort says nothing about how much time or dedication you give. That sounds to me that it was just a lack of experience or tactical blunder that caused you to have to give a super hard chase for 7 min. I ALSO, had this happen last year. Finishing the neutral lap on a 12 turn crit, there were 3 guys with a 3 second gap and they went for it. Split the group 5 seconds in and I was behind the main group chasing. I did my all time best 20min power (even with those corners) trying to catch on. Ended up getting lapped and then just sat at the back of the group to the finish.
These experiences are not unusual. And though they suck in the moment they just teach you lessons about how to avoid that situation in the future and to put yourself in a winning move. Sometimes you’ll have to learn that lesson again, and that’s okay.
Just last week at Dwars Dor Vlaandaren, Tadej Pogacar (2x TDF winner) missed the winning split cause wasn’t far enough up going into a decisive climb to respond. He said after the race that he’s still getting the hang of the cobbled classics races and it was his inexperience that led him to being too far back. If it’s okay for Pogacar to still be learning things about bike racing then it’s okay for you.
Ok…so first race you got dropped, but still better than last year. Second race you got pulled because you missed the split and know what you did wrong. Learn from it, but don‘t quit!
I started racing aged 36. it took two years of structured training and a big weight loss (20 lb) to be competitive. All this just to move up to cat 1 and now i feel like a noob again😅
This comment is stupid on its face and I would just try to put it out of your mind. If it was that simple then everyone would be a cat 2 and there would be no 3s/4s/5s or at least a small number as they move up the ranks.
You are an adult and do it not because you’re a professional but to get enjoyment and satisfaction out of it. So keep going if you enjoy it. By the announcer’s logic anyone who plays golf and isn’t an elite amateur doesn’t put in the time to get there and should probably give up. Thats stupid.
I know what race you’re talking about, I know a few people who got pulled. Talking to my teammates who did the race (I opted for racing XC that day), the crit was tough, especially having the road effort the day prior.
Try not to take these defeats serious, you’ll have good races and bad races. Make mini goals for each race that doesn’t revolve around winning. These goals could be about positioning, following a break, making a break of your own. If you’ve been racing Cat 4s for a bit, you should recognize a few racers and which racers are good wheels. Next race, get behind that racer and stick to their wheel. Conserve energy, and watch the race unfold.
Lastly, I am on the Primal team, we have great guys in the Cat 4s who’d be happy to talk with you about racing. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and ask about any tips prior to the race.
Thank you, I have been enjoying the process, but I definitely have been attaching the result in the entire experience. I’ll address that.
There are some strong people for sure, guess I can use them to really test my limits and improve.
I signed up for another crit next week. Hahaha
True, my buddy and I were discussing that I race like I’ve broken things in the past, and my opponents race like they are invincible. I guess that is another positive that I have, I leave myself outs and have my head on a swivel.
Right? Even my grandpa said the guy sounded like an ass! The joy is still there, I’m going to fight for it.
I’ve done one TT, I absolutely loved it. I’m going to try and do a few here and there this year. If I continue to really love the format, I might splurge and get myself a dedicated TT bike.
That’s really helpful. And yeah the announcer wasn’t directing it specifically at me, but a huge chunk of riders, I think all but like 15 racers were pulled. I did learn that I need to be drinking more from my electrolyte bottle, and that my fuel was awkward to get into, so that I might cut the top off and scotch tape it close!
Honestly, just so I have things to look forward to, XC looks fun as heck, and would help me keep fit.
Thanks Darth, there is a guy I raced with last season, who also upgraded and I think if I see him at the next few races, I’m just gonna jump on his wheel. He is really strong and I bet if he and I work together, I can improve and help him out so that we have more fun this season. Also, omg, I really don’t want to improve through the categories that fast. I watched a video were a guy with an uber powerful engine almost caused a wreck in the P-1-2 field because he dropped his head when he started mashing it, almost caused a massive wreck…or heck, I think he did.
Guess I am too young to be throwing in the towel! It’s been such a rewarding hobby.
Very true, it took me 6-7 years of running before I was pretty decent. Offfff pinch points are no fun.
It definitely was a tactical blunder, should have been up with the top 15-20 racers and not strung behind. I had the smoothest clip in a race I’ve ever experienced too, like go figure . So smooth that had I been up front, I could’ve attacked right off the bat!
It is nice to hear that the best in the world will lose from time to time haha.
That makes me feel so much better about the age. Thanks, and yeah, I’ve got a plan for the next one.
Hahaha right? I think about how cool it would be to go semi-pro, but seriously, it’s my fun hobby. I love training my face off, and seeing trackable improvements.
After the road race, I had considered just not going to the crit. I was like, lets see how I feel in the morning, get good food, protein shake, sleep. I felt okayish and was like, well let’s try it out! Yeah I have a friend on the primal team, and actually chatted with some of your teammates. There is a few racers that I’ve recognized, so I’ll try to start up with them and stick to their wheel and have a blast. Or die trying
Thanks for all of the replies, I really appreciate the tips, the shared experiences, and the straight up “no” responses. Before most of these responses came in, I already signed up for the next race on the block. My goal this year basically has been, I have fun doing this, I want to do the most amount of races that I possibly can. I will learn from my mistakes and work on them.
I also will not take what the announcer said seriously. Thanks again friends, I really appreciate your time and consideration
Should I quit racing?
Is it Enjoyable?
Simple as that.
I wanna climb Mt. Diablo in 45 mins. I probably won’t ever be able to do that. But it doesn’t stop me from training towards it. Cause I enjoy the grind and every tiny improvement. One day I might not. Then I’ll find new goals and enjoy that process.
As far as racing goes. It’s not 100% fitness. You’d be surprised how much you can get away with with good tactics. I’ve seen top 3 material people cramp up and quit on the side of the road because they didn’t eat anything or drink enough in a 3 hour race. Amateur racing is the wild west. Anything can happen.
That’s awesome that you already signed up for another race!
The fact is, even the very best of us lose more often than we win. We still sign up for the races and compete though because it is fun! I think far too often we all get caught up in the end result, and forget that we all compete in a sport where a lot of the times the outcome is not in our control (because of drafting, team tactics, motivation of the field, etc.).
From what you said about your heart rate, it sounds like you have the fitness to hang in there, maybe just not the race craft now. Hopefully you can find some training races in your area or even a hard group ride where you can get used to riding with a bunch of other people and the sharp spikes in a race scenario.
Also, I can’t remember who mentioned it, but on the podcast they talked about giving themselves 24 hours for a pity party. Feel down for the rest of the day, drink a beer or two, and then turn the page.
Good luck with the upcoming race!