The psychology of the race

I had my 2nd crit race today and blew up after 10/22 laps, but my power profile, TSS and IF is quite a bit less than i would and could smash on the trainer. Why can’t i get my head into the psychology of the race and empty the tank?

I took a different strategy this time and held my position towards the front of the pack for most of the laps. For a couple I was right at the top, giving other people shelter :thinking:. I definitely need to improve my technique; tucking in, getting aero, sheltering, moving up etc.

After 11 laps, i was dying; my heart rate maxed out at 181 and i quite quickly got dropped.

I’m disappointed i got dropped, but also quite pleased with how i started off. I know i can keep NP of 300, as i’ve done it on the trainer… I just don’t know why i can’t do it in crit.

How do i keep up top for 22 laps?

While there definitely could be a psychological factor at play here I don’t necessarily think it’s fair to compare the NP for the entire 27 minutes with what you can do on the trainer.

Instead you might want to look at how deep you went for shorter periods of time. Holding NP for half an hour when you never go over 120% of threshold is one thing, it’s another thing entirely when you have to do short bursts at 180%. NP is a proxy for effort, it doesn’t actually measure what part of a ride broke you.

Zoom in on the stretches right before you got dropped - those were the things that you couldn’t do. Perhaps colored by the preceeding minutes, but not necessarily

Said another way - I could design a 30 minute workout with a NP well under 300 for you that would be impossible for you to complete and another that would be relatively easy to complete. As an extreme example - could have you sit at 2 watts for the vast majority of the time and then have you do 1000 watts for the last 60 seconds.

Just double checking since you didn’t explicitly say, but are you using the same power meter inside and in the race?

Yes i’m using a wattbike at the gym and my assioma favero on my bike. I find my FTP is higher on the bike by 10-15watts

Because on the trainer I doubt you are cranking out 500w+ bursts every 15 seconds or so for half an hour straight.

There is your answer! Smooth out that power graph and things will get a hell of alot easier.

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This opens the discussion to adding in Variability Index, for deeper analysis. NP / AP = VI

Numbers closer to 1.0 mean steady power. 1.3 and above are common in crits.

The OP should compare some of his prior workouts to this effort. Just because you hit the same NP doesn’t mean you did the same work. High VI means it is super hard on the body with the up and down.

This very topic is slated for tomorrow’s podcast, so it will be interesting to hear their thoughts on what the value can tell us.


In this case 300w / 222w = 1.35
That’s nothing to sneeze at and I would like to see a comparison to “similar” workouts the OP says had the same NP. My bet is that his is well above some prior efforts and explains the early out here.

This leads to 2 options (and probably best to add a bit of both):

  1. Work on these types of efforts more that push into this higher VI.
  2. Work on riding better to minimize the spikes and need to apply them, thereby reducing the VI and the toll on the body.

Yes, this is true. I zoomed in on 5mins and i’ve hit 500w+ 17 times including 750W+ 4 times. No wonder i was dying!

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Thanks for your reply chad. I wasn’t sure if your statement was rhetorical or not, so i uploaded a screenshot of a 2.5hr club ride i did, with the same power meter and bike, where my NP was 294.

I gather NP is not the best measure though for the Crit vs club ride. I’l l’ll be sure to listen to the podcast!

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The more useful statement is:

  • No single data point is a best measure of any single ride, workout or race”.

We need to look at a range of values (NP, AP, VI, IF, Duration, RPE, HR, etc.) to gain a more complete understanding of any ride to review. Then by also considering the one in question within the range of prior efforts, you can better know the effort.


Yes, I was largely being rhetorical, but pushing you to make sure comparisons are “comparable” in the sense that many of the values above are close to the same. If one or more of those are significantly different, it may be a clue as to why one felt better/worse than the other.

The key lesson here is there were other guys in that crit right around you who’s power graph was smoother and their VI was lower. They stayed with the group. This is mostly a technique and tactics thing and less about fitness.

In fact, all your nice 325w FTP is doing for you in this context is letting you suffer longer before you get dropped :wink:

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Look at what was causing you to put in those power spikes. Was it corners, fighting for position, the whipsaw effect of being back in the pack, etc? That will give you some ideas of what to work on next time. Make some notes about the race and what was happening.

As for numbers analysis, look also for spots where you used low power too. Find stretches with low averages and analyse what was different. The single coolest thing in racing is coasting to the front because everyone else is slowing down and you were in position to take advantage. Bike racing is in many ways a lazy man’s sport. It rewards doing as little work as possible.

FWIW you experience is very normal. If you looked at the power charts of everyone who got dropped after 30 minutes in any crit, many would look just like yours. When your starting out, or when you move up against stronger competition and get a little over your head again, one of the first things to go is being able to be smooth in a racing pack.

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Actually… i just cut the data again. looks like my NP 320, AP 286 and VI 1.12. Need to lower those 500/700w spikes.

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thanks very much for this! i’ll look into the detail.

Here is a side by side of the rides referenced (using the narrowed Crit info):

I circled the on-screen values I see as interesting between the two.
Also add in the VI calculation as part of the picture. 1.11 vs 1.37

With the new info and direct comparison,

  • The duration is obvious.
  • The FTP for each is different and should be considered when looking at some values.
  • HR is notably higher in the tougher, but shorter event.
  • Cadence is drastically different.
  • IF is drastically different (especially so with the narrowed crit time).
  • VI is lower in the crit, but the AP is VERY different between the two.

I know this comparison sparked off the desire to find a similar and longer NP ride, but seeing these greater differences, you can better picture these are to very different efforts. One might be considered “easier” to one rider vs another. It’s very relative.

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when’s your next crit? excited to hear how it plays out after you have some more event-specific training in your legs

Great race and effort analysis @mcneese.chad and @STP, you’ve given me the knowledge on how to interpret my XC races. I was having difficulty understanding why some races felt utterly brutal midway through where others were manageable. I need to consider the VI and not just NP. Also look into how many big efforts I put in earlier in the race.

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I think this indicates one of the fundamental flaws of focusing so heavily on FTP, and I wonder if it has more to do with the physical demands of crit racing than the psychology?

There is the skill and tactics involved, but the guys that are going to win may not have the highest FTP or W/KG, but are the tactically astute persons that can go repeatedly into the red for short periods, more times than anyone else.

image

Your graphs are fairly typical of crit racing.

If you can go into the red more times than anybody else then you may not need to be that tactically astute! The riders I am always impressed by are the ones that aren’t necessarily capable of putting in that many big efforts, but have the ability to read the race so that they really make those efforts count. There are a few guys I race with who seem to be in the successful break almost every single time, and often getting in that break is the first time you’ll see them do any hard work, having been happy to sit in and let everybody else chase down all the previous failed break attempts.

I had a similar set of experiences recently in my Thursday night crit race series. This was my first year of racing and i went in to it with a certain amount of confidence that my FTP of 327W would be enough to go hard all race and be a real player… nope. sadly i was dropped like a biatch after a few laps.
Following some excellent advice from this forum i spent the next races really concentrating on 4 things:

  1. Doing more TR workouts that emphasised repeated HARD efforts, such as Spanish Needle. Being good at Sweetspot is useful for sure but being able to do repeated efforts of a sprint and settle in can be practised and it gets easier for sure.
  2. Carrying speed through corners - drop back a few metres and carry your speed a bit. If you can avoid having to do a balls-out sprint after every corner then the whole game becomes much easier.
  3. Being aware of the draft - really feel where you can cruise and save watts. This adds up over the course of the race and the 2nd half becomes much easier.
  4. Everyone is hurting - So stick with it. Chances are it’ll ease off a bit about 60% the way through.

After a couple of months I was much much better, not getting dropped and even chasing down breaks and trying a few myself, and frequently ending up with a much lower NP.

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