Race Report: Spring Series Weekend #1

Hougen East RR and Aldergrove Short RR, Cat 3

Courses & Conditions

Opening race weekend of the Escape Velocity Spring Series.

    • Hougen East Road Race:¬†80km over 4 laps of a pan-flat, four-corner course. Not the most exciting parkour but everyone will be twitchy to get the season off to a start.
    • Aldergrove Short RR: 88km over 13 laps up and down and straight. A long rough-road drag up to the finishing hill, a fast descent into another short steep kicker on the opposite side of the course, and a long straightaway into a cross/headwind along the Canada-US border.
    • Conditions were suboptimal, but nothing worse than expected¬†on both days; 10¬į C and foggy with some brief showers. Cross/headwinds are perpetual in this part of the Valley, no matter what direction you’re moving in.

Hougen East RR Start-00-00-47-064.jpg

Plan

The Spring Series is a staple of early season racing in BC and¬†over the past few years has become something more than the ‘training races’ they were initially envisioned as. This year is the first time the Spring Series is¬†properly UCI sanctioned and worth upgrade points. This gives everyone extra incentive to come out strong and means¬†there’s no racing up or down between¬†categorized races.¬†We have a few guys who are strong enough, and had planned to race A-group but still have a Cat 3 license. So our plan is to try to fast-track those guys to some early wins for the points they need.

Hougen East

With a handful of guys we had the best team representation in the race. Our plan was to be present at the front, get involved in any serious breakaway attempt, and¬†protect our sprinter Jeff for the finish. He needs only two wins to¬†advance to Cat 2, and having raced track all winter he’s probably the best sprinter in the field this early in the season.

The race was full of repeated attacks and mini-breakaways as guys felt each other out to see who had form this early in the season. My team, Glotman Simpson were consistently initiating the attacks and counter-attacking as soon as one group was brought back. We had two teammates at points off the front on solo breaks, including Mick who spent 30 minutes and the entirety of the second lap on his own off the front until the other teams could organize enough to bring him back.

Mike is our most experienced rider, and as soon as Mick was within spitting distance he launched off the front, using him as a launch pad for a serious attack. A handful of guys went with him. This would be the winning move.

With a teammate in the move and our sprinter¬†in reserve, GS¬†wasn’t obliged to do any work back in the pack, but¬†besides a few short-lived solo & small-group¬†bridge attempts¬†we just kept a steady pace as the breakaway slowly drifted out of sight.

Hougen East RR Start-00-03-27-971
Jeff showing his hard man status with bare skin showing. I was bundled up head to toe.

The rest of the race was so uneventful, I was caught out and didn’t even realize we were coming to the finish until the guys in the front started to accelerate in the final 500m… For some reason I thought we had another lap to go! So I was completely out of position to help Jeff to his sprint, and I was¬†a bit red-faced after the race.

Mike had a good race and finished third in the sprint out of a group of 7 in the breakaway. He said he should have gotten second, but the guy who won was obviously the strongest – one of the A-group riders with a Cat 3 license who was now “stuck” in the B race. Jeff easily won the bunch sprint for minor placings, punching out three hard pedal strokes and opening a two bike-length gap as he crossed the line. I cruised across the line a few places down still on my hoods¬†and¬†a bit confused…

Aldergrove Short RR

The Sunday race was a completely different beast. TAG Cycling, one of the strong local development teams were out in force, well drilled and fit. They controlled the race on the crosswind straight, attacking en mass and stringing everyone out in the gutter. Craig, our strongest rider had marked an early attack and spent the first hour in a 2-man breakaway. After he came back he and Mick were able to protect Jeff and keep him in touch with the diminished group.

Aldergrove 2
GoPro footage was pretty much useless in the conditions

I was blown out the back by the end of the first hour. With excess accumulated fatigue I tried to bridge a gap that had opened in front of me and found myself stuck in no-man’s land in the wind. I caught the group as they slowed for the corner, but was tailed off the back along the uphill drag. I rode a lap on my own watching my power numbers dwindle and decided to pack it in, thinking to save my legs and just spin around for a quick recovery session while I waited for the rest of the remaining group¬†to finish.

It was such a fast pace in difficult conditions, the Cat 3 pack actually passed and remained in front of the Cat 1/2 group for the rest of the race. Meanwhile the starting group of around 30 riders dwindled to only 8 by the end of 90km.

The race was won by a wily, strong rider from Mighty Cycles, who put in a late breakaway with the TAG protected rider and attacked him in the final lap to finish solo up the climb. Craig and Jeff finished in the group (top 10!) but understandably had nothing left to contest the finish.

Aldergrove 3
All that was left of the group for the final uphill sprint. A war of attrition

Observations & Lessons

This weekend was two very different races. Saturday was more tentative, less organized and far less¬†determined by any one team presence – even ours. While Sunday was obviously¬†The TAG Show¬†while the rest of us tried to keep up. We’ll have to review our strategies when it comes to hillier races and how to counter TAG as a team as well as the handful of strong individual riders making their presences felt.

Riders are showing obvious signs of early-season fitness, blowing up quickly after attempted attacks or when lingering too long in the wind. Corners were taken very hesitantly in the wet conditions, but the quick accelerations out of the corners tended to be short-lived and unnecessary.

My current threshold power is about the right pace for¬†an¬†under-motivated B-group peloton- ie. in Saturday’s flat race, but I need to drastically improve my supra-threshold power endurance; my ability to sustain short bursts above lactate threshold and recover quickly. My 1-min power is weak compared to the rest of my power-duration curve and I’ve already built in workouts to address that over the coming weeks. I’m actually looking forward to getting back on the trainer later today and pump out some anaerobic intervals!

On a personal note, I wasn’t able to support my team the way I would have liked – and expected for a road captain. I’m disappointed in¬†myself for pulling out of the race after getting dropped. I rationalized at the time that pushing through another hour solo when I could barely hold 80% FTP probably wouldn’t give me much training benefit and I’d be better served by pulling out and doing a bit of active recovery.

I still think that makes sense from a pure numbers perspective, but every lap I watched my team –¬†and all the other dropped riders – continue to push on¬†I began to regret that DNF more and more.¬†I think the mental aspect of continuing to push through and finishing the race would have been ultimately more rewarding and beneficial – mental training if not physical training.

So I’m going to make it a point to finish every race from here on out, unless I get pulled or risk obvious harm like injury, overtraining or hypothermia..
Aldergrove 1
Gravel roll-out before the carnage

Looking Forward

Next weekend we have another flat Saturday race and hilly Sunday race. We’ll be planning to control the flat stage and hopefully¬†finally put Jeff in position to unleash his sprint. Sunday we still need to talk over and craft a plan for countering the expected TAG presence. Our strategy will probably be more conservative, keeping our team together and supporting each other rather than splitting up to chase individual attacks¬†or get blown off the back.

Forecast is for more wind and rain.. hopefully I’ll be able to salveage more¬†GoPro footage than I did this weekend.

For right now¬†I’m chomping at the bit to get back on the turbo trainer and pump out some anaerobic¬†intervals! So that’s a good sign!¬†Although this weekend was a bit of a defeat, it certainly wasn’t disheartening!