So I did my first Cat 4 race. I was rubbish, and got spat out of the back. That wasn't a surprise, but it wasn't all I learned. I learned these things too...
Crit racing is fun
Ranting round in close proximity to a bunch of other racers. Trying to sit in and stay out of the wind. Picking a wheel and attempting to stay close in the hairpin to minimise the dreaded sprints to stay on. It's a good laugh is that. It's super hard, but fun. It won't be my last race. I have a target now, too: more than 6 laps on...
My max heart rate is higher than I thought
Nothing like a proper race to test your limits. I thought my heart topped out at about 180, but I managed 187 when I was in the mix. Obviously that's just about 100% effort for me and not sustainable for the length of a 45-minute race, which is why I fell off the back. So, more training. I need to be able to stay on when my heart rate is in the mid 170s, probably.
Staying out of the wind is hard
Especially on a course like Odd Down, with multiple changes of direction. You need to be on one side of the pack going down to the bottom hairpin, and then somehow muscle across to the other side once you've turned 180 degrees. Plus you have to remember which side to be on. I didn't really achieve that, and I got a bit battered as a result.
Position is as important as everyone says
Especially on a tight circuit like Odd Down. You can't carry masses of speed into the corners in a bunch. For the very short period of time I was nearer the front, there's much less sprinting to get back on after the hairpins. The further back you go, the longer the concertina effect becomes. Staying near the front costs you in terms of extra wind exposure, but it's worth it to not have to sprint as much.
I can't do a crit without a drink
I just can't. my throat dries up to the point where it's really unpleasant. There's not many opportunities to drink though.
My fuelling was okay, I think
I didn't bonk or anything, I just wasn't strong enough to stay on. So I can work on that.
I need to lose a bunch of weight
I didn't exactly learn that at the race. But a race is where it really finds you out...
Thanks to Rich Wood for the pic
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.