The European Triathlon Union (ETU) have changed the rules of my upcoming European Duathlon Championships race in Romania next month. Despite all of the qualifying races being draft-illegal bike legs (ie solo timetrialling), the ETU have decided to make the actual championship race draft-legal (ie criterium-style road racing). This will change the dynamic of the race, and is also a form of racing I’m unfamiliar with.
Rather than moan about it, I decided to just get some crit practice.
This evening I took part in a Cat 4 (the lowest ranking category of road racing) race at Odd Down in Bath. Odd Down is a dedicated cycling race track, about 1.5km long with about 4 sharp corners per lap.
My aim was to hang in the lead bunch to gain experience of racing in a tight pack. And not crash. With a Duathlon qualifier this weekend for next year’s Euros, a crash would be very bad.
It was a 45 minute race. The basic format being that you ride for 40 minutes and then you get a countdown for 3 final laps. About 40 of us started the race. Within a couple of laps there was a lead group of 20 riders. It felt fairly comfortable riding / drafting in the group. I did a couple of long turns on the front but went a bit too deep the second time around and was almost dropped when the pack rode over me. I had to go even deeper for another lap just to cling on. This was a good learning experience: Don’t be a hero!
I hung in the pack from then on. After my first stint on the front, a guy came up the outside and said “on your right”. I thought he’d said “are you alright?” So I replied “yeah I’m good. You alright?” He got a bit funny and asked if I was being sarcastic. He later beat me in the sprint so I guess he had the last laugh!
With a lap to go I was still there. The pace had really lifted so it felt physically and tactically very difficult to move forward in the group. I probably could have been a bit more aggressive on the final two corners and gotten nearer the front, but in the end I had to settle for a hard sprint for about 10th place. All in all a success and a great learning experience.
It was a good physical workout. My power meter says I spent 11 of the 45 minutes at +400 watts which was mostly sprinting out of every corner. And my heart rate was at threshold for about half an hour. I also hit my max heart rate of the year so a good training session. Time now to rest for Sunday’s Duathlon…