Experience: Lessons From Redlands
– By Frank Overton – A really smart guy once said “Experience is another way of describing your mistakes” and I couldn’t agree more — in life AND in cycling. One of the best things about the sport of road cycling is that it is a cerebral sport. Success comes from not only using your legs but also from using your brain. And how many times have you played back the events of your last race and thought, “boy that was dumb”?
In the States and abroad the race season is underway and most us us have a few races under our belt. For myself, I just returned from California where I went up against the country’s best (especially Team Saturn) in the Solano Stage Races and Redlands. And yes, I have lots of ‘experience’. Fortunately I plan on putting my ‘experience’ to good use this season, and you can too.
First, identify what happened and be honest with yourself. Consider discussing those finer points with your coach or a teammate for a different perspective.
– Did you make a tactical error that you can learn from?
– Was your training specific for the race?
– Could you have implemented a better race strategy?
– Was your warm-up enough?
– Did you size up the competition well enough?
– Were you being realistic about your goals or did they need to be adjusted?
– Were you properly fueled and hydrated?
– Was there some sort of equipment problem?
– Did you allow for proper recovery leading up to the race?
– Were there surprises out on the course that you could have known about?
– Did that Krispy Kreme doughnut you ate back in January weigh you down?
OK, enough, but you get the picture. Believe it or not while I was racing in Solano And Redlands I committed nearly all these errors (except the Krispy Kreme in January). During the first stage of Solano, I was too far in the back of a jittery field. When a crash ensued I was delayed at the BOTTOM of the first climb with KOM points at mile marker 8. No problem, I burned a match and made it back up to the back of the field. But then the first sprint points where at the bottom of this very fast, long and twisty descent. It was nearly impossible to do anything but follow wheels because passing was WAY too dangerous. Especially to a sight unseen course. (Lesson: check out the course!) Gaps opened up and as the descent flattened out into a HUGE cross wind, the field shattered. And that my friends was my GC: 14 minutes lost, but the lesson learned is to always ride up front AND to know what is coming up on the race course.
In Redlands on Stage 4 we faced what many are calling the race’s most difficult stage especially since it came a day after the back breaker stage of Oak Glen. Since I was tired and the race was fairly long I elected for a short 15 minute easy warm-up. WRONG! Just 3 miles into the course was a 20% climb and sadly I even pre-rode the climb for perspective (See lesson learned from Solano). I should have warmed up much more because Saturn put the hammer down and shattered the entire field. Furthermore, I knew this was going to happen and I should have ridden at the front. Thus I would have had over one hundred wheels to try to grab as I was getting dropped instead of a few from riding at the back. Obviously, pack positioning is something I need to work on. I encourage you to use your race ‘experiences’ to identify what you can correct, what you can fix, figure out, or whatever.
It seems like there are an infinite amount of details that go into that perfect day when all your training pays off, you dance on the pedals and your bike feels “as if it had no chain”. Your “experience” plays a huge part in your future racing success and if you analyze your mistakes and learn from them you too can become “that cagey rider” who always how to get the win.
There’s probably over 40 chances to race on the weekend by Labor Day so keep you head in the game and go get ’em!
Frank is a USA cycling certified coach and category 1 road racer. He can be reached at his website
FasCatCoaching.com and may be found training around Boulder, Colorado while daydreaming about race tactics.