Question: I just began racing at age 46 and find it impossible to keep up with category 5 fields or my 45+ age group. I’m a strong recreational rider and I believe I train enough by commuting and varying the intensity and distance. I can easily drop any of the people I ride with (not racers but all strong riders). What do I need to do to be competitive? — Doug D.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: It’s impossible to assess what’s keeping you from racing success without seeing your tactics, knowing your physical capabilities from physiological testing, and examining your training in detail.
But your situation isn’t unusual. Many strong riders falter in competition because the demands of racing are far different from tough solo rides or even aggressive group rides.
Racing self-selects people with excellent physical talent. Most riders who try racing and get dropped a few times give it up. So in most domestic events, there’s a big group of well-matched riders and a few others who are happy just to be in the peloton and meeting the challenge.
Assuming that you have the talent to keep up with the riders in your category, your difficulties might stem from any or all of the following:
- Poor pack technique. Are you riding in the group, well sheltered from the wind? Are you positioned in the front third? Or are you wasting energy by letting gaps open and then having to chase back?
- Weak climbing. Are you being dropped on hills and forced to ride extra hard to rejoin the group, using up your energy?
- Slow recovery. Bike racing isn’t really an aerobic sport in some respects. In fact, it’s more of a power sport. Rarely does a racing pack go at a steady aerobic rate. Often the pace is flat out from the gun. Then it calms down until attacks or hills begin. Speed often yo-yo’s from very fast to downright slow. If you aren’t accustomed to making sudden hard efforts and quickly recovering, a fast section will put you off the back before long.
Those are three common problems. There are a number of proven solutions, which are covered in my eBooks.
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