Jeff and I were at it again this Tuesday on very unfamiliar ground: criterium practice in West Bend. We joined about 20 other riders—Team Extreme guys, mostly—for three practice races. This time hilarity did not ensue. Riding at those speeds on pavement in a large group is serious business. But we had fun and everyone stayed safe. I have never raced in a crit and prior to Tuesday I had never practiced for one. I can see its appeal, but it’s a style of racing for which I am unsuited. I don’t have a sprint, nor do I have sustainable breakaway power.
My Tuesday was supposed to be spent on the mountain bike at New Fane, but car trouble kept me in West Bend. I took the road bike over to crit practice just to say hello to the gang, then found myself actually doing the race simulations. I was able to hang around on the tempo laps without any difficulty, but I couldn’t stay with most of the guys when they cranked up the speed before the final sprint. That’s OK; they’re already a couple of races into their season while I remain focused on the still-distant 2012 cyclocross season. And many of them were experienced Cat 2 and Cat 3 racers whose wheels I couldn't hold on my best day.
I have no criterium ambitions, but adding these practices to my training plan could help my top-end fitness. That’s something I don’t work on enough. Developing the power needed to close a gap or to sprint for the finish line would undoubtedly help me when ’cross resumes. Maybe I will move my New Fane visits to Mondays or Fridays, days when I don’t want to put in a hard aerobic effort. I could continue to develop mountain biking skills while I’m in “active recovery” mode. Tuesdays and Thursdays, then, would be the harder aerobic efforts. Weekends would continue to alternate between racing and long, steady distance.
This Tuesday’s performance—unexpected though it was—had its origins on Monday’s solo road ride. Despite unfavorable winds and the fact that I was riding my ’cross bike with 700x30 tires at 70 psi, I averaged 17 mph for 32 miles over rolling terrain. I felt strong. I feel strong. And I hope to perform well tomorrow in the first of this year’s Thursday evening group rides.