Race Report – Ocala Criterium – Kevin Shutt
Downtown Ocala, FL
Saturday, May 4, 2019, 2 p.m.
Criterium (40 minutes)
Cat 5 (15 of 26) (with about a dozen Masters 40+ B)
The course was about 7/10 of a mile with six 90-degree turns forming an “L.” There are two long stretches on this course, one medium straight and three very short connectors.
The two longer stretches both dipped in the middle and the climb out of them ended at turns.
My favorite part of the course was the three turns in quick succession that brought us back onto the start/finish straight. The left turn was at the end of the second longest straight and climb, then dropped into a right turn that climbed up to the next right and very shallow climb up to start/finish. Each lap was about 16 meters of climbing.
My “hope” when I reconnoitered the route pre-race was that most of my competitors are from the coast or south Florida and not accustomed to riding rollers.
Being the first race of the day is nice because it’s easiest to pre-ride the course without having to arrive excessively early. I rode the course for about 20 minutes then got on the trainer for my Coach Chuck prescribed 40-minute warmup, which I am more comfortable completing on the trainer than on the road. After the trainer session, I had about 15-20 minutes till go time. I took my wheels to the staging area and rode the course 2-4 more times and then we started. I followed my standard crit nutrition with low-GI oatmeal/fruit/nuts three hours out and half a banana one-hour out. Something I haven’t done until today was take a gel 15 minutes before go time. Following the race, I did my immediate gel then recovery protein within 30 minutes followed by normal eating for the rest of the day.
My plan, as suggested by Coach Chuck, was to expend whatever effort necessary to stay connected to the lead pack for the first 10 minutes. The reasoning: because typically after that point, things tend to settle and be less intense. I ended up staying with the lead pack up until 30-32 minutes into the 40-minute race. In hindsight, I should have fought harder to stay with my group. So even though I won the physical battle for the first 10-30 minutes, I eventually lost the mental war.
Overall, I think the course suited me from the wide sweeping turns and full use of all the road to the short punchy climbs and descents. For the most part, I was able to recover downhill and carry my speed uphill. It certainly seemed that the other racers weren’t accustomed to hills as it was very easy for me to coast up to the outside, inside or right through the middle to be in the top five of the peloton as we headed into the turns.
I did hurt myself on these descents though because there was a headwind on the first descent after the start/finish and while I used that to recover my legs, I’d lose contact with the group even though I’d easily catch and pass them up the hill. In hindsight, I should have stayed in that damn draft and recovered going uphill, knowing that they just weren’t pushing the pace at that point. I think that would have made a huge difference in my perceived fatigue.
My cornering was mostly smooth and predictable and that contributed to my overall performance. At one point I led my group around the course for a single lap, intentionally not putting in a hard effort and just waited for them to come around, which they eventually did. In hindsight, because I had achieved my plan of still being with the peloton after the first 10 minutes of the race, I think it might have been fun and certainly challenging had I put in some kind of attack to see what happened. Would they chase me? Would they even care or notice? Were they just as tired as I was?
This was my fifth criterium to date. My first was in February, so obviously a steep learning curve and if I wasn’t seeing continuous improvement in different areas with each new race, I’d probably hang up my timing chip and just enjoy riding my bike for fun again. Ocala is my third favorite course but because I did (relatively speaking) so well here, I want to move it up to Number 1.
My biggest takeaway from this race is that plans are just a starting point for a race. We all know that as soon as the starting gun fires, plans often go out the window. So, we know that we have to adapt and overcome at that point.
But what about when the plan is achieved? Once I knew I was past that initial 10-, 15-, 20- or 25-minutes and was still in the fight, I should have evaluated myself: How do I feel? What do I have left? And then I should have formulated a new plan to finish the race. That’s where planning an attack or planning to fight to CONTINUE to hang on would have made the difference from a very good day to a PERFECT race.