London Criterium O-Cup #7
Finishing the Season on a High at the London Criterium
Like all good literature, my race reports follow a well established pattern:
- I arrive at the race over confident
- I have a poor start (miss pedal, line up too far back)
- I sit at the back of the pack
- I get dropped from pack due to poor positioning (caught behind crash, accordion affect wears me out, etc.)
- I DNF
Sunday was the last O-Cup of the season, the Tourism London Criterium. The London Criterium was held on the same course as last year’s provincial criterium championship in which I raced the sportif category and (surprise, surprise) DNFed. Thankfully, I knew going in that it was going to be a much better circuit than the Campbellville O-Cup.
I don’t know what it was about this race. I keep wanting to find something different about the course or the competition compared to other events to explain why it went so well for me. I just keep on not wanting to credit myself for having a good race for once. I was bound to have a good race eventually.
How the Race Went Down
Since nothing overly exciting happened in the race, I will just recount some of the highlights of the London Criterium.
First, I was riding a new bike. I am currently demoing the 2016 Scott Foil 30 and the London Criterium was a good opportunity to really put the bike through its paces. After how it handled the race, it may just be my next bike. Look out for a full review in the coming weeks.
Second, although I felt like I lined up further back then I wanted to (3rd line out of 3ish lines), I clipped in quickly and was able to get into the pack before the first corner. Finally a race where I didn’t have a bad start.
Third, I was constantly taking opportunities to move up and position myself better in the peloton. I did my best to position myself near the front in order to limit the impact of the accordion effect in the corners. If I looked around and saw I was at the back, I tried to find an opportunity to move up a couple places. I was often able to just roll my momentum up towards the front or jump on a wheel for a free ride thus conserving precious energy. But I still think I wasted too much energy by not tucking in quick enough in the headwind a few too many times. Of course I couldn’t have a perfect race.
Fourth, maybe it was because less people came out this race and there was no big teams, but it felt like there were more opportunities to recover when the peloton sat up. Other races it has felt like its been full gas from start to finish, but at the London Criterium there were moments when they eased off the gas a bit. These moments were a chance to recover and should have been used to move up. Instead, I often found myself moving back as the riders at the back swamped up the sides as they moved up. In crit racing, if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving back.
Fifth, I can actually ride with these guys. My legs felt good. I had no problems closing gaps or holding wheels. I was concerned with my fitness before hand as things on the bike had felt like a struggle recently but those concerns were unfounded. My cornering was good as well and I was not losing tons of places in the bends. The only time I struggled to hold wheels was when the pace kicked up on the final lap but I still managed to finish on bunch time.
Finally, I finished a race! More importantly, I finished an Ontario Cup Criterium. Sure, I finished the KW Classic 9 minutes behind, but the London Criterium is the first crit at this level that I have not DNFed. I feel like all the hard work specifically aimed at crit racing I have put in over the last 2 months is validated. Focusing on shorter efforts and gaining experience through racing has paid off. And it gives me the confidence that if I keep up the hard work, next season I wont just be hanging on, I’ll be mixing it up with these guys.
In conclusion, the London Criterium was by far my best race of the season. A great way to finish off my road season and set me up for a great cyclocross season and an even better off season. I finally actually feel like I am moving towards some of the goals I set for myself as a cyclist and will go into next year’s training full of confidence.
I’d like to take this time to apologize to anyone who came to this blog to read about my regular failures and laugh at my struggles. That has never been the point of this website. I always hoped that by sharing my experiences and misadventures in getting into racing, I could help people avoid the same mistakes I made. Normally I include with some sort of lesson I took away from each race, sort of a silver lining on what is usually a tough day, for that purpose. Since the London Criterium feels like such a success, what I am taking away from this race is that hard work does pay off.
I know it sounds like a cliche, put sometimes we all need to be reminded that it is actually true.