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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Indy Criterium 2013 - 2nd Place!

Indy Crit 2013 - 2nd Place!
It was an incredible feeling being on the podium at the biggest cycling event in Indianapolis, the Indy Crit!  With 89 riders and a flat course not suited for a lightweight rider like me, this race was far from easy which you'll understand after seeing the race data further down this post.  Anyway, the suffering was well worth it because today marked my first medal!
Indy Crit 2013 - 2nd Place Medal
The picture below is the only podium picture I have right now.  The camera was having issues and luckily, it worked right before we walked completely off the podium!  Yes... it looks like I was wearing full winter gear, but those "winter tights" are actually skincoolers from De Soto Sport.  They provide UV protection and stay wet to keep me cool.
PAST EXPERIENCE AT THE INDY CRIT (2012):
For the weeks leading into the race, it would be an understatement to say that I was nervous!  At random times during the day, my heart rate would spike just from thinking about my past experience at this race.  I almost got dropped because I barely had the fitness to move up the group and close the gaps as the race progressed.  I left the race beat up, exhausted and glad to say that I didn't "DNF" this time!  Last year, my goal was to not get dropped, so I was actually really happy as long as I made it on the results list without the letters "DNF" next to it. lol

Indy Crit - Course map
89 RIDERS + FLAT COURSE = WORST CONDITIONS:
Although the cap was set to 75 riders, 89 riders showed at today's race.  I couldn't tell what made me more nervous, being intimidated by all of the teams or the huge field of riders!  While I was warming up with a good friend, Terry McDonald from Team Organic, I was so shakey that I mis-clipped and smashed my shin into my pedal.  I didn't know I had bled a good amount until I went home.  Adrenaline is a funny thing!

Without any significant elevation changes, the flat course and the potential for high speeds was better suited for the larger, more powerful riders.  I could only use the corners to my advantage.  Thanks to my low weight, I can accelerate without expending as much energy as my heavier rivals.

The course map is a little deceiving.  Some of the corners were four to five lanes wide, so everyone could enter and exit the corners without losing a significant amount of speed.

THE MAJORITY OF THE RACE:
I tried to stay as patient as possible to conserve my energy during the 45 minute race.  Without too much trouble, I was able to maintain contact with the front half of the peloton for most of the race.  As the race progressed and the pressure turned on, riders popped off the back one by one.  It was critical that I always kept an eye on the front of the peloton to make sure gaps weren't forming.  As soon as the rider I was drafting showed weakness, I would accelerate back to the lead group.  This basically continued throughout the race, with the occasional close call accident caused by riders losing their line.

FREAK CLOSE CALL ACCIDENT:
There was only one close call accident worth mentioning and it happened as I switched my hands from the hoods to the drops.  Before I entered turn three, I unexpectedly hit a pothole before my left hand could securely grab the drops.  In an instant, my left hand slipped off the drops and I rapidly fell towards my handlebar.  I don't know how I recovered from this potential wipeout because it happened so quickly, but I was miraculously able to regain control of my bike and complete the turn.  Maybe my chest slammed on my handlebar or I somehow caught myself with one arm... I don't know what happened, but I was really lucky on that corner.  Of course, something that has never happened in my years of cycling had to happen today!

THE LAST FIVE LAPS:
At five laps to go, I had worked my way into a good position.  Through some clever line selection, I was able to reach the top 10 positions, but since no one wanted to do work and keep the pressure on at the front, a train of riders was able to attack and pushed me back to ~40th position!  I was so far back that I thought my chances at even a top 10 finish was over, especially since the pace lifted significantly.  Panic set in, but I took a deep mental breath and made a goal to pass at least two people per turn.

By the last lap, I was able to bring myself back to the top ten positions.  My plan worked!  Approaching the second to last turn, I was fifth wheel back and saw a fast attack from the inside which I immediately called.  We held first and second position towards the final turn.  Since I noticed that the rider in front of me was throwing his bike and losing form, I planned to outsprint him on the straight to the finish.  After exiting the final turn, I was moving significantly faster than first place, but unfortunately miscalculated the distance of the turn to the finish.  Although I was moving significantly faster than first place, I didn't have enough road to pass him and finished at second place.  I was happy with the result, especially since I barely made it back to the front within the last five laps.

RACE DATA & ANALYSIS:
The red, black and blue line is my heart rate, cadence and speed, respectively.  As you can see in the graph below, I barely had any time to recover during the race.  Unlike the Eagle Creek Traditional Criterium that I won earlier in the season, I was near the top end of my lactic threshold almost the entire duration!
The chart below breaks down all of my efforts.  For one minute, I was able to stay within my VO2max.  This occurred when there was a sudden drop in the pace.  For 34 minutes 36 seconds, I was close to my lactic threshold.  I mostly used this energy system to sustain the speeds throughout the race.  Anytime I was either doing work at the front or bridging large gaps, I was in the red zone.  This shows just how hard it was for me to maintain the speed of the peloton without a draft.
I wanted to make sure that I didn't overcook my legs during the 4/5 race to ensure that I would be fresh for the 3/4 race a few hours later.  The goal was to hit my red zone for about 1% of the total duration.  The one percent was determined based on my workouts and notes in my training log.  Based on the chart, I met my goal and it payed off big time at the 3/4 race.  When I raced in the 3/4 category, I didn't have a good result because I had to avoid a pileup and close a big gap at ~2 mph faster than the 4/5 average speed.  I would have gotten dropped if I went too hard in the 4/5 race.
The data below correlates to the first graph.  This is pretty much self explanatory, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!

SPONSORS:
I would like to give a huge thanks to my sponsors WeightVest.com, DeSotoSport.com, VelocityUSA.com and PolarUSA.com.  Even though I haven't joined an official team yet, I like to think of my sponsors as my teammates.  Without their help, I wouldn't have had the power, comfort and the peace of mind today to pull off a podium finish!

WeightVest.com:  They've been with me since my first race aka. "The DNF Season."  Their 150 pound weighted vest played a huge part in how quickly I progressed season to season.  I've never needed additional weight to keep my strength and plyometric training challenging.  This doesn't sound like much of an advantage, but there's a lot of value in having the convenience to train at home.  Less time traveling to a gym means more time to do more productive things!  Training with their V-Force vest definitely helped me stick with the bigger riders today.

De Soto Sport: Although I didn't appear to look comfortable based on the many jokes courtesy of the MC (white hat), my Skincooler Leg Coolers helped big time today!  I'm glad I made it to the podium because afterwards, the MC made amends by promising to cut down on the jokes after he realized I was on the podium. :)

Velocity Wheels:  I was super impressed with the Velocity A23 Pro Build wheelset!  There were so many times where I was certain that I had a flat tire after riding over the deep potholes and man-hole covers riddled throughout the course.  The bone-rattling brick section was also a thing of the past.  I unexpectedly was able to remain seated comfortably throughout the entire brick section of the course.

It was also super easy to corner without having the fear that I might lose grip.  This played a huge part in getting into a good position on the final lap.  During some post race maintenance, it was even more impressive to watch both wheels spin true!  Thanks a ton for hand building me a set!