I'm doing a charity ride this month, trying to log 750 miles for the Great Cycle Challenge (sponsor me here and help me put an end to children's cancer!), and it's having some interesting impacts on my cycling overall. I'm way ahead of schedule with miles, having crossed 500 on the 13th, and I'll be over 560 by the end of the day. The challenge is half-way done, and I'm not feeling too beat up.
It's partially because the first few days of the month I just rode like a lunatic at full crank and nearly hurt myself. I had to back it down, while still honoring my commitments to the racing season.
So I started doing some experimentation with managing heart-rate, managing power, sacrificing climbs, managing my pedaling efficiency, and I'm at a point where I can ride about 50 miles just about every day without consequence.
Figuring out how to add racing to that was a little nerve-wracking.
I commuted to work on Tuesday on the race bike, being very careful not to throw down and only taking speed where it required no effort. I managed my heart and legs as well as I could, but when I rolled up to the start line, I already had 40 miles under me. And 51 the day before. In fact, I hadn't been off the bike in 5 days. It was Richmond swampy hot, and I wasn't expecting much.
Then they announced we would do 5 extra laps.
The race was fairly uneventful and predictable for the first 8 laps or so. I found a teammate's wheel and glued myself to it. A gap opened in front of me while I had a head of steam, and foolishly I rode to the front, pacing the group for about 2 laps. When I came off, the bell rang, and 3 riders made a strong break. Dammit.
That break stayed away for way too long. I took 3 or 4 laps to gather myself and work back toward the front again, then launched a hard attack to bridge up. The gap was bigger than it looked, and only one other rider chased. Neither of us made it across, but I was told it woke the group up, and when the final prime bell rang, they FINALLY started working and closed the gap.
On the last lap I got pinched to the inside, where I definitely did not want to be for the final turn, and though I saw a gap large enough to jump through for a shot at glory, I held back, thinking I'd blow up from the day's miles and efforts and just ruin somebody else's race.
The guy in front of me let off a little bit into the turn, the guys to my right squeezed in hard, and I dropped from the 2nd row to about 17th in the turn. Go time. Not expecting much from the effort, and watching the leaders roll away from me, I hit the gas with everything I could muster.
And they started coming back. All of them. In that short 15 second sprint, I got back 10 positions and was just about side-by-side with two more as we crossed the line.
Looking at the numbers later, I'd put down a 900W seated sprint that peaked at 1400W. After 56 miles in the saddle, and in ~90-degree heat. Holy. Crap.
So what did I learn last night? If there's an opportunity, go for it. Take the jump. Run the risk of running out of gas, because there's no shot at a win if you don't.