While I love the long winter miles of building a base on the road bike (especially when they are spent in a warm country with nice weather), they are unfortunately not sufficient to properly prepare for the high intensity of racing. This means threshold or AC hill repeats.... - or road racing! I've found that the constant changes in power output in road racing quite nicely simulate those of mountain bike racing. And here in Ireland there's actually quite an active road racing scene - every weekend from spring to autumn there are several road races to choose from. So, instead of those annoying drills, I chose to do a few road races.
Ras Naomh Finian, Saturday, 12th March, Clonard
Course: Easy out and back course, big straight roads, good surface, a few roundabouts, flat, 70km.
Weather: Grimnest! It was freezing cold at the start, and the mizzle turned first into rain and then into snow and sleet! Breaking, shifting and drinking became difficult after the feeling had left the frozen fingers....
Race: A3s (my category) started off after giving the A4s a head start.
Goal: Get a good and hard workout.
I was here to get in a good AC workout. For some reason I had amazing legs and great determination. I basically chased everything that moved. I was very happy with my positioning, staying around the front for most of the race (I made it into at least 4 of the Irish Cycling shots!). We caught the A4s on the way out and rode through them. On the way back the speed and the attacks picked up. I started to feel the effort and started cramping up. I lost a few places going around a right-turn roundabout the longer way, like so many others and had to work hard to work my way back to the front. One person got away in front (I missed that) and the rest came in as a big bunch sprint. At that point I was so toast from the effort that I was happy to roll over the line with everybody else. Turns out I rolled over the line as first lady :) Frozen, but happy :)
After the race (which was only about 1h 45min) I went to do some mtb training, just in case I hadn't tired myself out enough in the race...
Newbridge GP, Sunday, 13th March, Newbridge
Well, what better idea than to really put the nail in the coffin and do another road race after a hard race and training the day before? Spontaneously I decided to turn up to this race and see what happens. When I started mtbing a few years back I used to race in the UK a lot, doing an XC race on Saturday followed by a 100km XC marathon on Sunday and I felt that these double sessions of back-to-back racing benefitted me a lot. Unfortunately the marathon series was discontinued, which really is a shame. But at least here in Ireland I could do 2 road races on consecutive days.
Course: 4 laps of a course, smaller roads, bigger field (about 160 riders in A3), 70km
Weather: Nice and not too cold either :)
Race: A3s had their own race.
Goal: Try and complete with the bunch.
We had a neutralized start until we reached the course. The bunch was nervous, for many their first road race of the season trying to show off their winter form. Breaks were squealing all the way to the start of the course. I was too scared and stayed at the back of the huge group. When we reached the course the speed suddenly seemed to go up and the person in front of me dropped the wheel. When I tried to chase back on my legs were saying no-no and the bunch pulled away. I regrouped with a few more stragglers and pushed on nonetheless. If I can't get an AC workout, then at least I can get a good tempo workout (I was out on my bike already, so no sense in turning back home now and starting again!). And so I went round and round the course 4 times mostly by myself.
After completing it I went home and out on the mtb again for a bit more of fun riding. In the evening I wasn't sure if I'd achieved the goal of tiring myself out enough, but when I cycled to college the next morning I was sure that I did - I was wrecked!
St. Patrick's Day Road Race, March 17th, Dunboyne
Course: Out to circuit, 2 laps, back to Dunboyne, mostly on smallish roads, 56km
Weather: Warm and dry
Race: A3s had their own race.
Goal: Get in a good training session and, if legs allow, be first lady over the line.
Team Cycleways was out in force with 3 people entering the A3 race: Stew, Sean and me - it is a bit weird seeing other people wearing "my" jersey! The general race plan (so I was told) was to take it easy on the first lap and then string it out on the 2nd lap, so I decided to save my energy and sit in on the first lap. Again the bunch was nervous and I wasn't focused, slipping back in the bunch all the time. I had one main competition in this race in the form of Michelle Geoghegan, pro-rider and thus well able to ride efficiently and defend her position in the bunch. After a crash in front of me I decided I had to get to the front to get out of harms way and worked my way up. The speed was fast on the 2nd lap and my legs were not in as great a form as in Clonard and I found it tough enough. Then somebody started attacking and I followed, but I was not quite able to stick on. Either way, I found myself quickly in front of the bunch by myself, about equidistant between the attacker and the bunch. Another lad attacked and bridged across to the guy in front - my chance to hang one, but unfortunately I reacted too late and wasn't strong enough to catch onto his wheel. So I was in nomansland, hoping for the bunch to catch me again quickly, because I was still going hard... Finally I was swallowed up again. The speed stayed high and we were on our way home. Again I kept slipping back through the bunch, with Michelle always in sight in front of me. The roads on the home straight are anything but straight and quite tight and windy, leading to another crash right beside me of a person going into a tight corner too fast (I almost washed out on the muddy edge of the road myself) and instinctively I slowed down. Big mistake, because the bunch kept going at full speed and soon I found myself out the back. I tried to chase on, but with Michelle in front in the bunch I knew that my chance to be first lady had gone at that stage, so I had to be content with letting them go and roll over the line after the bunch. Goal half-achieved!
Next up will be a short report about another new distraction - track cycling!