Keeping Momentum in Turns

Lots of people will tell you to move up in a race, often if you need to move up, it is easier said than done. And if you find yourself at the back of the pack in a tight or very fast crit, then it can seem nearly impossible. But with a few techniques you can save more momentum in the turns which can save more energy and will make moving up easier.

Momentum As you ride towards the turn the back of the pack is going to slow down going into the turn, make the turn, then accelerate to get back up to the speed of the leaders. 3 things here:

A) if you are maxed out, you may need a break from the accelerations. If you are at the back or close to it, you can often ride at a much steadier pace if you are slightly off the back of the other riders before the turns. By being solo off the back you will not be subjected to as much slowing and accelerating of the pack and thus you maybe able to maintain a much steadier pace along the course. It is best to have a gap going into the turn, then gain the ground back up while coming out of the turn. Of course, it is important to maintain contact with the group on the long straights, but you can sit-up sooner before everyone else and not brake as much (if at all) before the turn. Your average speed will be similar to the groups, but you will not have the fatigue causing changes of pace that the back of the group has.

B) you know that the group is accelerating back up to the leaders then will slow down again. If you don’t accelerate as much, you may loose spaces if other cyclist can get around you, but you have better chance to stay with the group. You don’t always have to put out an intense effort to stay with the pack, but you must be strong and talented to move up through the field later in the race.

C) if you don’t slow down as much going into the turn, you will not have to accelerate back up to speed as much. Trick? Yes, and I love to use it! Just before everyone is setting up to go into a turn, I will start coasting a little sooner than the others, I time it so that just before I start to lean the bike, I will pedal 2-4 times, then turn – the result is I started my acceleration before going into the turn, I carry the speed through the turn. Now when I am coming out of the turn I do not have to accelerate as hard as the person ahead of me.

Want some beginner pointers on crit racing, see my post on riding a crit

Some cyclists going into a turn, will take the chance of going up the inside of the corner, attempt to find a spot to make the turn with the group to gain spots. I do not like nor recommend this approach. Yes, it works for some riders sometimes, but when it goes wrong, it is very bad, and people with road rash get very angry.

Focus on your Motor

One of my favorite things about cycling and racing is that the most important part of the sport is the motor. No matter how much someone can/does spend on parts, or fancy equipment – it truly comes down to the motor that is pushing those cranks. What some people don’t see is other peoples love for the sport, their love of cycling. Some folks are into cycling only to be competitive, and attempt to purchase their way to the top.

Take a look at this question for example, “would a compact crank make my bike faster?” The simple answer is no. The compact crank will allow you to spin more on a climb, but is that really a good thing? Check out “Why compact cranks can make your legs weaker” . I did a group road ride recently where a guy was spinning himself off the back of the pack, as I was pulling up beside him, I was going to suggest him to shift & mash – luckily he did just before I suggested it.

Your heart and lungs are the Carburetor, and your legs are the pistons. If you spin the easiest gear all the time it would be like red-lining a sports car in 1st gear on the interstate. For optimal cycling you have to adjust the gears based on A) the terrain and B) on your abilities. Sometimes it is better to spin an easier gear, but sometimes it is better to mash a gear. The thing to remember is that if you always spin an easier gear, then your legs do not get any stronger!

If you were training to ride up a 12 mile climb of 12% in France, would you do all your climbing in the easiest gear? I wouldn’t! I would mash 1 gear harder than I would normally – therefore making my legs stronger. Then when I got to France my legs should be used to mashing a larger gear, which would make spinning up the climb easier. So train harder to make your big event easier.

On the flip side of the coin: A friend of mine wanted me to do a 90 mile ride with him, that was going to include three, 7 mile climbs…. a week before he was going to race Twilight a 1K criterium in Athens, GA. My advise, go for a 2 hour spin with very little climbing. ‘spin’ is the key word. For racing a criterium next week your legs are as strong as you can get them before such an event – the key is to do something similar to the upcoming race – which he did – Sunny King Criterium. 1 group ride this week and a couple easy high cadence spins is all that can be done the week before the race. Doing any climbing causes the legs to become accustomed to a lower cadence, not the high cadence required for a crit!

The best way to set-up a training plan is to find out what your target goal is, then plan backwards. That is why it is so important to look at the overall season as early as possible each year. The more time you have for planning, the more you can do the proper training to bring you into optimum form! This is often where a coach will look at your overall schedule and time for training and place the proper workouts in your training plan to bring you to peak form.

Mt biking Stanley Gap

A friend of mine had to take a trip up to North Georgia and it gave us the perfect opportunity to ride on some Awesome trails that are only 90 minutes North West of Atlanta in BlueRidge, GA. After a relaxing morning we had the car loaded up w/ 4 dogs and 2 Mt. bikes, and cruised up 575, onto 515 past Ellijay into BlueRidge.

After settling the dogs down, they were taken on a guided hike w/ a lake visit. We hopped on the Mt bikes and off we rode onto the lake Blue-ridge connector trail out onto Aska Rd. headed for a long beautiful sunny day in the saddle. The views of the landscape, pastures, and Mountains are incredible in this part of Georgia. The temperature was amazing. I felt warm while climbing, but chilled from the breeze as soon as we would stop.

Soon we were climbing back country trails heading to the trail head of Stanley Gap. There has been quite a bit of great trail work in this area, and although it is still back country riding, most of it is quite ride-able. Many sections reminded me of the riding in Pisgah National Forest. There are several climbs that are challenging and make the Granny gear a necessity for most riders. The downhills are wicked fast, and there were a couple of sections that I was lucky to stay upright getting through them. It is easy to carry so much speed that you get into a technical section a little too fast!

A video (with Music) from the ride there last year:

Next up we started part of the Flat Creek loop. Coming down the rocky descent along a stream just adds to the amazing scenery that you will miss b/c you are too focused on the next upcoming water barrier that you can jump!

We carried the Flat Creek trail all the way to Aska road. Luckily I had a guided tour of the area, but I still can’t help but feel that there is so much more in this area of Blueridge to explore, yet unfortunately we had to head back to the Atl, so after a well earned steak and potato dinner, we picked up the lake weary dogs and back onto 515 we cruised, sore, exhausted and thoroughly content after a day of lung and heart pumping Mt biking.

Georgia has some great Mt biking, but if you want some steep, some steady climbs and some sick downhills with a true feel of the Mountains, Flat Creek and Stanley Gap will not disappoint you. This is part of the reason that both trails are rated 4.5+ on trail review section. Enjoy!

Hell of the South ride

Sunday afternoon before watching Paris-Roubaix Eric organized a gathering of cyclists to ride out on our road bikes and onto several sections of dirt roads in honor of this great 1 day classic.

Pave Climb

This ride was going to be a no drop, regroup ride open to all riders. So, we got a group of mainly experienced riders with a few people that were uneasy riding a road bike in the gravel, and someone that had never done 70 miles before…. heck of a way to get in your 2 firsts – 1st 70 mile ride and 1st time riding a road bike over gravel. But because the group knew it was going to be low key, regrouping it turned out superb! Heck, we even had a follow car that re-fueled us with water when we came to any stops!!

On the sections of gravel, with out a word being said, several riders alternated making sure everyone was ok, flat tires got fixed, and kept moving forward. Because of the experienced riders up front on the road sections, the group mainly road 2 abreast (unless there was any traffic). The riders upfront were able to maintain a steady tempo that was suitable for everyone, and allowed us to tick off the road mileage.

Some of the most fun was going down the gravel sections and causing shenanigans amongst each other. At 1 point, just before a gravel climb, I was slapping Tim’s rear wheel – he immediately said ‘Uh Oh, I think I got a flat’ – it happened so fast I thought he knew someone was messing with him – he slowed and kept looking down at the rear wheel as we passed, now standing to get up this climb…. laughing. He finally got to the top where we were soft pedaling still checking out the tire when we told what had happened. :)

After about 6 sections of gravel road and 2 store stops the day was getting long, and the peeps were anxious to head back in time to watch the true Paris-Roubaix. The Captain started to lay down the power, and the group split as they headed back home. Now the fella’s that still had energy were torquing the cranks & sucking into the draft of those at the front – race pace. We hammered it all the way back to the cars & the waiting drafts of Ale.

What a fabulous ride in so many ways – new riders got much improved handling skills, gained instruction on technique, got over their fears of riding over gravel. Introductions were made over friendly conversations as people meet other people they didn’t know. Riders were able to push the pace over the gravel when they wanted, yet everyone made sure we stayed together at the end of each section. Once we made it to the Pub, more laughter and tales of the days miles were talked about as we watched in awe of the cyclist that race Paris-Roubaix.

Ride Organizer & Photo taker Eric

What are Junk Rides

When you go out for a training ride, do you end up doing a Junk Ride?

I know a couple athletes that can ride at the front of a group ride, but can never seem to finish well in a race.

They do several of the group rides during the week, and 1 or 2 on the weekend. Then when I see them riding alone, they are going so hard they can barely pick their head up.
They end up doing Junk rides. They ride at the same level on each ride, they never have any peaks or troughs.

Junk rides can be rides that you go on that don’t have a set goal before hand. There isn’t a training plan in the background that this ride fits into, and you do the same thing each week.
NOW, don’t get me wrong, listening to what the body says is always a good thing, but when you don’t listen to what the body says and always push hard, then you may very well end up in the junk zone, and this is why.

What tends to happen is that some athletes think that they have to go out and kill themselves on every ride. Although initially there can be significant gains for beginner riders, it is usually because they don’t ride as often as experienced riders, therefore, they are getting more rest in between the hard sessions. But more isn’t always better. And as you start riding more you start increasing the number of hard days and decreasing the number of rest/recovery days.

As cyclists become more adapted to cycling and train more often, the Easy ride should become just that, EASY! Let me say that another way to emphasize this point – Easy rides have to be Very Easy! No climbs, no hills, the flatter, the better. Use the time to talk w/ friends, check out the scenery, and work on your pedal stroke and cadence.
Now, that you have done that, THEN you can train HARDER. You have to have those valleys in the cycle to also have those Peaks. Otherwise your training line doesn’t have peaks and valleys, but becomes flatter.

Some people do too many unnecessary base miles. Some people do too many hard efforts all year. This is where getting a VO2Max Test will show you exactly what heart rate range to do your intervals to get optimal performance.

3 days of Suffer

Friday’s ride: I got an early work release program from the studio and headed to North Georgia for some Mountain climbing – AKA the North Georgia ‘Gaps’. Unfortunately, I realized I had left my front wheel at my house… even though I had gone through my quick check . I had put a new tire on the bike and had the front wheel off. I had wheeled the bike out to the car w/o the front wheel. Luckily I had a spare 1 from the TT bike at the studio loaded it & onto Ga 400 North & Away we Go!

I made the decision to go up on Friday thinking there is so much less traffic on a week day. UNLESS that week day happens to be Good Friday #FAIL. I get started w/ my friend Shannon who is fresh off ‘Iron(whoa)Man’ New Zealand and b/c I didn’t ride on Thursday I’m starting to realize that it’s not going to be a fun ride. Luckily Shannon was empathetic and didn’t leave me too far behind – which had to be a challenge for her b/c she is a strong climber. So strong in fact that she is on her Tri bike… with what appears to be a 23-11 – and she didn’t appear to need that 23….or the 21.

We get started on Neals Gap and have to stop to check on Shannon’s bike, her back brake was rubbing…..why she needed to loosen it while climbing w/ me I didn’t ask…. then Mike stopped on his way down Neals – I think he was doing the front 3 twice that day?! Dude!

I tried my best to spin the 25 on the climb up 7 mile climb to the Appalachian Trail crossing. I sucked down some Accelerade, and then some Nuun – and suddenly the stomach wasn’t too Happy…. maybe it was the lunch burrito from Moe’s in Dawsonville merely 45 minutes ago? Nah!

On the way down Neals, I leaned into a turn, and suddenly got weird feedback from my front wheel. It felt like suddenly the bike was leaning too hard. I sat up and descended at a much more cautious pace. When I got to the turn for Wolfpen, I stopped and checked the wheel. Fresh tire maybe? then I realized that the hub on my Mavic wheel was looose. This was causing the hub to shift when I leaned into the turns. It’s a spooky feeling! I tightened the hub slightly, but it is time to get it serviced!

The sufferFest continued up Wolfpen as usual, and fortunately nothing of consequence happened on the climb. Up and over and when we pulled into Suches, we ran into several other cyclists including Mike and Rob. As we chatted, we found out Mike was up for riding on Saturday also…. Yay!!

Saturday we met back at Suches and headed up the easier side of Wolfpen – I say this b/c Mike and I actually kept Shannon in sight for most of the climb. Onto Jacks Gap, where my early ‘keep my own pace’ pays off in the long run as I am later able to reel in Mike and get close to Shannon whom barely hesitated before swoooshing downhill with me in full downhill sprint to attempt to keep up with her on the aerobars.

At the Unicoi side of Jacks, we decide that weather is looking ominous, and opted to stay closer to the vehicles, so we turned around and headed back up Jacks with a full on conversation about working out and cycling diets :) “Tell me, how did you buy just half a cow?” Oh boy!

On the way back down Jacks we hang a Left turn and take the quiet road up and over Craig’s Gap, then proceed back to the store for some ‘Sugar’ before ascending Wolfpen again…. Ugh! Shannon was once again Outta Sight! while Mike kept me in check. The ride back to the car wasn’t quite as downhill as quoted, but it was much easier with Shannon willing to do the pace-making – she is going to rock cour d’alene!

Sunday’s ride: 1st Mistake: not finding out where the guys were riding too – I rode w/ 4 Reality Bikes guys and cycling from Dawsonville, and headed North. 2nd Mistake: only having 1 gel – I used a whole flask on Friday and didn’t get a chance to find more. That left me with a cheer pack and 2 clif bars. 3rd mistake: riding w/ the 3rd place finisher of the U23 Hungarian Nationals & thinking it was going to be a social ride. 4th Mistake sprinting to get over the climbs, then realizing I was back in Dahlonega, GA. We rode past the Walmart and I thought we were heading for the gaps, but luckily we made a right and climbed towards Cleveland. We stopped at a store in Murrayville, and I had to get sugar! I bought what looked like a Liter of Sprite and nearly drank the whole thing on the way back to Dawsonville.

Easter Sunday was a buffet that only the strongest of will power could resist! too much food, too much drink, but just an Awesome mix of friends!!

I am sore and WIPED OUT (not that it’s such a bad thing) Awesome weekend of training! In a couple more weeks the strength gained from such training will be obvious, but until then I have several rest days coming up!