I’ve had a really great time representing pedal RACING this year. I’ve learned a ton, made new friends and earned some great results along the way. Winning my last race of the season was the perfect way to finish.
The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cycling Hill Climb is a great race. It’s well organized with prompt results. The road and Pike’s Peak itself are amazing. The only drawback is that the start times for every category are between six and seven A.M. I’m guessing the start times are early so they can open the road to regular traffic ASAP (I specifically asked the official during the start line briefing and the yellow line rule was NOT in effect on the way up, though it felt too weird to actually take advantage and cut the corners so I basically didn’t.) Regardless of the reason for the early start times I suspect this is a major factor why there were only five other entrants in the SM4 category but the first step to winning a
race is showing up.
In my limited experience, hill climbs are mostly like time trials with some differences:
- There will be a group that starts off too fast at the beginning.
- There may be riders of similar ability where you may want to “hang back” with racers going slightly slower than you can for part of the race to conserve energy (before attacking).
- There may be riders of similar ability where you may want to go faster than you would prefer to see if you can exceed your expectations or in the hope they’re also going harder than what they can sustain.
I’ve learned that if one can hang on to the group until it settles down, then you can assess the situation and figure out what to do from there. Managing the start in this race was challenging because the SM4 and both the Cat 5 fields started at the same time. It started out really fast so I knew it would have to slow down. After a couple miles it did and I realized that the pace I had hoped to sustain was going to separate me from the rest of the field. I decided to forge ahead and the rest of the race was mostly trying to sustain my effort and manage my nutrition so I wouldn’t bonk or cramp up. It was a great feeling to get the win, especially since it was my second race as a Cat 4 and Pike’s Peak is an iconic climb.
The previous paragraph makes it sound “easy” but there are some real keys that helped me to be successful (in this race and throughout the season):
- When possible I research registered participants to get an idea of the competition. You can’t always know everything you’d like to but even some info can help you make better decisions during a race.
- I am a “data head.” I have a power meter and I have some idea of my raw abilities at different durations that I use, especially for time trial type efforts to make a race plan. I also look at power from previous “similar” activites when planning. It’s really valuable to be able to set achievable goals.
- At the Boulder Stage Race I learned to always race with the mentality that you deserve to win. I was not quite a minute behind the GC winner at the start of the last stage. In my mind it was an insurmoutable lead. We were riding together with 500M left. I was giddy that I was going to be on the podium at all. I sprinted the last 500M and to my surprise I made up over 20 seconds. There’s a VERY real possibility that if I had gone harder earlier he would have been able to keep up with me and still win the GC so I’m NOT saying I deserved to or even that I was capable of winning, but I realized that I had lost the race mentally before he won it physically by not believing it was even worth the effort to try. I’ve heard this before from others and thought “yeah right, never give up blah blah blah” but it really is true.
- I’d like to call out special thanks for the racing clinics at the beginning of the season and for the group rides and discussions during the year that have really helped us all to be better, smarter, safer racers. It’s easy to look at the success we’ve had as a team this year and attribute it to our individual athletic abilities or luck, but I think the support we’ve had has been a big factor in how many of us have made podiums, gotten new PR’s, met our goals for a race, upgraded categories, or improved from last year.
- I commute by bicycle year round.
- Nutrition. Both on and off the bike. A power meter is a shortcut to learning how to manage your athletic abilities faster, but there are no shortcuts to understanding what nutrition works best. I’ve been riding seriously over four years now and I expect to not ever have it fully figured out.
- Don’t skimp on cycling equipment for your wife/husband if they ride. I’ve used various pieces of my wife’s bike and kit at times this season so in addition to it being good for her, it’s helped me too.
- I know it might not be “cool” (though it’s often cliche) or win me any friends to say this but any talent I have is ultimately from God. Whenever I do well, God should get the credit.
- My wife (and kids) have been amazing this year with me riding so much. It’s been a real challenge at times and I think I’ll try targeting a bit of a different schedule next year, but being able to do all the races and group rides I’ve done has been a great experience. I literally couldn’t do it without her and I just want to say a huge Thank You!