When you have a plan….

Archer Spring Criterium 3/4

It’s important to have a plan going into a bike race. But what’s a plan if you don’t execute it?

The Archer Spring Criterium 3/4 race took place at Hillingdon on Sat 7th April. I lined up for the Cat 3 / Cat 4 support race after the main E/1/2 race, alongside teammates Johnny and Darren. I was feeling confident with my fitness going into the race and had a solid plan in my head that I was determined to stick to.

My guess was that there would be lots of failed attacks in the first half an hour of the race, and that a race winning move would finally establish itself towards the last 20 minutes. Therefore I planned to ignore any attacks early on, sit in the bunch, save as many matches as possible and then be in good position to break off the front towards the end.

30 minutes into the race and things had gone exactly to plan.

My average power 30 minutes in was at 231 watts. It wasn’t a slow race and there were lots of surges but I had done all I could to keep the legs fresh for later. 

So going into the last 20 minutes of the race I moved myself up through the pack and began to establish my position towards the front, ready to follow any moves that would go.

For a couple of laps nothing happened but I remained well placed. Writing this now, a couple of weeks after the race I can’t exactly remember what happened, but somehow I slipped back into the mid-pack at the crucial moment. Coming along the main straight with 6 laps to go an attack went and a couple of guys (who I had marked as possible winners today) rolled off the front of the group. For the first time all race, the bunch did not respond, probably due to tired legs, but there was nothing I could do being boxed in 20 wheels back, so I had to watch it go.

The race was won with that move and we (the bunch) were now racing for 3rd place.

I was still 20 wheels back and struggling to move up, as in the last 5 laps of a race, everyone is trying to do the same thing! But coming around the back of the circuit with 3 laps to go, one rider ahead of me got out the saddle and began to sprint up the side of the bunch. Perfect! I latched on to his wheel and caught a free ride past the whole peloton and into clear air, with us gaining maybe 5 seconds on the group. Only a slender advantage, but now was the time to commit. He flicked his elbow for me to take my turn on the front and I came around him, pushing 350W – 400W down the main straight past the 2 laps to go board. I knew this was the sort of power we would have to hold to stand any chance of staying away from the bunch.

archer spring criterium

Off the front of the bunch with 3 laps to go

After the long, slightly uphill right hand bend to start the penultimate lap I flicked my elbow for him to come through, but nothing. I flicked again and looked around and he said something which I assumed meant he was gassed and had nothing left. Shit! I’d have to hold the next lap and a half solo to stay away and take first place. I knew the gap was only a slim one so I re-focused and bought the power back up to as close to 350 W as I could manage. I came round to take the bell signalling the final lap still with a slender lead over the field. I gave it everything I had but unfortunately I was caught by 2 riders who had broke off the front of the group going around the back of the circuit. Once I was passed by them, my motivation took a tumble, knowing the group would now be on my wheel and I eased up, allowing them to come past going around the final corner.

breakaway power

4min 18s at 349W was not enough to stay away from the bunch

I did not bother to contest the bunch sprint, and probably didn’t have the legs to anyway and rolled across the line a few seconds behind the pack.

Disappointed with myself for not executing the plan I had conjured up before the race, but pleased to have at least gone all-in and emptied the tank in the final few laps.

Also the effort I put in to try and grab 3rd place resulted in my best 5 minute power of the year, which gives me confidence that my fitness is going up all the time, and results cannot be far away.