Looking back at my 1st race season

It's over already. Last weekend marked the last race of my first ever race season and it ended very differently than how it started. From arriving late, no warm-up, stressed out and finishing dead last to arriving right on time, calm and ending up in the top 5, I learned a lot over the last few months. I learned about myself, about training and about racing.

As far as training is concerned, I learned that my training plan wasn't working well for me. I started to be faster and feel better when I dropped it and went by feel and guts. Now I'll be able to plan how to train much better for 2009. What type of trainings, how often, when and for how long to take breaks, I just hope I can improve in consistency, that was my weakest point.

I also learned about preparing a race, the few days and hours before a race are very important, stay hydrated, eat well but not right before the start. Sure the body has to be well tuned but so does the bike. A bike with a greasy drivetrain is asking for trouble.

Not finishing two races also was part of the learning experience. It sucks when it happens, whatever the reason so after that, avoiding a DNF becomes even more important. So again, being ready physically and having a bike that's also ready is key.

I met some of the goals I had fixed myself through the season. My goal for my first race was to finish... and I did. Next race's goal was to not finish last and I did too but barely. Still, I was happy given I was sick. Next was to just improve which I did if you look the placing but with major cramps, I still finished last at the third race. That was a bit deceiving but I took it as part of the learning process. Then it didn't went too well, a broken bike followed by a deep let go in my training then an unmotivated race went by before I picked things up and bounced back to end the season much better. Sure the last two races were regional races and not provincials but I still was much faster and more into the race. So 44th, 33rd, 27th, DNF twice, 6th and 3rd makes me want to do it again next year. Curiously, I finished the Quebec Cup overall standings in 34th out of 87 by just finishing 3 races out of 11.

I also now have a true race bike and that helps quite a bit. The Cannondale Scalpel was designed to race from the ground up. The bike is capable of winning World Cups and World Championships and will never be a limiting factor, in fact, it's the other way around. It just felt much more in it's element than the Prophet on a race course, no lost energy in the suspension, a geometry made to go fast and several pounds less to carry up climbs. Attacking a steep and/or long climb is very different on a bike that weighs over 27lbs compared to one that's close to 21lbs. And that's not all, with a new wheelset that arrived recently and by using non-UST tires and lighter Hope 2-piece rotors, my Scalpel will lose over 1.5lbs just where it counts, in the wheels. The bike will be around 19.6lbs next time I hit a start line. It will be up to me to make sure I'm as much up to it than my bike...

Feather light Cannondale rims?

So the plan for next year is to be more competitive. That's easier said than done but for a start, a more consistent, regular training that's more matched to me should help a lot. I know my strengths and where I need to improve. I climb well and I'm quite fast up steep and short punchy climbs, I'm not too bad in technical sections, I'm decently fast in twisty, up and down sections and I usually get faster as the race goes on but I need to become faster from the gun. Being stuck behind slower riders and needing to make many passes slows me down so if I could be closer to the front from the start, without suffering for it later in the race of course would help me a whole lot. This might be solved by doing longer and harder warm-ups... I also need to get more aggressive when passing. I caught myself following slower riders for too long too often.

So, better training, good racing tactics, a fast and well tuned bike should all help me out. One thing though that was there from the start that I kept all season long is that the thing I find the most important when racing is keeping it fun. Okay I didn't have that much fun when I had to deal with cramps or at Chelsea but most of the time, I had fun on the bike. It's the fun factor that makes me want to start over next year, suffer through hard trainings and races, it's all in the name of having fun.


used2Bhard said...

You will be shocked how much speed you pick up this winter. I could not believe the difference coming into my second season. All those lessons you learned will combine with muscle memory and better training. You will be very pleasanly surprised. Just maintain some basic fitness, and get in a good base in the Spring.

Good season! I'm glad you are still hooked!

Dan Gerous said...

I'll keep on doing my 2x30minute commutes all winter long even in the snow but I will add more base training, sooner than last spring. Then my training should be far better after the trial and error type of training I did this year, I'm already looking forward to next year.

Thanks to all the people who gave me some good tips throughout the summer.

Anonymous said...

How would you compare Taurine and Scapel? After 2 years I left my Anthem for my old Yeti Arc and I was thinking about a carbon HT, favorably Taurine.

Dan Gerous said...

The Scalpel is more stable, it goes downhill like a trail bike, sure footed, calm yet it changes direction precisely at will. That's due to the suspension but the head tube is a little slacker. It's less bouncy for obvious reasons. The Taurine has a lower BB which can be nice but if I had kept it, I would have changed the stem for a negative rise one to have a proper saddle to bar drop.

The rear end of the Taurine makes for a bike that accelerates and sprints a bit quicker but, both bikes are very efficient and stiff with razor sharp handling. For a hardtail, the Taurine still is quite comfy and it's not a punishment to ride it for a few hours like some race hardtails are. The bike was designed to be very stiff in the front for precise handling and very stiff laterally in the back for pedaling efficiency and sprinting but it's surprisingly smooth on the butt. If you want a hardtail that's perfect to race on, this is it but it can also be used as a trail bike.

The Scalpel's suspension can easily be tuned to be almost like a hardtail if you want though and it's also very stiff laterally so it's a race bike that's ready for pretty much any course, smooth and fast ones like rough technical ones... Both bikes are quite light, the Taurine is lighter by a little over one pound but my Scalpel is still a very light 21.16lbs with pretty durable parts and the hefty Crossmax and UST tires, with my race wheels, it's 19.58lbs so it's actually lighter than some full on race hardtails. If you have to pick THE race bike, try the Scalpel. If you want THE hardtail, the Taurine is superb!