19 May 2013

A 4th Cat's Guide to Racing in 2013

Not a standard blog entry this week. After my experience of the North West Road Champs I've decided to post a "How to guide" for the uninitiated masses that are turning up to your local road races nation wide.

Let's go through the motions. Bike, Entering, Starting, Racing, Finish.

The Bike:

So you've mostly been riding Sportifs with great success so far (strava says so, so it's got to be true). So you must already have a bike. That bike will not do. Buy another, exactly the same as the Sportif bike but with Lightweight, Zipp or Mavic deep section wheels (the deeper the better). As a rule this bike must be in the £5000 to £10000 price point, after all you are going to be riding the regional equivalent of Flanders / Paris Roubaix / Strada Bianchi (delete as appropriate depending on which one you have recently had an all expenses paid trip to watch). Bikes popular with 4th cats of 2013 are Pinarello (Wiggins has one), Cervelo (Millar has one), Colnago (Voeckler has one) or the poor mans option; any S-works Specialized.


4th Cat only events aren't for you, you've KOM'd every segment on your weekly commute (while only using the cheapest of your 3 Cervelos) so why on earth would you start at the bottom rung. No no no. You should always select 2/3/4 or E/1/2/3/4 races.


The riders briefing is optional, instead opt to lean against your Range Rover / Pourche while pondering which Rapha gear goes best with your bike. The chief commissarie is, after all, here for fun and requires none of your respect and attention as almost every word he spouts is purely for his own pleasure. Certainly remember at all times that any advice that the (locally based) race officials have regarding the course can be found on your Garmin 810 so again this part of the race briefing is totally masturbatory for the bloke in the GB Race Official Fleece that everyone else is looking at intently.


It's business time, you're out of the neutralised zone and the pace over the opening 10km is already a bit quicker than those Sportifs you've been doing and the break away is long gone. Yet the angry looking bloke in front of you is asking you to do something called a "Turn" and "Chase", thus far he's only been flapping his elbows and has swung to the far right of the road. Oh wait! You remember this bit from last years Tour. It's this kind of behaviour that Team Sky were displaying right before Cav explodes out of the pack to win... there's nothing else for it, you must emulate Cav.

You're off the front of the pack a making good ground on that break away and what's more the pack behind isn't chasing, they seem to be shaking their head indicating that they've all blown due to your amazing kick. Look at the Garmin. It says there's in excess of 60km to go. Ignore it and continue channelling your inner Cavendish. You've completed Sportifs three times that distance it'll pass in a flash.


So the solo break away attempt didn't work. In fact it rather hurt. You've recovered enough sat in the bunch to have another go but you should be feeling that the energy can be better spent elsewhere. The half dozen guys at the front seem to be playing a game where they try and impersonate a conveyor belt while riding in two lines. You should get involved in the game. Your roll is to play the part of "spanner in the works". You're aim is simple; stop the smooth operation of the conveyor belt without once helping out by "doing a pull on the front" as has so often been requested of you. If done correctly there will be shouting. Return to the comfort of the bunch and await the final kilometer.

When the final kilometer arrives you should be safe in the knowledge that, placed as you have been for the last 20km at the rear of the bunch, everyone will have forgotten who you are, what you look like and maybe that you even exist at all. Your chance for a sneek attack should be within the last 200m. When you cross the line ahead of everyone you've been riding with remember to congratulate yourself for taking 21st place overall and tell everyone who asks that you were "Just outside the points"

A proper report is to follow mid next week I'm just finding it difficult to remember details over the annoyance this race has caused me. It was beautifully run and well marshaled with a strong field and truth be told I've never felt stronger on the bike than I did today. The quality of racing in the UK has slipped alot since I were a lad and on a serious note the above sarcastic jab is more a method of venting my frustration at that fact. For a better written and concise article on the subject I'd invite you all the check out the link below, It's done the rounds already but the more people that read it the better.

Cyclingtips.com.au: The Lost Art of the Group Ride

I've also been trying out a couple of newish products to the market thanks to my current job which some of you may be interested in. Namely nitrate gels and Rotor Q-rings both seem to work to a greater or lesser extent but It's more a question of cost vs improvement.

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