My 9 Days as a Domestique

The 2012 Tour of America’s Dairyland has finally come and gone.  I was fortunate enough to be able to race all but the last day of the series this year, 9 days in a row.  I am still a Cat 4 on the road, since most of my racing experience has been on dirt (where I am a Cat 2).  My road experience before ToAD was a grand total of 10 races over the past 3 years, and 3 of those were this year. 

Overall, ToAD was a success for me.  I am definitely a better rider now.

Here are a few things I’ve realized:

  • I can race for 9+ days in a row.  Not every day will be my best day though.  I started the series strong, faded a bit in the middle and came back even stronger at the end.  I found myself wishing that I could have raced a few more days to see my best efforts.  Prior to ToAD I had only raced 2 days in a row once.
  • Staying hydrated cannot be overstated.  I am very conscious of this, so in addition to the recommended daily allowance of beer I added Pedialyte.  Gatorade, and most cycling specific sports drinks are too sweet and/or “chemically” and tend to give me a stomach ache.  I used plain Pedialyte before and during the Bone Ride this year, and it really helped.  So I made sure to down a bottle every evening at home during ToAD.
  • Eating enough calories cannot be overstated.  Like most cyclists, my motor’s always running.  I tend to eat something about every 3 hours just about every day.  Also, like most cyclists, I try to eat pretty “clean” – good food, high in protein and complex carbs.  Halfway through the week I realized that I was eating like I normally do, not like I was racing every day.  That night I came home and ate a whole pizza, then went to Kopp’s and ate a chicken sandwich, onion rings and a chocolate shake.  The next day, I was twice as strong as the day before.  I did go back to eating clean that day too, but filling the void of negative calories the day before seemed to help tremendously.
  • Warming up on a trainer is awesome.  I have always warmed up on the road before races.  Such a simple thing, but I will always do it this way now.  It allowed for a structured warm-up, and it was cool to talk a little last-minute strategy with teammates before we launched.  Plus, I had access to anything I needed.

Leatherman making his daily move to the front…
Photo courtesy of Nick Schwietzer
http://www.nickschwietzerphotography.com

  • Crit racing is a science and an art.  Like golf, a lot of guys buy expensive equipment thinking it will make them better.  It doesn’t.  The best crit racers are smart, patient, tactical and smooth riders.  They have the ability to ride unnoticed until the last lap or 2, then be in the perfect position to sprint to the line.  They could probably do it on a Schwinn Varsity and still kick most people’s ass.
  • Speaking of ass, there are a few guys in every category that believe we are out there to fight to the death and defend the honor of our dead grandfathers – at all costs.  I took a bad line early in one of the races.  It was partially due to excitement and partially my lack of experience.  For the next 2 laps, everyone within 50 yards of Speedy McJagoff had to hear him drop F bombs about my bad line, etc.,  etc. etc.  Really?  I hope his paycheck from Team Douchebag doesn’t bounce.  I’m still learning, and anyone around me would have realized that it was a mistake on my part, one that I did not repeat.  I even tried to ride up next to the guy and apologize, but he wouldn’t shut up, so I didn’t.
  • Speedy McJagoff was never on the podium.  Enough said.
  • I was not riding for myself, I was riding to put my teammate on the podium.  I have never played team sports in my life.  I have always gravitated toward things that were a test of myself against the clock, or someone else.  I have never had a “role” to play in sport.  WORS races are all about going as fast as you can, by yourself  (at my level anyway) until you cross the line.  Hopefully you win, or at least don’t cough up your spleen when you’re done.  I have a whole new level of respect for the no-name guys going off the front in the Tour, or the guys blowing themselves up with 5K to go to get the lead out man into position. 
  • Crashing and getting back into the race is instinctual.  I flipped into the barriers around a corner in the Waukesha race, and I was back on my bike and pedaling before I realized it.  Thankfully, it was a minor crash.  My shin caught the corner of a metal barrier and it took a nice bite out of it, the only bad thing was that there was not enough skin left to stitch up.  The allure of racing is the adrenaline rush, and I got a double dose that day.  I have crashed in mountain bike races, once bad enough to require a trip to the ER, but I never realized how fast my body automatically puts me back on the bike.  
  • The only thing cooler than going 40 miles per hour on a city street with hundreds of people watching using only your own body for power is going 41 miles per hour on a city street with hundreds of people watching using only your own body for power.
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