That's me on the right, white sleeves w/ yellow trim
Don't worry (to the extent that you would even do so), I'm not giving up triathlon. In fact, I registered for the Solana Beach Sprint Triathlon in July today. Solana Beach was the first race I ever did, and I'm excited to go back for the 3rd time. I'll also be registering for September's Big Kahuna 1/2 Iron Triathlon in Santa Cruz as early as tomorrow - I just need to sort out a scheduling thing.
But, I did my second criterium last night at El Dorado Park in Long Beach and I must say it was extremely awesome. Since it was the second time I raced, I was more relaxed. And since I was more relaxed, I had more time to take in what was going on. There is no doubt going 25 + MPH on a bicycle in a tight pack is thrilling. Not that racing in triathlon isn't thrilling, because it is. But my initial impression of bicycle racing is that the thrill is more immediate. Also, bicycle racing (especially criteriums) are more tactical than triathlon. Again, it's not that triathlon isn't tactical - it certainly can be. But criteriums by their nature are tactical propositions every minute of the entire race.
The training benefits are enormous. As TRI714 rightfully points out, racing in a criterium is probably THE best interval workout you can get on a bike. Think about it - guys are constantly attacking off the front and the rest of the peleton immediately reacts by speeding up to chase them down. These attacks happen constantly over the course of the race. So we'll be cruising along at 24 or 25 MPH, an attack will go off the front and we are all suddenly chasing, hitting speeds in excess 30 MPH for a few minutes. This is hard. Eventually, the break is caught and we all slow down until it starts all over again. I don't know about you guys, but I couldn't achieve this kind of intensity riding alone. And it's doubtful that all but the most intense Saturday morning group rides are this fast. Jeff Irvin would love this, and I now completely understand the concept of pro cyclists racing their way into form.
Me, left. A grimace, not a smile.
Doing this second race was definitely a new high water mark for my cycling. First off, I finished right in the thick of the lead pack - stronger than last week. So this perhaps suggests that my decent finish at the first race was not a fluke. Secondly, and as I mentioned earlier, I was more relaxed. So I was able to take in more of what was going on, watch what other riders where doing and keep my head in the race.
And as I speculated might happen in a post last week, I made it to the front of the pack last night. Just up the course from where the picture on the left was taken (though I don't know if it was on this lap) someone attacked, so I reacted by shooting off along the outside. Almost immediately I realized I was alone about 50 feet in front of the peleton and about 50 feet behind the attack. I was both surprised and confused as to why I was alone as I assumed we'd all attack. While I was processing this information, I must have "blinked" and slowed down, becauase within a few seconds I was overtaken. I shouldn't have blinked and I should have kept going. Clearly I'm not quite a real man just yet.
We covered 24.1 miles in an hour and two minutes. My Garmin showed an average speed of 23.4 MPH (though we where running neutral for a lap and a half) and a top speed of 41.5 MPH. You can check out the ride details here on strava.com . By the way, strava.com is awesome and anyone who rides should check it out.
One last thing. I never got a chance to tell my triathlon joke in the peleton. Last night's race was a little more serious than last week. Next time....