>Ah summer racing is a blast….

Summer racing happens so fast…
July 25th and it’s almost time to say hello to August. Today the summer heat was in full effect at the Freedom Tour Criterium in Stirling New Jersey. I showed up to the race about an hour from the start and the temperatures were already in the mid 90’s. I didn’t feel dehydrated or even dizzy before the start. I went over to the registration booth, got my number, pinned it on and sat in the shade near the start. A masters race was finishing up and then they had a two lap firefighters race. These men and women were in full firefighters gear! I was hot just watching them but it was fun to see their faces as they crossed the finish line. This Criterium was a local one but some big names showed up from around the Northeast. I knew I had my work cut out for me so I was a bit nervous but excited to get started.
The race started out at a decent clip and I found myself close to the front not overworking myself to take a smooth line through the turns. I felt good for a while but then the pace really started to ramp up. Every time I looked down at my computer my heart rate was above 200. Woah I kept telling myself, either this pace needs to slow or I’m going to blow up and find myself off the back. Turns out right when I was at my limit the pace eased for a few laps and I was able to grab a second wind. 45 minutes in to a 60 minute race I started feel very good. Again I found myself near the front taking the turns smooth and reacting to small jumps or attacks.
55 minutes in there was a major attack off the front. This attack of about 5-7 riders felt super human. They separated themselves so fast from the field they were already hitting the next turn while we were just coming out of the last corner. I don’t consider myself a Criterium rider. At least not yet. I’ve found small success this season in a flat road race and a fast Criterium but I still have much to learn about Crit riding. This attack off the front today felt superhuman to me. An attack that may only come from riders who are using some type of medicine or drug to enhance their performance. Sure the pace could have been too much for me or maybe I’m not at the level of those riders who attacked but I simply do not believe that was the situation in today’s race.
Illegal drugs in cycling is a topic anyone closely related to the sport could write 10,000 words on. What I would like to say is how testing for amateurs is almost nonexistent. Since my first race in 2008 I myself have never been tested nor have I ever seen anyone at those races get tested. How can a cyclist move up to the professional ranks without a level playing field? Then again we must also ask ourselves where the LINE is and when this line is actually crossed.
Legal Performance Enhancements: Altitude Tent, Optygen HP, Endurox, Multi-Vitamins, Caffeine, Compex Muscle Stimulator.

Illegal Performance Enhancements: Benzedrine, Anabolic Steroids, Andro, Darbepoetin, DHEA, Diuretics, Ephedrine, Erythropoietin (EPO), Human Growth Hormone (hGH), Insulin, Methamphetamine, Modafinil, Nandrolone, Stanozolol, Testosterone.

I do not condone illegal drugs at any level of bicycle racing. Beginner, amateur, domestic pro, or pro tour. I will say though at the pro tour level you are getting paid to do a job; Race your bicycle. The loyalty you have to a team might enable you to rethink your strategy as a professional cyclist. But, at the amateur level drugs are widespread with no real governing body to address this problem.
So where does this leave us? Those who choose to ride clean must stay positive, race smart, and take chances when thinking otherwise.

Back to the race…
We almost caught the break. Almost. But it was not enough and I ended up sprinting in the field with no ambition for a place out of the top 10. Overall it was a tough day because of the heat and superhuman riders but I’m glad my legs woke up during the end of the race. My only concern was my heart rate. I’m not sure if it was normal to have an average heart rate of 194 for the whole 60 minute race. I don’t have a power meter so I can’t cross reference my data but I still may be working too hard in the field.
I have also been feeling very good with my training. This is the first time in my two years of racing I don’t feel burt out in the end of July. Let me tell you it’s a good feeling. I do feel I’m missing a few ingredients with my racing and training. Two of those components are a coach for direction and a power meter for instant feedback. Still, without these tools things are definitely on the upswing.
The one positive aspect I can take from today’s race is when you are at your absolute limit in a bicycle race, things usually start to ease up just a little. So, if you race bicycles or compete in any other endurance sport and you are in the heat of the moment where you do not possibly think you can push any harder just remember all those around you are suffering just as much if not more than you are. I think it’s the one detail which motivates me during competition. The ability for a group of athletes to suffer together.