Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Learning how to ride like a roadie?

Well, for years I've struggled with the bike. Part of it's been mental, part of it's been my riding style and part of it has been my training. This year I seemed to have gotten a hold on 2 of the 3. The mental part always takes me a bit. If I'm unsure of a route or where a decent is going to take me I tend to ride ultra conservative, but once I figure out what I'm doing things fall into place. So on my second outdoor ride a loop of the Waterbury Ymca's suffer/hammer route with Alexei I wasn't surprised he was kicking the shit out of me on decents and crossing intersections. But there was one area where I was shocked, the climbs and the flats. Normally I tend to be a power rider. I usually push insanely tough gears, and crank out massive watts generating a world of hurt for my lower back, hams, glutes and calves. This year with all the indoor rides and actually showing up to spin classes on a regular basis I noticed a change in my riding style. I suddenly began to be able to push high cadence and noticed I was actually carrying a fair amount of speed. Now one reason I used to be a power rider was I figured that if I was going 100RPM in an easy gear I was going to be spinning a long at 15MPH quite literally spinning my wheels and going nowhere. Sunday's ride changed that. As Alexei and I cruised along Route 6 in Southbury ( after a few wrong turns.) I noticed that I was not in the biggest gear I could push but I was crusing along a 20mph with moderate effort. Likewise I noticed that I was actually able to launch sustainable efforts on the climbs and that I was able to give Alexei ( who is normally a much better cyclist than I am.) a good challenge to the top of some of the moderate climbs. What do I credit for this success? The sufferfest spin videos and classes run by the Y tri club. Every Tuesday we would ride one of these tough little workouts that would show snippets of pro-tours and would set a workout based on the race we were following. We simulated the climb up Alpe Du Huez, going into a break at the Tour de Sussie, TT riding the World Championship course, to the carefully crafted Sufferfest Videos. But one thing I noticed about the sufferfest videos was they preped us to ride like roadies, rather than tri geeks. John Hirsch had commented on his blog about how triathletes are not groomed to constantly push themseleves to the red line and recover and then make continual red line and recovery efforts like cyclists. Indeed in tri, the main goal is to hold a steady quick pace that won't thrash your legs too badly for the run. Sufferfest didn't work us like that. We were constantly put through over/unders, attacks, tempo riding, responding to attacks. essentially we were in roadie school. Part of me wonders: could my bike leg improve if I do a couple of surges strategically placed in the ride? In my ride with Alexei I held back a little on the decents and some of the straights focusing on good effort and strong cadence, taking a couple of tempo pulls at the front. I attacked on the climbs and noticed that for most of them I was either neck and neck or passing Alexei. Whether this was because he was worn from pulling or I had sandbagged a little./ planned my ride to have a stronger second half, or just picked the right times to kick it up, it felt good. So I'm wondering if this season maybe the year I'm actually able to put all three legs together and have a breakout. I'm definitely planning on keeping spin classes as part of my training regiment. While outdoor riding is great and makes the long ride more enjoyable. I think a good quality seesion indoors once a week might help me keep focus on good form and strength. So I'm going to see where this takes me because the results have been looking promising so far.