The Road to the Red HookCorrespondence Friends Events Sports Cycling
The fixed gear criterium format leaves little room for error in tight, flat and technical courses. Typically you can expect to be fully on the gas at least twice a lap launching out of hairpin corners. You spin up to 55kph on straights at +130rpm then braking (back-pedalling) just as hard to getting the bike back down and into the corners. It’s a frantic and exciting race format that’s drawing big crowds, big sponsors, a lot of noise (cowbells are almost mandatory for spectators) and I love it.
My route to the Red Hook Criterium 2016 (the original and biggest race of its kind) started in January. Cross season was winding up and I had more time free to get the base miles in. Base in my opinion gives a good psychological benefit. A month or two of long and gritty winter rides gives you something to draw on. It's that 'if I can suffer this then I can definitely do that’ sort of mentality. It also helps that Kent is a pretty wonderful place to ride, whatever the weather.
The RHC is roughly 30km and it's flat out. Some devilishly cruel race planning from RHC architect David Trimble leads us into the first lap ‘breakfast’ prime ensuring the fight starts from the gun. You've got to be strong; core and legs. Braking into the corners is energy sapping and accelerating yourself out of them hurts like hell. For this, I go and do hills, lots of hills. Hill hunting in Kent is perfect as they're short and properly steep, up to 25% in places. A 60km ride will have me 1000m in vertical gain over about 5 or 6 tough climbs. Keeping a strong steady cadence (55-75rpm) on these 3-5 min efforts is perfect way to build the strength needed.
The last stage of my training has been on the turbo trainer backed up with fast tempo 'laps' in Regent’s Park with the team. This works on my heart and top end power. Short regular sprint intervals and pyramid drills. It's murderous, soul destroying stuff but it's where I can make all the previous work count. I can be strong but if I can't keep control of my heart rate and breathing in the race then I'm out the back.
This is all very focused and it's great to have goals and be driven towards something. It’s also a rabbit hole. With all your focus in one place you can forget what cycling is about and find yourself only talking about races, data, aero this and carbon that. So I try and balance this with riding just for the sake of riding once every two weeks or so. No data or plan, it doesn't even need to be a long ride, just an hour or two. These work to remind you to find the quiet and enjoy cycling at its purest. Then when rested, reset and feeling good you can go back and kick some ass at the local crits as I plan to do all year long at The Red Hook Crit!
Image 1: Neil B (http://itsneilb.tumblr.com)
Image 2, 8: Jon Baines (jonbaines.com)
Image 3, 9: Sam Dunn (samdunnsnaps.com)
Image 4, 5: moone.cc
Image 6: Chiara Redaschi (chiararedaschi.com)
Image 7: Massimo Bacci (flickr.com/piaccabacci/)