It’s often said that the riders make the race. This was definitely true at last weekend’s Velocity Cross race in Chino, CA.
Held at Prado Regional Park next to manmade lakes and cattle farms, the conditions were pretty nice for a bike race. It had rained earlier in the morning but by the time the race went off the sun was shining and the temperature was hovering in the 70’s.
The race course is actually pretty flat. In fact it’s most unique feature is probably long grassy straights and turns with tons of bumps and divots in the ground. But the lack of elevation can also make for some very dynamic racing. For about 85% of this race, I was always racing with at least one other person. I was never by myself for very long.
The focus of the video above and my main take-away points from this race are related to group racing and pack dynamics. Here are some of the main things I learned this race.
1. The importance of getting yourself established in a group. The first couple minutes of the race you really want to get yourself in the best spot as possible. If you’re in the group you want to be in, like the lead group, you have to either hold your position or find places to move up.
2. You should at least be aware of who’s up the road and how many people are currently in your group. Use the information to calculate your possible finishing position and see if those fit your race goals.
I’ll give you an example. For most of the race I was in a group of 4 riders with two riders up the road ahead of us. That meant that if the groups stayed the same, the BEST I could have gotten was 3rd and the WORST I could have gotten was 6th. If I was fine with those odds, then I should work to stay in my group but conserve energy whenever possible.
But if I wasn’t fine with those odds, for example if I really wanted to get either first or second, then I would need to work with my group to effectively chase the leaders or else attack the group and try to bridge up.
As it turned out, two of the rider in our group of four attacked and I ended up in the third group. So the BEST I could have gotten was 5th and the WORST was still 6th. I was OK with 5th so I did my best to race smart to get that placing. You’ll have to watch the video to see what happens though!
3. You can also use your perceived effort in the group as a gauge on how to race against the riders in that group. For example, if you’re sitting in the group and you’re breathing pretty easy and you find yourself soft-pedaling through sections, then maybe you should think about attacking that group. But if you’re barely hanging on and you’re giving your all just to stay on the tail end of the group, then conserve your energy and let the riders up front pace your effort.
4. Drafting in cyclocross is NOT like drafting in road racing. In a road race or crit, you’re pretty close to the rider in front of you to get a draft. But in cyclocross, being too close is not a good thing. Being too close means that you might not be able to hit your lines at the speed you want. It also means that if the rider in front of you makes a mistake, it could slow you down or even worse, cause you to crash. Since there are so many line options in cyclocross, you have to give yourself a little escape route just in case the rider in front of you messes up.
Well, those are my take-aways and tips from Velocity Cross. This blog is really just as much for me as it is for you the reader. Those pointers I wrote above are all things I SHOULD have been doing and I can learn from.
Thanks again for reading. Subscribe to the blog and the YouTube channel and feel free to share any posts or videos you find helpful.
Next up, Spooky Cross!