Bike Races vs. Tris & Running Races

Whoops… I said I was taking it easy and I just signed up for a bicycle race this weekend: the Texas Gran Fondo.  Any other Texas cyclists out there doing this one?  I’ve been eyeing it, and I’m super excited to ride on Sunday.

Now to be clear, this is a USAC sanctioned event, but it’s not your typical bike race with various CATs and peletons.  It’s 94 miles, so for me, there’s no worry about “staying with the pack”, “bridging the gap”, etc.  I can ride this as my own race, and I’ll have to ride it as my own race to finish – though I am still trying to recruit a few friends to ride with me.  I wasn’t going to do it, but David encouraged me, so what the heck.  He’ll be kiting that day of course. 

I haven’t participated in a legit bike race for some time – a Criterium or road race that is.  I did a couple bike races years ago and they were fun, albeit very stressful and my heart rate was sky high the entire time just trying to keep up with the other girls.  That’s how I see the difference between most bike races & running or triathlon events – in runs and triathlons you run your own race with your own strategy.  Cycling races, in contrast, are very dependent on the peleton or pack of riders because of the huge benefit drafting provides.  In the beginning of a road race, there are often sprints to drop the group and make a gap from the slower riders.  That’s because if the riders finish at the same time, then it’s just a sprint to the finish – endurance gals like myself who don’t sprint need to get away at the beginning so they aren’t in a sprinting race at the end.  Often a small pack gets away and rotates, drafting together.  And if you don’t stay with the pack you get “dropped” and have to pull yourself (i.e. no draft), giving yourself a much harder race.  Bottom line is that there are a lot of scenarios.  I’m still a little scared and don’t feel my bike training is up enough to do a Crit or road race anytime soon, but the Gran Fondo will be more of a long training ride anyway, and with much less elevation than last weekend – easy right? 

A few pictures from the Houston Grand Crit – I think this was an hour of ~1 mile loops near downtown Houston. 

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And spent (picture taken right after the finishing sprint).

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The all smiles…  very happy to have stayed with the pack.

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Running & triathlon events are hard in their own way because the the race is mental – you against you. It’s easy to go out too fast or to want to give up without a pack to hold on to.  Of course, you can always chase a person or pace group down, but there’s no draft advantage as in biking (apart from drafting on the swim in triathlons).  Plus, you can easily “blow up” in a triathlon when chasing someone else and not pacing yourself properly and following your own strategy.

So which type of race do you like better, chasing someone else or pushing yourself?  I find I stress a lot more over cycling races where I know I have to chase the competition.  I never want to be left behind.

Random Friday thought: I loved bungee jumping and being dropped through canyons, but I’m still glad this isn’t my job… Can you see the little specs?  Saw them out the office window today, sheesh.  Have a great weekend!

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4 thoughts on “Bike Races vs. Tris & Running Races

  1. Being new to biking I’ve wondered about a race or two but am not sure 1) I could ride anything over 50 miles today; 2) could keep up with others riding in the group. They sound like a lot of fun and something definitely to give some more thought, thanks.

    1. Yeah, bike races are way different, but fun. I feel like a lot of those guys and girls just train for cycling, so they get pretty serious about it. I had some guy friends just do their first road race, and they did get dropped but still had fun… it probably takes a few races to get used to it! Maybe you could find a shorter one or even start with a time trial. Mine were around 25-30 miles, but womens mileage is usually less.

  2. What a view from your office! I found out about the “sprinting in the beginning” the hard way ….. completely dropped last year at the blink of my eye 😦 I like drafting in a race, though I’m not good at it yet & is sometimes nerve-wrecking being stuck inside a pack with no room to move. How come you can’t draft on the bike part in a Tri? I’ve been told it’s not allowed but don’t understand why….

    1. Probably a couple reasons – to put everyone on a level playing field (so the bike portion is like a time trial type effort), and because it’s unsafe to draft when you’re in the drops of a tri bike since you don’t have quick access to your brakes. I think there are a handful of tri’s where drafting is legal, but I’ve never seen one.

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