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Racing your bike Part #2 Middle of the Pack – now what?

Part 2:  OK, you now can survive a race, hopefully you learned to draft and conserve so you can see the finish line with the rest of the herd.  If you came into racing with a strong cycling background, it is possible that you won races, went right to the front of the pack, towed everyone around and still won.  This is good and bad, good cause it is fun, bad cause you probably didn’t learn much so you might still be the same skill level as when you started.  This can come back to bite you now that you are riding up at the next level.

For normal people, you spend time getting strong enough to survive, now you want to try to go for a mid race prime (prize) or see if you can finish in the top 1/3 of the results.  You have enough strength and skill to survive, now you just need to use it smartly to best the others in your group.  This is where reading the pack really comes to the fore.  Here are some basics to live by:

1.  Only move up when it is slow and try to find a wheel to get you up the pack instead of doing it yourself.

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Reports from the front: Black Diamond Sprint Triathlon 2012

Cycle U Coach Colin Gibson, a category 1 road cyclist, did the Black Diamond sprint triathlon on a whim and won the whole race. (Full disclosure: he’s a former collegiate swimmer. But it still shouldn’t be that easy!)
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I am a weak-upper-bodied cyclist, so I decided to try out the Black Diamond sprint race to see if my arms still worked after several years of using them only to spread Nutella on toast. When Cycle U employees Mary and Dameon caught wind of this, they started giving me all the essential triathlon tips and accoutrements. My game plan was simple: 1) get a wet suit and some KY jelly for speedy transitions, 2) intimidate other racers by peeing in the water before the race, and 3) don’t completely suck at running.

Race day, I met up with Mary and a couple other Cycle U racers, who were in the transition zone (TZ, as the pros call it) for the ceremonial sizing up of the competition. Mary provided me with several spray bottles of a substance to apply to various parts of my body/pieces of equipment to make them slippery. I also covered my bike with this substance because I read on slowtwitch it gives you +5w.

It was clear and cold for the start of the 800m, clockwise, diamond-shaped swim, and I lined up on the far left of the beach, which was like 20 yards closer to the first buoy than where everyone else was lined up. We started, and I kicked and clawed my way toward the front, following the leaders. My arms felt like the arms of an inflatable flailing-arm tube man. At one point, some milfoil touched my toe and I screamed. I wound up fourth out of the water, 20 seconds behind the leader, by which time my arms were dead to me. I must not have used enough lube on my wet suit because my transition lost me another 20 seconds to the leader. I took off on the bike wet and angry with the pace car in sight.

I figured that the bike is where I would make or break my race, so I set to put my head down and giv’er. I took over the lead at about mile 4. By the start of the run, I had about 2 minutes on 2nd and 3rd. At this point, I almost decided to skip the run and just observe the procession of Olympic-distance racers making incredible pratfalls on the topographically complex and water-saturated grass of the transition area. Remembering the undoubtedly huge cash purse available to me, I thought better of it and took off running for the first of two laps on the dirt trail around the lake.

The run was only 2.8 miles, but I had no time checks to my pursuers, so I was running like Jerry Seinfeld after he stole a loaf of bread . Still, after a mile, I heard the pitter-patter of steps behind me, and saw a runner approaching. Figuring my goose was cooked, I slowed up to let him catch me, only to realize that he was on a relay team! We worked together to set pace for the second lap, and then I attacked him with a few hundred yards to go to cross the line clear.
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For my efforts, and beneath a banner advertising a gluten-free nutrition product, I was given a loaf of wheat bread and a trophy.

Thanks to Mary and Dameon for the support and advice, and finishshots.com for the picture!