Monday, February 29, 2016

Masters racing is harder than P1

My headline is misleading, but hang in here with me for a minute. Of course the Pro field is more challenging on just about every level - longer distances, more attacking, faster speeds, larger fields and athletes who can lay down more power. But if you are just able to be pack fodder or if you are spit out the back and ride most of the race at tempo all alone, you really are not getting the same benefit as you would if you were actually in the game, in the hunt, in the thick of things - being the hammer.

After racing and training without power for the past 6-7 years I recently bought a new bike and ordered it with an SRM power meter. What's very interesting to me is that when I compare my current numbers to my old files, I have lost very little power (even though I'm 10 pounds lighter). And what's really interesting is that my power is still there but my threshold heart rate is down 8-10 beats.

When I go out on hard training rides like The Shootout I am often contesting for the hill sprint, usually in the top 2-3. And at Wednesday Worlds I always make the selection or Old Spanish Trail. Both of these training rides are relatively short distances: 50-70 miles. Similar to the distance of a typical masters race.

I think the main difference in our fitness as we age is that we can't handle the longer distances and the repeated attacks.

Last year was maybe my worst season ever fitness wise. I caught something over Christmas 2014 and was flat on my back for two weeks - off the bike, lost 10 pounds. It took me most of 2015 to start feeling like myself again. So most of my 2015 results were sub-par - including the Colossal Cave Road Race where I was off the back for the last 5 laps.

I celebrated my 56th birthday on Thursday. This year I feel like a kid again, but I still think that my days being able to do anything more than "hang" in a challenging P1 race are behind me. On one hand, it's a tough pill to swallow. But on the other hand, it's really fun to be back in the game and back in the hunt.

I can say for sure that I worked way harder in the Masters 55+ race this year at Colossal Cave where I bridged for 10 minutes and then rode in a 3-man break for 4 laps, than I did in the Pro 1 race last year riding tempo alone for 5 laps.

At Colossal Cave the Master's 55+, 60+, 65+ & 70+ all started together but were scored separately. In the 3-man break were me, my teammate Jay Guyot and 65 year old Phil Hollman. If you rode up on Phil from behind you would think he was 25. He's shredded! It's only when you come up next to him and see his gray beard that you realize he's not a spring chicken.

One of the things I love about Tucson is that there are so many super fit old guys still out racing and riding their bikes. And they still have just as much fire in the bellies as any 22 year old neo-pro.

Preston Robertson and I bridging up to the 2 leaders. Preston is another super fit guy. 59 years young with his ears pinned back and fighting for every peddle stroke. Eventually I was able to shake him before reaching teammate Jay Guyot and Phil Hollman. But he held on, in no-mans-land for 4 laps to take 3rd in the 55+.

Jay Guyot and I in the break along with Phil Holman. I overslept and arrived at the race with only minutes to spare as shown by my sloppy number pinning.

Cyclists are always worried about our weight. Since giving up gluten, I've lost 8 pounds. Finally a podium shot were I didn't look at it and cringe.
It's great to be in the best condition of your life at age 56.

Photo credit: Damion Alexander (

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