Tips for Cat.4 racers – where the race was lost (or won?)

In order to get blog posts out at the moment, I have to make them short and decisive, like the moment a race was won or lost.

Even at novice level, a mistake or specific moment can be the difference between success and failure. Over 4 years of trying my hand at racing, I have found it worthwhile to reflect on what went wrong in a race and make a point of changing or improving that thing.

Example mistakes
• forgetting to drink or eat until half way round
• slipping back & losing places when taking a drink from the bottle
• allowing yourself to be bullied out of position
• spending time in the wind at bad moments
• chasing down attacks and then paying for it later
• not checking your kit & equipment properly beforehand

Noting your mistakes
I did the Gifford B race at the weekend and it went really well for me throughout, and I got my best placing ever at that event – 22nd – albeit in a big bunch finish. There was 1 brief mistake that stood out- on the last lap I opted to use the wee ring in the drag before Bolton, and forgot to change up when it flattened out until several riders had surged past me. A small thing, you might argue, but losing 10-15 places just before the last big climb isn’t ideal.

Out of your hands (or legs)
Often you hear people say ‘I just wasn’t strong enough’ or ‘I didn’t have the legs today’. It’s always worth pinning this down to something more specific that you can work on. For me, it was the long climb after Bolton. This is where I have always been dropped before, and it nearly happened again. So the remedy will be hill reps at anaerobic threshold HR, to try to push the threshold up.

gifford road race  april 6th 2013 053

I was well placed on the last lap, going through the trees before the course starts to climb.

gifford road race  april 6th 2013 056

As things start to climb and my legs started to burn and twitch with cramp, I drifted backwards.

gifford road race  april 6th 2013 099

By the end of the climb I was dangling off the back – a familiar position in this event. The exact same thing happened in 2011 and I trailed in a minute or two down on the main bunch.


However I was able to recover from the climbing effort, and still have the legs and bottle to push my way up a rather sketch bunch coming in for the sprint. I even had the strength for a sprint, resulting in the ridiculous “race face” above. If only I’d got to the top of the climb mid-bunch…

Celebrate your ‘wins’
So there are reasons for positivity – always latch on to these as you can use them to build confidence in what you are good at. With this in mind, a hat-tip is due to teammate Sam Shaw who sprinted to 10th and his first BC points. Read his blog about it on

Race info
Top 3 images kindly provided by Derek Reid- check him out on Flickr
Final image: thanks to Ian Henderson
Full results / placings on Braveheart forum
Thanks to Edinburgh RC for organising the race

Inner Ring: the moment the race was won blog posts
Cyclocosm: How The Race Was Won video podcasts