This past Sunday welcomed the return of the prestigious SoCal criterium, The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix! This crit is a staple of the SoCal race scene and on this occasion, it would crown the state champion as well. With a field of over 90+ racers and all the local heavy hitters, the race was sure to be a dog fight and it did not disappoint. Here is my perspective of how the race played out, the critical moments, and the power it took to execute in those moments.
Not having raced in about three weeks and after just finishing up a large block of endurance volume, I was very unsure of how my legs would respond to the unique efforts of a crit. The course was boomerang shaped, counterclockwise, and with two sweeping 180 degree turns. The finish came about 500 m from the final turn and into an unruly headwind that proved to be a deciding factor in the sprint.
This screengrab gives a little overview of how the day went. After warming up along the beach for about 45 minutes with a couple little efforts, I took the line and the action began. It’s hard to decipher much from the whole day so let’s take a look at the next screengrab that breaks down just the race.
With a normalized power of 290 on the day and an average heart rate of 153, this crit by the numbers was on the low end, especially after a season of PRT crits. Taking a look at heart rate in red and power in purple, the file looks polarized with most of the hard efforts coming in the initial 15 minutes of the race and final 10 minutes. Racing solo without any teammates, I had to conserve energy most of the day in order to be successful. After testing the waters a handful of times early, it seemed apparent that today would be a day for the fast men sprinters. With riders such as Tyler Locke, Cory and Justin Williams, the peloton seemed doomed to accept their fate of coming to the line in a large bunch kick. Robin Carpenter was also present and not to be counted out of any scenario. He wasn’t going to be content letting the race come down to a sprint and played the role of the aggressor multiple times, but it was not to be.
After accepting the fact that the race would likely come to a sprint, the bulk of the day was a game energy conservation. I sat towards the middle-back of the peloton, chatted with some friends and watched unsuccessful attempts of breakaway glory crumble not so long after being launched. The plan was to wait and watch and with 30 minutes remaining in the race, I would move into a decent position and be attentive to any late race attacks. Smooth idea ya?? Except the whole plan would be derailed when the race was unknowingly shortened by 15 minutes and with what should have been 30 minutes to go, I was met with the announcer exclaiming that 7 laps remained in the race. Well, guess it’s time to get to the front!
This next screenshot breaks down the final 15 minutes of the chaotic, action-packed finale. Normalized power for the final portion was 335 for the final 16 minutes, with an average heart rate of 173 and a peak heart rate of 192! With 7 laps to go, caught off guard with the finish rapidly approaching, Mikey “Massive” Gaines and myself scrambled to get to the front. After slotting in the top 10 wheels with 6 to go, Robin launched a formidable attack to attempt to break clean of the field’s gnarled grasp. Once reeled back in, I saw an open opportunity to counter his move and put in an effort of my own. With 5 laps to go, I sprinted clear, shown by the first peak in the graph. To open up a gap, I put down 1058 watts, close to a max effort and then settled in a hard effort that could be borderline sustainable for 10 minutes. One lap later, my short-lived effort was swallowed up by the charging peloton. With still quite a bit of gas in the tank, I slotted into a solid position to recharge for the eminent sprint finish. Everything was all together with 1 lap remaining and I sat about 15th wheel coming over the line. A bit further back than I would have liked, but with the ferocious headwind, this sprint would be all about timing.
The final section of the graph tells the story of the sprint. With two peaks, there’s the sprint to get in position and then the final sprint to the line. Rounding the last corner still in about 10-15th wheel, I had some ground to make up but while those in front of me were sprinting full gas, I stayed tucked into the slip stream and sat bidding my time. At about 150 meters to go, a lot of racers in front of me were beginning to die out from their long effort, so that was my indication to put down whatever power I had left. Only hitting a peak 2 second peak power of 1100 watts, this sprint would be much more of a drag race rather than a short explosion to the line. This played in my favor as my sprint isn’t too horrendous but my 30 sec power is much better than my “pop.” In the final 20 seconds of the race I produced 845 watts and passed about 8 slowly dying racers in my charge for the line. My patience in the sprint netted me a fourth place on the day, narrowly missing the final spot on the podium!
Manhattan Beach Grand Prix was a great race and I had a lot of fun out there taking on my fellow fitness enthusiasts. I made a good chuck of cash and was able to learn a bit. Patience is key in a headwind sprint finish and In-and-Out is always a great post-race meal!!