Wednesday, October 3, 2012



When faced with an option and choice of a great position in the starting grid, or a podium finish at the end of the race..?
Any dedicated Cross competitor would select the podium result at the end of the battle and warfare on course.

So this brings up the question of how to attain the later result when faced with the adversity of a not ideal start, or bad start grid position, when the gun sounds...

When asked about his poor start by a reporter following his resounding victory at a UCI World Cup Cyclocross
race, the greatest Cross racer of all time,
Sven Nys of Belgium, simply said...

 "The start is least important for my success." 

Nys went on to say..
"At the start all the racers are at 100% and giving their all.  Yet I know deep inside my mind that the biggest gains during a race are made when riders are taxed, with their energy & power levels on empty."  "I stay under control and do not blame a bad start on my result, in fact I use a bad start to remain calm and push my race forward as the clock runs late in the race." 

Nys knows Cyclocross!

So many times I have watched Nys, or other greats, remain calm when faced with a huge deficit at the beginning of a race.  Of course we all want the hole shot.  Local racers who are fast starters like Keith DeFiebre, Justin Robinson, Cody Kaiser, Elle Anderson, Stella Carey, and Gina Hall are able to hit the first corners on the front as if it was a natural instinct to their riding style.  A quick reaction to the whistle and a fast twitch move into the pedals can translate into the lead on lap one with ease.  If your third or fourth row at the start, or miss a pedal at the gun, and are passed by 75% of the field...
This is when calmness is your alley and knowing within that the biggest gains play out during the final 20-30 minutes of the race. 

You can not win the race on lap 1.  If you blame a loss on a bad start or bad grid position, always remember there is more to the defeat then the problems that occur in the first 5-7 minutes of race time.

Watch a champion racer such as Henry Kramer or Norm Kreiss....
These experienced riders do their best to get a good start, however as the race progresses their concentration and energy grows and solidifies over time.  They produce moves that matter in crunch time of races, not in the first few minutes of a 50-60 minute fight.

Of course a fine start can be any riders best friend and set the tone for what lays ahead during the event.  If leaders are together and testing each other at speed their advantage can hold or grow simply from their strength in numbers, and at being the individuals
who are on the very front. 

The chasers can make gains if the leaders ever hesitate, and take small moments of ease to size the situation up amongst the themselves- the front runners.

This is when a rider who is faced with bad start, bad position on grid, or bad luck at the gun, must make their largest effort to regain contact to leaders.  It is key to keep hope alive and power firing fully through ought, because so often riders are able to make huge gains late in events to attain podium placing. 
The start is key, but how a rider finishes is what truly opens the door to success.

Watch Sven Nys get a bad start in a group of the very best racers in the world...
Watch as he is back 15 to 20 riders after lap #1 and
7-8 minutes of race time. 

Then watch as Nys moves up past 4 riders each lap for 3-4 laps and suddenly he is in the lead selection and with a chance of victory when just a few laps before he was so far back his race seemed hopeless.

Nys pulls this off in the fastest fields on the planet with the most technically skilled riders competing on the most technologically advanced equipment available to purchase.

If Nys can overcome a bad start at that level, then any rider in our regional NCNCA Cyclocross can learn from this.  Living the dream of a high finish after a low start is what Cyclocross racing is all about.  It is not how you start, but how you finish that turns a zero into a hero during race time on course.

Fight until the very end, and always remember that the biggest gains occur in the later portions of races.  Not in the first few minutes when all riders are throwing out full power
and running fast on adrenalin!