– the blog –

Cycling Talents vs Interests

With the copious amount of free time granted to me by not currently having a job, I am continuing to contemplate this year's race season and all the training that went along with it (part 1, part 2).

The current facet that I am mulling over for next year's goals and races is my talents vs my interests. As a cyclist, I have only been seriously training for a little over 18 months and have only owned a gravel bike slightly longer. In that time I have done a fair amount of cycling around Colorado and a number of races in Western states like Oregon, Utah, and Idaho. My training has been almost equally split between the trainer, road, and gravel. Overall, I think that is enough time and experience to know what my talents and interests are as a cyclist.

As in other sports I have participated in, I seem to be a solid all-around cyclist. Never the fastest, strongest, or most skilled but capable of doing almost everything reasonably well. Ok at everything, a superstar at nothing. The joy and curse of never completely focusing on any single sport and developing a true speciality. Still, my physical size and long history of being active has given me some noticeable strengths and weaknesses.

As a 182lbs, 6'1" male (82.6kg, 1.85m for the rest of the world), I am not a natural climber. To quote myself, I am just too damn dense. Training has definitely improved my power and ability to spin up hills as well as making me lighter. But, unless I lose 15lbs and focus my training on it entirely, I am probably never going to be a world class climber. I do love to climb though. Especially hard, challenging ascents with super steep and fast descents. It's simply fun!

On the flip side, With my weight and fairly decent power, if you put me on a flattish road, I am quite fast. On a cool, windless day, I would put even money on me being able to do a solo 100 miles in 5 hours on the roads north of Boulder. That is without anything like aero bars or a time trial bike. If I really dedicated myself to it, I bet I could be a somewhat competitive time trialist. And yet, um, no interest whatsoever. Spending that amount of money on a dedicated TT bike and aero improvements just so I can push myself hard and stare at the road while in an uncomfortable position? I dunno, seems boring as shit.

The above disinclination also covers doing track cycling. I tried running track in high school and dropped out after a month. Give me the open road, s'il vous plaît.

Given all the 100+ mile gravel races I have done, you would think I might have a fondness for endurace racing. And, well, you would be right! It is very gratifying being out on gravel roads, away from one's busy modern life, and just cruising through nature. And I am moderately good at biking for long distances. Yes, it gets tiring being on the bike that long and it requires oodles of calories to keep me fueled, but it is satisfying on many levels. What I am not good at is long distances in hot weather. Even with heat training and careful fueling + hydration, my body starts losing the hydration game around the 4th hour. So, I prefer endurance racing when it is cooler, wetter, and a bit more sheltered from the sun. Sort of how Unbound XL ended up in 2022. 🤔

Tina happens to be doing cyclocross this autumn and having a blast. Given my ability to put out power quickly, I was very tempted to also participate. However, I've had a broken bone, serious sprain, or other injury almost every year for the past 5 years. Given the intense competitive nature of cyclocross (especially with males in their 40s) and my relatively newbie bike handling skills, I thought I would take this year off from visiting the ER or urgent care. But, if I stick with cycling through next autumn, I might give it a shot.

Speaking of high speed, manic bike activites, there are also criteriums. For the same reason as cyclocross, I have not explored this aspect of cycling culture. Crashing at 30mph on pavement because I had my wheel tapped by another cyclist while navigating a street corner...I mean, I'm no longer in my 20s and eager for such "fun".

So, where does this leave us? First, long endurance rides on gravel surrounded by nature in cooler, wetter weather. Second, challenging hill climbs with fast descents. Third, a possibility of cyclocross in the future once I gain more skills and less of an aversion to crashing.

You know, part of me thinks all of that combined sounds a great deal like adventure racing...