Tom Soladay at Beaufort - a Winning Attack

Former MABRA RR champ and Team MT Khakis Pro Tom Soladay put in a couple of winning attacks this week to win his first and second races as a professional in quick succession at the Historic Roswell Criterium and the Beaufort Memorial Criterium, both part of the USA Crits Speed Week. Tom trains and races with a power meter so we can learn a lot from what happens in a race that can help to direct his training.

I was looking at Tom’s power file from the Beaufort Crit, specifically at the last 3 laps and I saw some very interesting stuff.

This race was not necessarily won with super human strength, but more with a perfectly timed and super quick acceleration that gave Tom the separation from the field he needed for the win.

In the snip from the file below you can see the 9 second jump that took Tom from 22 mph to 32 mph. This may not sound super fast, and compared to some races, that is not that fast as a top speed. But what followed is what made it successful. Tom basically held the same speed that the field had been doing all race. Through out the race, the speed varied between 20 and 34 mph. Once the separation was made, Tom basically held the same speed as the field to hold on for the win.

Also notice how in the laps before his attack, Tom was working to get himself in position with several hard jumps. This was also a key to the success of the move. By making several smaller moves instead of one big effort to move into position, he was able to conserve his energy that would be needed for the attack.  Even though the peak power in those earlier laps was pretty high, his average power for the 3 minutes leading to the attack was about 60 watts lower than the average power during his attack. 

Tom Suladay Power File

Tom's attack was hard enough to get him the separation, but not so hard that he would run out of steam before the finish.

This is way over simplifying what turned out to be a great move that scored Tom his second win in two races. I like the tell my athletes that pretty much everyone in the field has the ability to attack the field at some time or another, but it is what happens in the next few minutes that really makes the difference between the winner and the rest of the field.

As a coach I ask myself what can we learn from this power file that I can use to help other riders to improve.  For many of my athletes I prescribe a “Race Winners” workout and for those who really need the abuse I might prescribe a “Pro Race Winners” workout. These workouts have the rider simulate the finishing laps or kilometers of a race. The big goal is not so much to make the rider tons stronger, but more to allow the rider to learn what they can do in terms of power and effort.

If Tom had attacked a bit harder, maybe pushing his max power 100 watts higher; this attack may not have been a success. That extra 100 watts at the start may have been all it took to leave Tom a little short on energy in the final lap. Maybe even short enough for the field to chase him down.  The same applies if he would have tried to get into position faster with one big move instead of several small moves. One big move instead of several smaller moves can sometimes have dire affects on you energy stores.

As you race, especially with a power meter, you can use what you have learned while training to know what is possible and what might be a foolish move in a race. In this case, Tom had a good idea of how big of an attack would be needed to get some separation and still leave him the energy to see the attack through to the finish. He also used what he has learned in racing and training situations to read how he is feeling and how each effort may affect his ability to do anything after it.

As the Harley guys wrote earlier this year, you need to get in and attack and be part of the race, but using what you know about yourself that you learned during training will help to make those attacks work.  So as you go through you workouts, don’t just do the intervals staring at your power meter or HR monitor - pay attention to how they feel and how these efforts could be applied to the races you do.