In fact many of the racers (myself included) already seem to have it down to some mythical day-by-day plan. And what’s really funny, to me at least, is said day-by-day plans look to be all but identical. Of course reality will set in soon after the start.
For some reality may take 20 minutes to show up, for others a day or two. But soon everyone will level off at or near their natural pace and that’s when the real racing begins. That’s when you start to really scope out the ones around you, the ones close enough to your pace that you will probably see them over and over again. For a select few (myself NOT included) the natural ‘sustainable’ pace will be somewhere upwards of 150 to 170 miles per break. These will be the ones racing for a win. The SPOT leaders, the fit and talented (coupled with slightly deranged) will keep riding at all hours and conditions, ie: the ones who have a legitimate shot at the imaginary Antelope Wells podium. Yes I like everyone else will start in Banff with this 150-170+ mile per leg group but I for one will not be racing them.
No, I ‘hope’ and plan to be racing closer to the 120-150 mile group. I suspect my sweet spot this year will be about 100 to 150 miles per leg. Basically for me racing the TDR will consist mostly of how close to the upper edge of my personal/natural pace can I maintain. I have all sorts of strategies, plans and ideas on how to maintain and maximize forward progress all the while minimizing the down time—ie: the exact same plans every other racer has thought of and will be using.
But other than higher or lower natural pace/ability what really makes the difference between racers? (note I am not including faux racers who are really touring the route—IE not giving it their all by design)
Hard to say, but:Experience plays a part. But in general the more experienced will be pushing much harder, knowing that’s what it takes. This could be one reason many experienced racers drop out, they were going all out vs just riding to finish.
Luck plays a big part. Bad luck can knock on anyone’s door. However many times, not always but many times, bad luck is really the manifestation of poor judgment.
Mental fortitude is said to be a key factor. Yet some racers, even fast ones seem to almost be in cruise control while others fight and claw the whole time. In other words some racers exhibit real grit while others seem to be made from mental Teflon.
In the end I circle back to what in 2014 I called ‘balance’. Say it how you will but I think every racer has a zone, a sweet spot, a natural balance. In hind sight I can see in 2014 I gave my balance away in Banff, before I even started. By the time I got it back my race was over from a personal goal point of view.
So for 2015, yes I will have a different bike, some different gear and a few pounds less fat etc etc--but my real race plan is to do in 2015 what I did not do in 2014--to stay on balance.
I know from experience exactly what it feels like. I know from experience how to re gain it. And from experience I can often make consecutive judgment calls that will extend and maintain it.
Or to paraphrase Albert Einstein; “The TDR is just riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you just keep moving.”