Just think of the volume of oxygen that is required to keep pace with a gaggle of wiry,
20 and 30 year olds charging across the country side.
I have raced P2A I think 6 times in its 20 year history. This was the first year that I felt justified in playing the “old master” card. Cause to survive P2A and finish top 30 requires nerve, stealth, cunning and dash of guts – but first it is about controlling your nerves.
P2A is a race that explodes at the start line all the way to the river bank rail trail. You have about 2.5 Kms to “get in position” for a good finish 58 kilometres later. If you are too far back in the pack on the river bank – it’s impossible to get to the front on the double single track. Imagine 50 pumped up cyclo-cross dudes charging along that trail 2 and 3 abreast at 40 Kph!!! Both sides of the trail fall away so passing on the outside is virtually impossible Everybody is wheel to wheel – elbow to elbow. In past years Dudes that lose their nerve on this section have caused major pile up crashes. You need eyes in all directions watching the wheels ahead and on both sides of you. And you may as well ignore the gravel that’s spits up in your face. Breath, focus, and maintain your line. If you drift back so much as one wheel length the vacuum will be filled instantly. Everybody is fighting for position before the abrupt right turn up the steep loose gravel road where the race leaders are determined for the last 40 Kms of racing. At the turn be prepared to jump, run or rider over your fallen foe. It’s always chaos at the gravel pit.
They say there is etiquette in this race but its reserved for waves 2,3 &4.
At the top of the steep gravel pit, which is virtually un rideable you must remount and bury yourself, to catch the fastest group disappearing down the dirt road. The peloton of 200 riders jammed onto the river bank rail trail has now exploded into fragments of 2, 3 and 4 packs frantically working together to become a peloton again. This is where the strongest leaps and bridges from one pack to the next to gain overall position before its too late. The technique is simple- sit on a young dudes wheel for 100 meters – and just as he begins to waver & elbow you through -put the hammer down and dump him. Think of him as the sling and you are the shot. You should have enough momentum and power to reach the next dude 200 meters ahead. He’s going to smile and be relieved to see you. Whatever you do dont smile back just sit in recover and as soon as he wavers and gives you the elbow ‘BAM’ ‘ATTACK’ and sling shot to the next guy or group.
Keep doing this until you find the right group that appears to be working well together. Sit in and recover and only do very short pulls – remember this is a race not a popularity contest.
Congrats you are now poised to podium.
Tune in next week for part 2 , how to look good on the podium.