Achieve Training & Coaching Head Coach Dana Williams recently won the prestigious San Rafael Sunset Criterium. We asked Dana, what does it take to win a Masters 1/2/3 race? In this race-winner interview, we highlight key power data that contributed to the race-defining breakaway and ultimate victory by the Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee rider. Have a look!
Achieve: How does it feel to win a prestigious race like SRT?
DW: I definitely feels good. A lot of dedication and hard training goes into getting my fitness up to the level it’s at. So being able to maximize that is rewarding.
A: How many times have you raced San Rafael Twilight?
DW: I’ve raced 7 times in 6 years.
2011 – 5th in M123 35+ and 26th in P/1/2
2015 – 1st M123 35+
2016 – 2nd M123 35+
2017 – 1st M123 35+
A: What was your team strategy going into this race? What was your role?
DW: My team, Team Mike/s Bikes p/b Equator Coffee (TMB) had 8 riders in the race. Two of these guys were to stay rested as much as they can for the end if it came down to a leadout/sprint finish, while the rest of us were to be attentive and be represented in any breaks. If it came down to a bunch sprint finish, then the fourth-to-last guy in our leadout train (Matt Adams) would take us from the start finish to mid-way down the back stretch. Then the next guy (David Allen) would take us through turns 3 and 4 and then the final two riders (Scott Cox and I) would leadout and finish the sprint.
My role: to be one of the final two riders, while also making sure I didn’t miss out on any break with other strong sprinters.
How did the race play out?
DW: Our race included the Masters 35+ and 45+ but were picked separately. Attacks began right from the start and a break of 12-15 formed about 10-15mins in, of which five riders were TMB. The field eventually caught the break and attacks started again, forming a 12-14 rider break that stayed away until the end. Four riders in the race-winning breakaway were TMB (Matt Adams, Rob Amatelli, Scott Cox & Myself, all 35+). Five riders were 45+, which made two races in one break, an interesting dynamic. Jason Grefrath of Thirsty Bear attacked with four laps to go. My teammate Rob Amatelli did a lot of work to keep the pace going. With 3 laps to go, Jeromy Cottel attacked. I knew we as a team couldn’t afford to let him get away. (He had done this same move at the National Championships 8 weeks prior and stayed away to claim victory) So when Jeromy went, I knew I had to follow.
There was some confusion with one lap to go and Grefrath, having been off the front, assumed the race was over and sat up, hands in the air in victory. Teammate Matt Adams took over the pace through the start/finish with one rider between he and I. He got us to halfway down the backstretch, where a flurry of attacks began. I got held up slightly, saw a gap to the left and sprinted hard up the outside. I slotted in 2nd wheel going around the 3rd/2nd-to-last turn, right in front of teammate Scott Cox. Aerial Herman lead through the final turn, I sprinted into his draft and past him and held off the field for the win with Scott Cox coming in second.
What were some of the key moments in the race?
2 Laps in – Solo Break:
Dana accelerates to bridge up to Jan Weissenberger, who attacked at the very start of the race. “I rode by him and he didn’t hop on my wheel so I ended up off the front solo for about 5 laps. This ultimately initiated the first break as riders bridged up.”
12 minutes in – Sitting in:
Based on lower avg HR I’m assuming this is when the first break was rolling and I had teammates (Chris Hobbs & Oli Ryan) driving it, allowing me to sit in a bit.
20 min. in – Following an attack:
Above you can see a hard acceleration out of turn four. This shows Dana’s acceleration following an attack by Jeromy Cottell (13sec at 960W). The second peak in the highlighted section shows a second attack by Cottell through turn one up to turn 2 (10sec @ 842W). “I believe this second move by Jeromy and me following it is the start of the second and final break.”
24 minutes in – Final Breakaway:
The first peak on the above graph shows Dana following a hard attack by Jeromy Cottel exiting turn 4 with 3 laps to go. The attack resulted in his peak 2-second power during the race. On the final lap, Dana hits his peak 10-second and 5-second power accelerating on the back stretch of the course to get to the outside line to enter second wheel into the second-to-last turn. Finally, his sprint hits a max race power of 1296 watts.
We can see from Dana’s power data that he raced aggressively yet purposefully; his efforts to follow threatening attacks and initiate breakaways were hard and well into his VO2 max range. His peak 1-minute power (503W) occurred at the very end of the race, his race-winning move. On the other hand, his peak 5-minute and 2-minute power occurred at the start of the race just one lap in when he was off the front for a solo break. That said, he also found windows to recover and allow his teammates to take over the workload.
A: What would you say are the top skills a rider needs to win a Masters 1/2/3 race?
Know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses very well. Pay attention to who has been doing a lot of work and who hasn’t. Know how to take a downhill 90-degree turn at 35 mph. Know how to take turns most efficiently to maintain your speed. Knowing when to rely on your teammates and when to step up yourself.
A: You’ve only raced a handful of times this season and you’ve podiumed at most. What has been the biggest contributor to your success?
DW: Gaining good fitness at the right time of the season and then using it at the right time in each race. Strong teammates who also know how to race tactically and execute a plan. Good fitness involves focused training balanced with recovery. This is where Achieve’s training philosophies come into play.
A: What are some important keys to success you’ve learned about racing in the Masters 1/2/3 field?
DW:– Recovery (nutrition, hydration and sleep) is just as important, if not more, than training sessions. A training session typically lasts 1-2hrs on average, then I have 22-23 hrs left in the day to maximize the benefits of the workout.
– I make sure all my teammates have a clear understanding of the race plan and their role. Communicate with them during the race.
– Focus on improving my weaknesses. “A champion is defined by how they deal with their challenges, not with their successes.”
– Be focused (mainly to decreases chances of injury) and have fun.
What do you find interesting about this power data? Where do you normally exert your peak efforts during a bike race; is there a clear intention to those efforts? While the power analysis sheds light on how the race was won, we can’t neglect the pivotal role of teamwork, positioning, bike handling, knowing your competition, and of course training that went into Dana’s success.
Notice how Dana’s keys to success are primarily focused on teamwork, communication, knowing your rivals, bike handling, recovery and efficiency rather than wattage goals alone. This mindset encapsulates the framework of the Achieve Training Philosophy: Training is not just about following a training plan and doing workouts. Being a better cyclist is achieved through cultivating all aspects of performance both on and off the bike, whether it be maximizing your time to train, improving nutrition, optimizing recovery, developing race strategy and tactics, identifying your strengths and weaknesses, or having the unwavering support of an experienced coach.
It’s always fun to geek out on power data, just remember there’s a lot more to success than the numbers.
Congratulations on the big win Dana!