The journey from casual cyclist to bike-commuter to budding racer has been a rather rapid progression for Ryan Voth.
Having conquered a few long distance events such as the San Luis Obispo Gran Fondo and the Giro d’San Diego, Ryan has recently shifted his focus to shorter, more intense riding found in his local criterium-practice group-ride.
It was the speed and technical aspect of these rides, as well as the camaraderie that encouraged Ryan to sign up for his first criterium race at this years’ Redlands Bicycle Classic.
As a local, racing the Redlands Bicycle Classic is the best opportunity for family, friends, and your community to experience the fast-paced world of bike racing. So it was of no surprise that Ryan, who lives in nearby Loma Linda, chose to make his racing debut at the Redlands Bicycle Classic this past weekend.
Following his hard-earned 6th place result in the rain soaked event, we had the opportunity to catch up with Ryan about his race, how it unfolded, and how his training is progressing for this weeks 4-question BWC Athlete Profile. Enjoy!
Primary Sport/Discipline: Road Cycling/Racing/Gran Fondos
Average Hours of Training Per Week: 10-12hrs
Upcoming Goals: Spring & Summer Criterium Racing
The Redlands Bicycle Classic was not Ryan’s first time in the rain, but racing in the rain during a criterium was quite different than riding the San Luis Obispo Gran Fondo in soggy conditions! Photo Credit: SLO Gran Fondo.
Question #1: Congratulations on completing your first criterium, Ryan! You earned a great result despite some chaos within the peloton. Tell us about the race, how did it unfold?
Ryan Voth: Thanks so much! There was definitely nervous energy in the group all the way through the first 20-minutes of the race. Luckily, I had the support of many people cheering for me to keep me focused, including my wife, a close CAT-3 friend and other buddies from our local cycling club – Team Redlands – Mike and Danny. Feeling supported and being provided counsel leading into the race played a large part in helping me push through the jitters of a first race.
At the start, the race was guided by an instructor who ‘lead-out’ the first five laps. This provided everyone in the peloton time to settle into the group and see the racing lines of the course.
The race had a variety of participants, from seasoned group riders on club teams to riders in jogging shorts and t-shirts. Needles to say, I did not expect such a wide range and it was very important to choose which wheels to be on and which not to be on…
Because the road surface was wet and it was drizzling at the start of the race, there were a number of factors that made this race challenging:
1- I was worried about wearing the appropriate clothing for the conditions.
2- I had never cornered at race-speed on wet surfaces that included manhole covers, road reflectors, paint-lines and other obstacles.
3- I was unsure of how my braking performance would be affected in the wet conditions.
4- Never before had I been forced to adjust my riding line to account for water and road grime being sprayed in my face by the rider in front of me.
5- How would I adjust to the other riders in the pack who were braking and shifting in seemingly odd places, like mid-corner?
After considering all that, if I could go back and do it over again, I would have brought a set of warm clothes including wool socks!
Almost from the beginning, the race split with novice riders immediately falling off the back of the group. This happened even before the instructor let the group go. The first few laps were very fast, but after that the group settled into a reasonable pace.
The more I trusted my bike not to slide out in the corners, the more confident I felt moving up in the group. Holding a wheel on this tight course was difficult and was further compounded by the wet road surface. I had to constantly look out for riders diving into corners on the inside, and be sure not to overlap wheels.
With two laps to go there was a substantial rise in the tempo. Unfortunately, this resulted in a crash due to overlapping wheels in turn-1. Luckily, I was not overlapping wheels and was able to avoid going down despite being bounced around by other riders.
In that moment, I remembered some advise I had received about crashes, when there’s a crash, look ahead and pedal hard! This helped me re-gain focus, clip back into my pedals, and get back with the pack.
With one lap to go, I made a big move on the main straight-away to make up five positions going into turn one. From that point there were no opportunities to move-up safely in the peloton because of the increased speed and conditions (given my level of experience).
On the final straight I accelerated with all I had to make up two more positions to cross the line in 6th overall. It was exhilarating!
Coaches Perspective/Coach Brian: I am so excited that Ryan had a successful first race. The rain was an unexpected issue that was not on our radar during the week when we talked race strategy.
Instead we focused on what to expect within the peloton, how to navigate the corners, and in what ways Ryan could use his strengths to maximal effect during the race. Luckily, Ryan reacted well to the soggy conditions and made the most of this adversity to have a great race!
I could not be more proud of Ryan for his blend of tenacity and calm nerves in this stressful environment. He navigated it all very well and has a great experience to show for it!
Ryan Voth got his start in cycling by bike commuting, but now he is regularly working the front of local group-rides having spent a winter developing his fitness. Photo Credit: Ryan Voth.
Question #2: Having found success in your first race, you signed up for more races in the coming weeks. What is it about criterium racing that has you so excited?
RV: I’ve been told, “Ryan, you’re a big boy and you put down a lot of power.”
By working with Coach Brian, I have been able to increase both my endurance and power, which is great!
Although I am aware of my limitations as they relate to climbing and longer, more sustained efforts, there is something empowering about finding what my body is built for and working in that direction.
Criterium racing offers fast-paced, short duration efforts with close-quarters riding in a tactically challenging environment. It is challenging in so many ways! It’s about testing oneself against others; physically, mentally, and tactically.
One needs all three – physical, mental, and tactical ability – to come out on top. It is an exciting task to work toward that trifecta…
Coach Brian: First time racing experiences are memories like no-other, especially in cycling as it is such a unique sport. In Ryan’s case it is easy to see why he already signed up for two more races.
His enjoyment of the close-quarters riding, the precision bike handling and skill-set it requires, and the application of strategy while at a high physical output is something that is best experienced, not explained.
In the coming weeks we will be honing the tactical element of Ryan’s riding to help him prepare for these events as well as continuing to push his top-end fitness to the maximum.
Question #3: What is one of your long-term cycling goals? And what is next on your cycling ‘to do’ list?
RV: I have plenty of beneficial structure in my professional life. As for cycling, it has gone from a hobby to something that is infused in all aspects of my life, but I still prefer minimal structure over long-term goals.
By striking this balance, cycling and training feels more like a journey, which is much more exciting for me. I initially started working with Coach Brian for accountability through the winter in order to increase both my fitness level and riding skill-set.
Coach Brian: What I appreciate most about working with Ryan is his perspective and the joy he has for cycling.
The overwhelming majority of Endurance Athletes are Type-A, driven, and goal oriented individuals, but sometimes that drive can cause us to lose sight of the beauty and community contained in the sport of cycling.
As much as Ryan’s training is about fitness improvement and metrics, it is also about experiencing all that the sport of cycling has to offer. He has challenged himself in Gran Fondo’s, local group-rides, and even utilized bike-commuting to help him achieve his training goals.
His open-mindedness toward all that cycling has to offer will take him far in this sport and I am excited to work with him on his journey!
Squeezing in morning workouts despite a busy schedule has payed off for Ryan as he raced toward a well deserved 6th place at the Redlands Bicycle Classic. Photo Credit: Ryan Voth.
Question #4: Describe your favorite workout in your training program. Also, please share a ‘knowledge-bomb’ you have learned while training with Big Wheel Coaching.
RV: Structured workouts are tedious but beneficial, so I tolerate them because I want to earn the gains I’ve set out to achieve with Coach Brian.
Trying to incorporate these concepts and skills from our structured workouts in a group-ride setting has been very helpful for me.
Knowledge-bomb: It takes more than impulse to reach for the higher hanging fruit!
Coach Brian: Great knowledge-bomb Ryan, I like that! With Ryan (and with all our BWC Athletes) every workout has to have a real-world benefit. The workouts must be able to translate to improvements in the area of cycling the Athlete is striving for development in.
For Ryan, his enjoyment of group riding allows for so many great discussions on tactics, energy conservation, and group-dynamics, all of which are aimed at helping him get more from each training session and group-ride so that he can have the confidence and ability to excel in his upcoming races!
We hope that you have enjoyed reading about Ryan Voth’s first racing experience and all that he conquered to earn a well deserved top-ten placing!
The journey from bike commuter to lycra-wearing speedster has been quite the ride for Ryan, and as his passion for competition takes him into the racing element of the sport he, and anyone reading this article, is sure to benefit from the wisdom he shared above:
It takes more than impulse to reach for the higher hanging fruit!
Until Next Time, Be Safe, Train Hard, & Have Fun!
-Brian & Joy McCulloch
Big Wheel Coaching