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Edit: Watched the video. Those little merge curbs in the round about turns are gonna suck. Those cut the width of the road in half. "Hold your line!"
Some races are flat out, some are surgy, some are slowish if no team or group of individuals is "controlling the race." Some are won at the start. Many end in field sprints. And there's a whole range of things in between.
If you're talking cherry-popping, I'm going to guess Cat 5 type stuff. So I can give my Cat 5 type advice (downloading all crit knowledge would be book, and I'm not even close to a master tactician).
1) Stay in the top 1/4. It's safer in Cat 5.
2) It's OK to be at the front and "pull" if you find yourself in front, but only do so for a few seconds, and then rotate off. Don't make any "hero pulls". Don't think you're doing to tire anyone out. Just pull through and let yourself rotate back 5-10 spots until you find a good place to chill.
3) Your course sounds a little selective with 5 grades. Being near the front lets you make those selections easier. Crit dreams often end when a split occurs 10 guys in front of you, and by the time you get past the 10, you have no chance of bridging.
4) The first few break attempts usually (but not always) fail.
5) If you know who some super strong guys in the field are, stay near them, and watch them.
6) Watch for smooth, confident people, and be near them. Watch for nervous, uncertain people and stay away from them.
7) If you want to move up, don't move up in a hero move up the side. Be crafty. Follow other people up or work your way up the middle.
8) Know who you are. A typical problem in Cat 5 is everyone thinks they can win.
9) Don't chase down every break, if you miss the break. In crits, you have to be willing to lose sometimes in order to win.
10) If you think you missed The Break, try to jump across to it without dragging the entire field with you (this is hard to do).
11) If you're in The Break, do a little work to help the break succeed, but don't be the Break Hero, the guy driving the break.
I could go on with like another 80 tips, but will stop there.
Remember, if you get through the first crit in one piece and a pack finish you did really well.
Edit: One of my favorite pieces on race tactics is this bit on "narrowing the odds".
I'll be reading that a few times over! I'm guessing the ability will vary. Any noobs have to start in either grade E or D (not sure which), but grades E and D race together anyway along with U15. So there will be a few regulars I guess who are D/E grade ability and then a few of my mates doing it who are decent triathlete bikers 2.15 - 2.25/70.3. So it will be a mixed bag. I guess if a break goes early, let them go and hold on for a later break?
Also, do you know what grade you are allowed to ride with? Here in U.S. we have Category classes which I'm guessing is similar to grades. Grade A men I would guess is like Cat1 which are the really fast and experienced. If you're new you'll either have to be in beginner grade (coached) or Grade D or E.
Also, each grade will typically ride for a set time, not necessarily a number of laps. So grade A guys will ride 50 minutes but grade E guys for 20 minutes etc. They might have a lap counter by the start/finish line and after you make the first or second lap they will announce the number of laps based on how fast you are moving etc.
Crits can be punchy with a lot of surges/attacks. If you're a strong rider you might feel good after a few laps and feel like attacking but you may be surprised on how easily the group is right on your wheel.
The most common "mistakes" beginners make in crits is hitting the brakes on the turns and making sudden movements left and right. So my advice, hold your line and try not to brake on the turns. The bad part about being in the back in a beginners or lower grade race is all the guys that will be breaking on the turns. Then you get separated from the lead group and it becomes a time trial of sorts trying to get back.
But it's fun.
It took me a few crits just to get my breathing / HR down in a giant pack going 30mph
All trails tips are good ones
Crits are so much fun, exhilarating. Until you see someone crash next to you and get up bloody.. and you remember that no matter what, youâ€™re better to be safe than win. Youâ€™re better to let someone in front of you, than crash out and set your training back weeks / months.
Also, I found most crits donâ€™t feel like a great triathlete workout. I got annoyed with that actually. average power was pretty low and races are pretty short. I actually tried to race harder than needed to get a better workout for awhile. Then I figured it out, goal of a crit is to ride with as low of power possible for as long as possible, then go max effort when it counts. Sometimes â€śwhen it countsâ€ť is just a couple mins, mostly itâ€™s less than that.
After a race or two - lemme know if that makes sense :)
Stay as close to other people as possible to maximize the draft.
Stay as far away from other people as possible so they donâ€™t crash you out.
There will be no break. If itâ€™s windy or hilly there may be a selection, but no break.
Seriously though, there is so much to learn about crit racing that canâ€™t be taught on the internet.
Learn as much as you can as the race progresses. Realize that it is usually a sprinter race. Can you follow the strong teams?
Crits are incredibly hard and painful, but one of the most thrilling thing you can experience.
Lastly, if you want to do well, the key (to all bike racing IMO) is to be as lazy as you can possibly be till the right moment comes to really use everything you've got. However, there is nothing wrong with going balls out in suicide moves. It's fun and helps you learn.
1.) Be prepared to go fast right from the start.
2.) Be prepared to do a VO2max interval everytime there is a sharp turn or hill if you are on the back because everything will string out and you'll have to go very fast after the turn to make up the distance lost to the front of the field. The back is tough if you are not a very strong rider because of this. That's why everyone tries to stay near the front.
3.) To take turns fast, a crit field will take a turn wide going into it, cut the apex and then go back out wide. Don't be the rider that tries to cut into the space the pack leaves just before the turn and then hits other riders as they come through the apex of the turn.
4.) Try not to make sudden movements and try not to slam on your brakes. Both of those are great ways to get in a crash.
5.) Get used to pedaling through less aggressive turns and be pepared for occasional pedal strikes.
6.) Most importantly, don't race any equipment you can't afford to replace, because crits have lots of crashes in them.
There is no 1 strategy thatâ€™ll work for you. Race LOTS of them thats the only way to learn. Back in the UK I prob raced 2-3 /week on average from the age of 13 until I was 20, we were brought up on them from May til Sept.
Theres already some good advice in this thread, Iâ€™ll throw in - donâ€™t stand up to sprint outta the corners...until youâ€™re out of the corner....ten meters too soon & sheâ€™s up in the air and its game over for you or someone behind you.
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Stay in the pack, somewhere near the front / middle. Not for a tactical reason, but so you can get some experience riding in a crit pack.
In our local crit series I see a lot of guys coming from triathlon do 1 of 3 things...
either they are much fitter than the other "beginners" and they ride away with a couple of people, basically tt'ing off the front
or they are timid, ride at the very back, and basically yo-yo off the tail by themselves the whole crit
or they go up front, do a massive pull for a few laps, then drop out.
none of these teach you how to race a crit. Riding shoulder to shoulder with the guy beside you in a fast as shit turn where you hear tyres skidding and your butthole puckers up, that teaches you how to crit race.
IMO of course, and I'm not crit master.
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Here in Germany crits are like points races on the track, every couple of laps there is an intermediate sprint and one can get 5, 3, 2, or 1 points. Last sprint counts double. Lapping the field counts stronger than the points. In addition there may be prize sprints for money or sometimes even for beer (the sponsor of the local crit is a brewery) but will not count for the race result.
Anyway, intermediate sprints may alter the tactics considerably.
I've only ever done points race style races "on the boards." Most US crits (that I'm aware of at least) are just normal first over the line setup. Prime laps for $$$/beer/prizes, but not points.
Points races on the road would be more enjoyable (imo)
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- Don't touch your brakes in the corners, if you need to modulate your speed, do it before hand... if you brake while cornering it pooches your handling and you are more likely to donate epidermis to asphalt...
- When in doubt, know your way out. Expect others to do stupid things, have an escape route... this is both useful in terms of avoiding crashes, but also eventually if you need to move up in the pack or want to launch an attack, you need a route to breathing space...
- Be predictable with your handling... this goes without saying...
- RELAX. 99% of trouble you get into in a bike race can be resolve by staying relaxed. When shit starts to go sideways, if you relax, you can often save it, but the gut reaction is to tense up, which never goes well... (the number of near misses that I have had that stayed misses just by staying relaxed could fill pages...)
- The first 5 laps are almost always balls to the wall (especially in lower categories, where they try to catch out a bunch of the squirrels and drop them before they can do damage...), but the pace will settle.
- Find an experienced rider who moves well in the pack and shadow them... one of the best ways to learn.
- Have fun, there's a certain zen that comes with the feeling of having a heart attack that you experience for the 45min or so of a crit...
[/url]-Donâ€™t overlap the wheels.
-Avoid passing people in corners on the inside, until you learn how to do it safely.
-Hold your line in the corners aka â€śdonâ€™t bomb the cornerâ€ť until you learn how to do it safely.
-Donâ€™t â€śfightâ€ť for position on lap 5, it does not matter where you are on lap 5
-Don't pour water on your head like in TdF, it is crit not 2 hours climb, don't spit (first learn how to), someone might get it on their face.
-Donâ€™t be a d!*( let people in when it does not matter, you might make few friends who will let you in when it matters.
-Does not matter where you start, front\back who caresâ€¦, if you canâ€™t move from the back to the front you will most likely drop from the front in no time.
-Learn to feel the flow of the race keep your HR low and breathe.
-Know who matters in the race, there are a lot of people that will sprint for fun, but they do not matter, let them go they will die in no time.
-Crit is all about skills, if you donâ€™t have them it is all about anaerobic abilities, most triathletes luck both.