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Crit racing tips needed
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I'm popping my crit cherry this weekend. No idea what I'm doing.... It's 20 x 1km loops and there are 5 grades, A - E, with E being the slowest. I think noobs have to start in E or D for their first race. Do I just start at the back, wait for someone to make a move and then go with them? At what stage do people normally make a break, only towards the end or it can be whenever? Are they normally close to flat out the whole way with the faster guys trying to wear out the slower guys?


The track:



Last edited by: zedzded: Feb 7, 18 18:57
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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I am very curious to read the responses. I raced criteriums 30 years ago. My formal rule of thumb was never be further back than the top 25%. Otherwise your risk of crash goes up exponentially, and you are working very hard with the constant accelerations to stay with the pack. When you ride closer to the front, you generally ride a lot smoother

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!"
Last edited by: exxxviii: Feb 7, 18 18:32
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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There's no perfect answer to those questions. How a crit plays out depends on many factors, including the size of the field, what tactics the strongest riders choose to employ, and what team dynamics are going on.

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".
Last edited by: trail: Feb 7, 18 18:57
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [trail] [ In reply to ]
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Awesome thanks Trail!
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?
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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When I raced my first crit I started near the back because I had no idea what I was doing and did not want to cause a crash. If you've done road racing (stage racing) before then you have an idea of what to expect riding fast in a pack right up close to someone's wheel. But if you want to compete you need to be somewhere near the front third of the pack.

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.

Good luck.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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My tip for the first crit is to be safe. Learn to be comfortable with your elbows rubbing the guys around you, be comfortable not braking into the turns, learn to accelerate by speeding up your cadence rather than shifting. Watch how the pack moves and try to anticipate when breaks will happen.

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, you’re better to be safe than win. You’re better to let someone in front of you, than crash out and set your training back weeks / months.

Also, I found most crits don’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 “when it counts” is just a couple mins, mostly it’s less than that.

After a race or two - lemme know if that makes sense :)
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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Go fast, turn often.

Holja line!

Stay as close to other people as possible to maximize the draft.

Stay as far away from other people as possible so they don’t crash you out.

There will be no break. If it’s windy or hilly there may be a selection, but no break.

Seriously though, there is so much to learn about crit racing that can’t be taught on the internet.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [Karl.n] [ In reply to ]
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Karl.n wrote:

Seriously though, there is so much to learn about crit racing that can’t be taught on the internet.

True, but some of the advice in here is invaluable!
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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If you know the strong cyclists, watch them. If not, watch and listen for them. Stay near the front. Figure out if you can go with a break. How many reals can you go with?
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.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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A lot of the other comments are very helpful. When you are a beginning racer in a crit, the most important thing is to be safe and learn. Try to stay in the front 1/4 of the race. Not only is it safer, but you will have less fluctuation in your power output, which means you will be fresher at the end. You will also be able to actually participate in moves or attack if you want whereas this doesn't work so well when you try to come from 40 back in the field.

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.

Have fun!
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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Couple of tips:
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.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [nightfend] [ In reply to ]
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I was a Cat2 about a decade ago. Ride at the front. Never touch your brakes in a corner, ever. You don’t have to be in every move. You can get really fit really fast riding at the back, you will essentially be sprinting out of every corner. You can also get caught up in a lot of nonsense at the back of the field. I loved to try & create breaks & make them stick. Rarely works but is a lot of fun being hunted by a large pack of riders.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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1) make a plan
2) throw out that plan in the first 60 seconds
3) hang on and have fun
4) if you are not confident, stay the fuck out of the sprint
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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Be dubious about anyone who yells hold your line, they are probably the person who is not
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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There is no 1 strategy that’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, I’ll throw in - don’t stand up to sprint outta the corners...until you’re out of the corner....ten meters too soon & she’s up in the air and its game over for you or someone behind you.

SB.

http://www.sweat7.com
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [exxxviii] [ In reply to ]
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Corners. Don't use the brake. And start accelerating too late you will get dropped. I've had this happen, got dropped within 15 minutes because i was on the rubber band each corner. I got lapped and then started focusing on taking the the corners better. When I got that right, I could quite easily manage to stay in the pack.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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my opinion for a first timer in a crit. (already some good advice btw)

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.

The Artist formally known as Leegoocrap
My Blog - http://leegoocrap.blogspot.com
Podium Sports Racing - http://www.podiumsportsmed.com/team/
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [Morelock] [ In reply to ]
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Are there intermediate sprints in crits in the US?
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [BergHugi] [ In reply to ]
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We have prime laps, yeah.

The Artist formally known as Leegoocrap
My Blog - http://leegoocrap.blogspot.com
Podium Sports Racing - http://www.podiumsportsmed.com/team/
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [Morelock] [ In reply to ]
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Prime laps? - to sprint for money or for points in order to win the race?

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.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [BergHugi] [ In reply to ]
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ahh gotcha,

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)

The Artist formally known as Leegoocrap
My Blog - http://leegoocrap.blogspot.com
Podium Sports Racing - http://www.podiumsportsmed.com/team/
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [Morelock] [ In reply to ]
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Take off the aerobars....
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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As others have said, you can get nuggets of wisdom, but the only way to learn to ride crits is to do it and make a bunch of mistakes and learn from them.

Big things:
- 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...
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [Trauma] [ In reply to ]
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If you start in the back and stay in the back you will be off the back. It is so hard riding in the back of a crit. In the corners and there are a bunch of them the leaders are on full gas out of it and you are still slowing down for a corner. Repeat that a hundred times and the rubber band snaps and you are now riding a very curvy time trial. That said, if and when you get dropped with a couple kindred spirits you can still get around the course pretty quick and learn how to get thru those corners in a smaller group.
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Re: Crit racing tips needed [zedzded] [ In reply to ]
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zedzded wrote:
I'm popping my crit cherry this weekend. No idea what I'm doing.... It's 20 x 1km loops and there are 5 grades, A - E, with E being the slowest. I think noobs have to start in E or D for their first race. Do I just start at the back, wait for someone to make a move and then go with them? At what stage do people normally make a break, only towards

[/url]-Don’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 “don’t bomb the corner” until you learn how to do it safely.
-Don’t “fight” 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.
-Don’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 cares…, if you can’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 don’t have them it is all about anaerobic abilities, most triathletes luck both.
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