Recently had some friends talk me around to the idea of joining one of our nearby teams for a local crit series in a couple of months, with A/B/C grade teams available. I’m planning to enter a couple of ‘practise’ races beforehand to get a bit of a feel for things and see where I’m at relative to everyone else as it’s a bit outside of my wheelhouse.
However, I’ve been asked to self-seed the category for my first race, and I’m not really sure what to do in that regard as most of my racing experience has been in triathlon and individual TTs/hill climbs. (I race As in the latter, but I’m pretty heavily weighted in favour of long climbs and steady efforts so I’m not sure how well that fitness will translate. I also don’t doubt I have a lot to learn on the tactics/bike skill side of the equation.) With that said, am I better off starting at the bottom or is there more to learn if I shoot for the B grade, which i suspect might be closer to my own ability based upon others I’ve ridden with?
Also, I’d love to hear any advice on how to approach the race itself- given our women’s fields are smaller and I have a reasonably competitive FTP, would it be more to my advantage (and/or safer?) to position myself towards the front, or am I better off sitting in until I get more practise?
I’m not sure there is a simple answer to this. Some of this depends on how serious and who this crit series is aimed at. If the C’s are strong riders, but new to crits. that’s different than the C’s being C riders. My experience last year crit racing the first time. I’m a 4.0 w/kg rider, but Cat 5 because I’d never raced before. I raced the Cat 4/5 and did not feel out of place. I came in 4th out of like 20 riders and it was fine. A couple weeks later I did a smaller series sponsored by a local bike shop and they had A/B/C races. I did the C because I was still Cat 5. This group was less experienced, still some decent guys about my level. I won the series and a race and they told me I had to do B’s next time. I didn’t feel like I was much more experienced or anything after the C races, but I definitely belonged in the B group.
Crit racing is as much about experience and skill as it is fitness. You need to start in the lowest possible category to start to learn those skills. You should 100% enter the C race…if you are good enough, you’ll advance quickly.
You can’t learn skills and tactics if you’re not in the race so it’s better to seed yourself a little low rather than too high. The best way to learn tactics and skills is to be in a group where you can actually do things rather than just be struggling to hang on. Soloing either off the front or off the back teaches you nothing.
Looking at people you know is a great idea. If you’re doing hard group rides with B riders you likely can race with them.
I’d enter C cat if you’ve never raced a crit before. Make it to the end, and then see if you want to enter B for the next race. And don’t worry about tactics, that comes naturally once you’ve got a bit of experience.
I think I’d only pick a higher cat for a “first” race if it’s not actually a first - for example, if you had raced abroad or as a junior, but not for several years.
Can you not also ask your new team what they think you should do?
FTP isn’t nearly as important in a crit as tactics and pack riding skills. Seed yourself as a rank beginner, and spend the first couple of races simply learning how to move around the pack, understand pack dynamics, identify wheels to follow, and corner elbow to elbow. When you’re comfortable with those skills and are winning, move up. In the meantime, remind yourself that racing smart will beat racing fast.
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