Criterium race strategy

Hello everyone, first post here on TR forum. I started training last September on the bike with a base FTP of 190W @ 73 KG (I am 5ft5). Now, 6 months later, I am heading to the summer with a 300W FTP @ 62kg. With this huge improvement I decided I wanted to compete in few local criteriums this summer. However, after watching a lot of race analysis on youtube, I realized that my physiology is not really suited for crits since my absolute power is not that high.

Therefore, do you guys have any ideas of race strategy that would suit my physiology best that would give a shot at winning?



Your power is fine. Enter some races. Have fun. Try a couple different strategies. Experiment. You’ll figure it out what’s optimal later.


300W is not a low FTP – it’s definitely solid and respectable. Coach Jonathon has a ~300 FTP and he races crits all the time.

The only problem is your weight – on a flat course you could get blown around a bit. But on a hilly course you would have a HUGE advantage.

I would say to train your short power, sit in and catch a draft and see how it goes.

Have fun!

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4.8w/kg, go race!

The best strategy I can think of is to go race, try, learn, race again. Strategy often goes out the window in the heat of the moment.
There’s a podcast episode (if I can easily find the ep# I’ll post it here) which discusses a very very light rider and some race strategies they might choose to employ.
Put yourself out there and see what happens, then do it again and again. It sounds like these would be your first crit races - if so, I think your main limiter might be bike handling in groups and putting yourself into position.

Otherwise, you could always just go to the same races that Nate does and sit in his draft until the sprint. :wink:


Don’t die.


Is this the only acceptable takeaway from your first race? I ask because winning is great but I think there might be a couple of more likely and attainable scenarios. If it’s your first crit, why not focus on drafting and riding/moving around in a pack at speed? Get comfortable moving both up and down without getting dropped or spending too long on the front, in the wind.

If winning is absolutely crucial, with your numbers, I’d hop on the first 3-4 rider break that goes and hope it sticks. Take your turns but try not to get carried away and do as little work as you can.

Sprint finishes might not be your strength if you get caught in the pack.

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Holy crap! Someone’s eating his Wheaties!

That’s an enormous jump in fitness!

Regarding crits, you should be able to choose your moves with that kind of fitness, provided you’ve trained hard repeatable efforts. 4.8 w/kg sounds great, but is most applicable to climbing. Crits are all about energy conservation and short bursts of power (unless you can get into a breakaway and make it stick).

My tips (because they’re my weaknesses):

-Get out front early. If you start in the back, get to the front immediately, or you’re doomed in the first few corners. This might mean burning a match to get there, but it’s so worth it. Back = spit out on corners.
-Bike handling is about 40% of the equation. Turns make or break crits. Keep your speed through turns, and don’t give away watts with braking. Being out front helps a ton.
-Draft, draft, draft. You’re small… let the big guys who want to pull, pull you along and punish them in the end.

Looking forward to hearing about how things go!


Wow not disapointed with this forum. You guys are awesome. Thank you very much for all the advices! I will apply them for sure.

As for winning, as someone highly competitive I like having a challenging goal. However, at the end of day, improving and giving my best is my main goal.

Also, I think that this major fitness improvement may be due to me playing hockey 3-5 times a week for all my life and me being training in the gym 5 days a week for 8 years (This winter I squatted 365 pounds for exemple). Don’t know if there is a relation between cycling and my previous sport experience.

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I can say with absolute confidence that, if you are really starting out as a new racer, your fitness will not hold you back. I can also say that you just need to race and watch and learn. YouTube videos are great and can really give you a head start on knowing what to look for, but there is no substitute for the real thing. And even 5 W/kg can still get spit out the back through mistakes in strategy and positioning.

And as someone built almost exactly like you with similar W/kg, don’t say your physiology isn’t suited for crits. You may not win every bunch sprint (yet), but there are many other ways races play out. Make the race what suits you. Breakaways, sprinting from a reduced group, or going for the long one are all options. And your gym time is probably giving you better sprinting abilities than you realize you have.


crits play out in a number of ways…so, if you aren’t a sprinter, reverse engineer the race; how can you win?

Maybe you can win a sprint from a small group, so you need to surf the front and use a match to bridge to what looks like a good break. You can’t make every single one of them, so be wise. Go when the fast riders go. You’ll start to get a sixth sense.

Maybe you have some solid 5 minute power and can give them hell with a last couple laps attack. Especailly since you are new, people may not chase you down right away, everyone looks at each other JUUUUST long enough, and you’re gone, for the win.

Someone else said it: experiment. Find your limiters. Work on them; improve. Try again. And again.

Just go race. It’ll be fun.

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I think you’re getting a lot of good advice here, and I do understand your thoughts regarding winning. Your fitness gains are great, and you’re likely to have a decent comfort level in the pack given your hockey experience. I agree with people suggesting that you try to stay towards the front and draft, as that’s always a good idea. FTP is great, but not always the defining factor in crits. A lot of times, in a crit, it’s the smartest racer who wins. Also, as others have noted, having a strategy going into a race is great, but often goes out the window as it starts unfolding. While it’s great to want to win, I’d put a bigger focus on learning HOW to race.

People who come from a high level of competition from other sports frequently progress faster in racing, from what I’ve seen, so you’ll probably pick it up quickly, but just know that there’s a learning curve when you get out there. Get out there, try stuff out, and have fun!

Racing well requires a toolbox and fitness, while important, is only one of the tools. Bike handling, having the physical and mental ability to adjust and apply a couple different strategies and being able to read a race, get yourself in the right place at the right time and then knowing what to do when you get there are are also key tools. Actually, once you cat up enough to be racing against folks with comparable fitness, fitness almost becomes neutral and those other tools are what determines who wins most of the time.

Fitness you can get by training but all that other stuff mostly comes from racing (and a little from hammering with folks on competitive group rides). So, just get started and do lots of races!