Fastest/best way to learn crits?

I’m racing in my first “official” crit this upcoming Sunday, but a local racing team in Chicago hosts a Tuesday night practice crit series and it gives me a chance to do two practice races tonight before an actual race on Sunday.

So, my question is: if I wanted to glean maximum learnings from each of the practice races, what would be the best way to do so?

In the first practice race, I was thinking about constantly attacking until I blow up, or get away. In the second, I was thinking of covering every move to see what happens (or I blow up).

This is also replacing a night of training, so I do want to make sure I get a good workout in.

Or would sitting in the group be a better way to learn?

As an aside, I’m comfortable riding in a group (fast group rides, road races, etc.) I’ve just never done an actual crit race. So I’m looking to glean more about actual race-craft than worried about getting comfortable with riding in fast, tight quarter.


(Oh, an for those of you about to say it…no need: I’ll try not to crash. Thanks.)

What do you need the most work on?

Honestly, if this is your first race, your best bet is to just try to stay in the group the entire time and corner at speed with everyone else around you. Your first couple of races will be a complete learning experience in itself, don’t try to complicate things by trying to add more that you need to focus on.

From what I’ve been told the xXx practice crits (my assumption from your info) are pretty chill and the course is one that you can race without ever needing to touch your brakes (although chances are that this isn’t the case in newer groups).


Take this with a grain of salt, because this is only my second season racing crits. But I think that there is no straight forward way to answer this question. It depends on the trajectory of the race, the course, what other people are doing. Attacking a lot until you’re gassed seems like a fun way to go about it, countering moves is another, focussing on reading the race and learning to identify strong riders (and those that you might want to avoid) is another. The thing is, I feel like to figure out how you should race crits, you have to do all those things over lots of races. And what race is best suited for what is hard to predict.

You could go in thinking you’ll just attack constantly, but there’s a strong head wind on the spot that you thought was best to attack on and you’ll just have a very frustrating race (though you will learn about attacking into a head wind). :slight_smile: Or, you’ll think about a strategy for weeks and then comes race day and it’s 31 degrees and raining and you show up to a field of six as happened to me two weeks ago. I won the race because I was too scared to stick with people but can’t say I learned anything except for the many different colors your feet can turn.

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Hey @batwood14,

If you haven’t seen this video yet, I think it could provide some good insights into what to think about when you’re racing a crit. The main focus of the conversation is “attacking vs. patrolling” which should relate directly to your original question :+1:.

If you like this Race Analysis format, you can check out some of our other videos here:

Best of luck with your upcoming event!

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Racing my first crits this coming Saturday. I’ve watched the race analysis videos and there’s tremendous value there.

My plan? As my formerly active cat 2 crit racing friend said, “Stay up front. And make sure you stay up front. And when you aren’t up front, get up front. The yo-yo after the corner is what causes accidents.”

I said, “So you think I should be up front then?”

He said, “Probably. And if not, stay up front.”

My goal? Finish two races with both collarbones intact.


I think there are better ways than attacking or covering until you blow. Learning when to attack and when to cover are more the thing to learn.

Racing solo without a team it’s important to quickly size up the field in the first number of laps. While not foolproof, it’s important to determine who in a team is more a sprinter, a break specialist, a worker. Who in the field to stay away from. Who seems to be anxious to work. Who is really good at sitting in. In general who appears to have their ducks in a row and who doesn’t.

If your fitness is relatively good and you can handle your bike, read the wind you will get in situations where you either feel it’s time to work or time to chill; time to move up and time sit.


You just need to get out there and see how it feels. Spend a race attacking, one covering, and another working on maintaining position, but mainly the more you do the more sense it will all make.

Analysis videos are great, but once the race starts, unless you’ve “been there,” everything you just saw in the video will go straight out of your head and you’ll ride like a spastic monkey. Then you’ll watch an analysis video later and see how their advice jives with what you experienced and it starts to come together. Repeat that 30 (or 300) times and before you know it, every situation will look familiar and you’ll know how to react appropriately. Training crits like you’re talking about help you get there faster (and cheaper).


This is essentially what I’m expecting to happen.

Good advice here.

I’ll add that you very likely will be racing against many of these same people in all these training races and most local crits so get started ASAP on sizing up on who’s who, who can do what and who the good, and especially bad, wheels are to be on.

Crits can be a very different beast. I suggest you play it by ear and get comfortable w/the speed, positioning, and cornering. @kurt.braeckel friend gave him good advice.

Anyone can constantly go off the front or chase every break until they blow up. This does not require practice. That said, if you find yourself comfortable w/the speed, cornering, and positioning, then sure make some efforts to break away or get into a break.

Have fun! Keep the rubber side down!

Definitely just get used to riding at the bunches pace, cornering in the group, moving around the group etc, and of course enjoy the race for the first couple

Attacking/covering moves will come with time

If you are doing the lincoln park crit I would say stick in the group. That race gets super windy and has that hairpin turn so it is best at least feeling it out for 4-5 laps.

Do you do any of the weds night rides?

Great question and great advice! Add someone who is looking forward to their first crit next month it’s awesome. Still to cold up here and snow coming this weekend.

Learn as much as you can but remember this:


There’s an analogy in there somewhere :grinning:

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Thanks to all for the advice above. As I said, I raced two “practice” crits last night – for those interested, below are my takeaways and my power profile for each race. There was a mix of Cat 2 through Cat 5 racers and an “A” group and “B” group for each race, which was based on self-selection.

In the first race, I self-selected into the “B” group. After that experience (more below), I rode with the “A” group for my second race.

Overall takeaways:

– The overall #1 piece of advice I received in this and other threads was that I would need to get comfortable riding fast/cornering fast and doing so in a tight group. I’ve asserted repeatedly that I am super comfortable riding in tight quarters, but many seemed to think crits would be a whole different ballgame for me. It sort of psyched me out. But I’m happy to report that despite the course having 2 legit corners, I was fine with all of them and as comfortable riding/cornering fast in a tight group as I thought I would be based on my road racing experience. I don’t know if I’m dumb, special, ignorant or what-have-you, but shoulder-to-shoulder riding at high speeds has never bothered me. I don’t get nervous. It’s not to say that I don’t have the requisite adrenaline, focus and awareness that others could take me out, but it never occurs to me to hesitate and I’m not skittish or fearful – and overall I’ve always felt confident. I’m guessing – based on the aforementioned feedback – others have issues with this. For whatever reason I don’t. So I’m glad to report that this part of the crit (and my own abilities) met my expectations.

– I can’t sprint. Need to work on this. I have a decent turn of speed at ~1200 watts, but after the acceleration that happened on the last lap of each race, I didn’t have much snap to accelerate to the finish. This is the most obvious limiter I identified. I had no problem hanging in with either group, managing the accelerations, and was always around the top-10 – but when the last 200-300 meters arrived, I was barely able to push ~900 watts. At the end of a 40 mile road race a few weeks ago, I put out about ~1000 watts sprinting for the line. But the surge-y-ness of the crit taxed my legs differently. It’s something to work on.

Race #1 power profile:

– I raced in the “B” group for this one, and it was a 10-lap shit show. About 20 riders in this race.
There was no sort of paceline, and others were taking wildly inefficient lines into corners. Every time I grabbed a wheel, I would find that they were taking a bad line and I would have to put my nose in the wind, or somehow otherwise adjust to keep myself clean.
– From the very first lap, someone popped off the front and went for a breakaway. They never got very far. Starting with the third lap, I decided I would try and help a break get going because riding in the main “group” wasn’t nearly as efficient as it should have been. Also, we were riding at a speed which was too low – and I was getting antsy and wanted to push it.
– So, essentially, for the next 7 laps I covered every single break. Good news for me, I got a good workout in. Bad news for me – by the time I got to every break, the riders in front faded and just about the time I was planning on pulling through, the group caught us. As such, I rode the ~17 minute race at an IF of .98 – and when the sprint opened for the line, I was cooked and I finished in the 10-12 range.

Race #2 power profile:

– Based on my experience in the first race with the “B” group, I felt like I had the fitness and skill to ride with the “A” group of about 40 riders for the next race. It was the correct call - and I had a much cleaner/better experience over 14 laps of a 1km loop. The lines into the corners were clean, and there was predictability to the movement within the group.

– Knowing that there were riders as high as Cat 2 in this group, I had a very specific race goal in mind – to hang near the front and not get dropped. I also made the decision not to cover any moves whatsoever, and just let the group pull me back if the break didn’t get away. And if it got away, so be it. I just wanted a clean ride near the front and to test my fitness to see if I could hang.

– This worked and I was really pleased with ride. As you can see it was surge-y, but my IF was .87 at the end, so I did a much better job of conserving energy.

– As the last lap approached what was left of the front group (about 20 riders) accelerated, I drifted too far back and was in about 15th wheel. I spent the whole lap working my way back to the front, and got about to 5th wheel just as the sprint opened up. When I got out of the saddle I felt like mush and my legs were spongey. I drilled it as hard as I could, but there wasn’t much there, and I finished in the 8-10 range.

Overall, a really good experience and gave me some good confidence going into my first “official” criterium this Sunday as a CAT 5 rider.


Nice job! Thanks for updating. I’m a fellow Chicagoan also new to racing crits, (Skyway crits was my first) so I enjoy seeing the journey of others. I plan to jump in on Tuesday nights or possibly at Lincoln Park so we may be racing at some point.

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Nice job, man. I’m admittedly nervous about Saturday myself. I suspect my fitness will be fine, but expecting a bit of a shitshow with respect to actual racing, lines, cornering, etc. Fortunately the field in the Cat5 race should be pretty small, and that one is before the C4/5 race which will be larger. Two collarbones intact (and stay with the groups)… I’ll be happy.

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don’t practice blowing up or just sitting in, practice trying to win! Figure out how YOU can win a crit. Wait for a sprint, learn how to get in the move up the road, learn the dance!

As the last lap approached what was left of the front group (about 20 riders) accelerated, I drifted too far back and was in about 15th wheel

The last lap effect you talk about here is what’s been killing me too. This is my second season of crits, and I find it’s generally pretty easy to keep yourself in good position until the last lap, when everything ratchets up to 11. The 3-5 minute power required to keep pace with the last lap surge, make any splits (because there are always huge splits on the last lap, and getting caught behind one will kill your race), and then do something meaningful at the end is the biggest difference between group rides/workouts and racing to me.

All of this is a long winded way to say that it sounds like your practice races were good examples of the things you’ll be dealing with during “official” races. Good luck!