First Crit - Advice?

Entered my first crit. My race experience is small with only 1 actual race and many fast group race rides.
Would love some advice for my first crit from everyone.

The TR Race Analysis videos are exceptional

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Don’t expect to win… very easy to over estimate chances. Just treat it as a learning experience, stay upright and try to identify scenarios from the race analysis videos. If you can identify them as your experience grows it’s easier to put into practice.

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I didn’t do any race for now, but from what I’ve heard :

  • try to stay in the draft as much as possible
  • don’t do unnecessary efforts at the front
  • if you have teammates, don’t chase them for no reason

For a first race you should try to keep it simple I think.
Norcalcylcist and Trinerroad have great ressources on racing too.

Other than that, don’t forget to enjoy it!

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Keep your expectations reasonable, you’re not going to be Cav winning the sprint or breaking away like de Ghent.

I could not believe the pace it set off at either, it was mad. The top of the bunch put out over 50% more normalised power.

Mega fun though.

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I’d say try to stay towards the front, but not on the front. Do as little effort as possible to stay towards the front. It’s typically safer and easier towards the front (don’t get the yo-yo effect that you do farther back). If you can stay towards the front, that gives you the best chance possible to have a good finish.

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The only advice I would give is to have fun! Take the chance to speak rubbish about bikes to like minded people and enjoy.

The first race will tell you how you stack up and also what the tactics are. Based on that you can build from there

This can’t be overstated…people are shocked at how fast the first 5-10 minutes can be…everyone is amped up and there can be some really fast guys who overestimate their ability to hold top speeds. Do everything you can to hang on at the beginning (if you are getting stretched)…pace will ease up after a few laps.

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Yeah I’ve watched a ton of Norcal Cycling and TR race analysis vids, but getting tips from some other folks is always helpful.

Yeah I experience this on the group rides. This past weekend I rode two race rides with guys stronger than me. The surges were insane but I was able to stay on for most of it. Freeloading in the draft lol!

It is still very different from a race…don’t mistake fast group rides, even hard ones, as being representative of race pace. More people from a wider area means more fast guys and the fact that it is a race ups it even more.

Just be prepared to dig deep early and know that it will ease up after a few laps.

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Arrive early, arrive warmed up.
A lot easier to get dropped at the back in the first 5 mins if, well, you’re at the back, cause you arrived late

Go into it with a learning mindset. Don’t show up with a plan to win. Think of it as an opportunity to learn about yourself and the others you are racing against

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I recently made a similar thread and gathered a few key points.

  1. Try to stick towards the front to not miss a break and avoid mid pack accidents
  2. Expect Cat5 to chase anything and everything
  3. Don’t expect to win

That said my strategy is going to be to stay in the front 10 of the group and attack once the pace slows after the initial laps and everyone is getting tired. If someone follows, plan is to take turns with them and not give them a free pull to the finish

A great man once said “someone will win the bike race, someone” and I’m still gonna try to be that someone

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Warm up properly. It will start hard so be caught off guard by the surges and try to be near the front early on so you don’t get caught the wrong side of a split.

Dont try and be a hero. Come through and take a turn if your near the front but don’t bury yourself to try and do a long pull and keep the pace up or to chase people down otherwise people will just sit on until you pop and the you’ll be going backwards quickly.

Race with your head up, communicate with riders around you.

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I don’t expect to win, but I will be disappointed if I’m not competitive. I fully expect the surge at the beginning of the race. I think I’ll be able to fight through that. I feel like just need to corner well, conserve energy and try to be in the top 10 at the end of the race. I want to at least be in the draft or close to the guy who wins.

Most Cat 5 crashes happen in the corners, protect your front wheel and give yourself a little extra room.
Expect that the rider next to you won’t take a perfectly smooth line. Ideally you’re on the inside or outside to allow yourself an exit, then slot back in after the corner.

I’m a strong sprinter with no fitness. Catted up in 1 yr from Cat 5 to 3 by doing the following:

  1. Sit in. Play sprinter card.
  2. Be small.
  3. Pretend like wind is lava.
  4. Be smaller.
  5. Use less energy.
  6. Try not to die.
  7. Put in one “all-in” effort to get to 3rd, 4th, or 5th wheel with 1-2k to go.
  8. Then, sell out (ie. sprint, be small) to stay on whatever wheel is in front of you.
  9. Hit the wind late.

If you’re not a sprinter…honestly you can probably take the same approach and still podium. Mistiming sprints (ie, not going with the wheel in front of you, or hitting the wind too early), or not selling out to have good late-race position (ie. sitting 20th in center-pack with 500m to go)are the reasons people don’t podium in bike races. Not whether you can do 1200W or 2000W peak power. I’m in the 2000W ballpark, but that aint happenin’ in a crit where my HR is already 175 after battling into good position at the front. If I touch 1500W that’s great, and at 210 pounds, that’s not so superlative that I can make stupid mistakes.

Sure I lost some races because there was a break. More often than not, there was a bunch sprint. And if you’ve been sitting in, being small, dodging wind, and only moving up enough not to waste energy yo-yoing at the back, you’ll be way fresher than everyone else who has been playing the spring-brake-sprint-brake game for the last hour.

One bonus of my strategy is that I got to learn just how lazy a person can be, if they decide to play the sprinter card or ever just wanted to sit in and recover. The answer: in cat 3/4 and cat 5 racing: very very lazy.

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Never stick your nose in the wind unless there is a compelling strategic reason to do so…”taking your turn” is not one of those reasons.

Almost every move you need to make in a bike race can be done w/o hitting the wind…need to move up in the pack? Wait until there are other riders moving up and latch on. Miss the break? Someone else did too and they will likely chase. Sometimes it just takes a little patience for the other option to present itself.

Only hit the wind when you absolutely have to and there is no other option.

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This is the type of formula I needed. I think I can do that!