I just signed up for my first crit race this Saturday. I have never raced a bike before. Gulp! While I plan to just hang on and see what it’s like, I’m curious about power during the race. It’s a Cat 4/5 race (I can’t get into the age 55+ group because its only Cat 2/3/4) that is supposed to be 35 minutes long. How do I judge my power for 35 minutes? The number I get from TR is what . . . 10 minute power?
My guess is that once we start I won’t even look at power but overall I don’t know how to apply that number to various distances.
Cool, have fun. Unless you expect to sort of TT yourself to the finish line, your 35 minute power is sort of irrelevant in a crit. If you’re planning to try to hang on, you’re going to be forced into several significant efforts early on. Just keep going until you lose the group and then just shoot to hold a threshold workout until time’s up. I only keep power on screen #2 to pace myself if I get dropped. Otherwise I don’t even have it on screen.
But, if you’re dying to know 35 minute power, it’s in your career page on the power curve graph. Use that to estimate.
For sure follow this advice. I’ve looked at my computer at times (races, group rides, etc.) and saw a Power or HR number that made me go; “I can’t do this” or “It’s not sustainable” and you don’t want that during a race when your FULL concentration needs to be on safety for everyone, not crashing, and enjoying yourself.
I did my state championship RR back in 2018 and had power and HR numbers that I still can hardly fathom, if I’d have paid too much attention to them and thought about it I’d have given up.
Good luck at the race and let us know how it goes.
While averages can show how fit you are they are not meaningless but the ability to simply hold a certain overall average power rarely determines outcome in a crit. Averages are for time trials. Crits are all about variations in power. Success is more often than not determined by the combination of how often you can repeat your max 20 sec to 2 minute power on one hand and how good you are about taking advantages of opportunities to use minimum power so you can recover. If you’re at the back, that’s what will keep you from getting dropped and you are at the front, responding to and initiating repeated attacks are what wins races.
Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. Great advice. I’m going to set up a separate screen on my GPS without power (I don’t use HR) and just focus on my position. I have low expectations and am now convinced that paying attention to power will only hamper my first crit. Power13 is right! I’m actually that guy who might get freaked out by a weird number
I also found this thread that I’m reading. It’s been very helpful.
Don’t be a guy in the cat 5 field staring at the power meter. You will be the guy who crashes the field. Just try to stay in the top 5-15 spots and don’t get dropped. Criteriums are surgie, so don’t worry about your power. Do what you need to in order to not get dropped.
I have never raced a crit, so take this advice with some enormous grains of salt. However, I believe I have heard the hosts on the podcast (Nate, Amber, John, and Pete, at various times) say the goal of a race like a crit should be to have the lowest possible power compared to your competitors, and to keep it as smooth as humanly possible, given the conditions and the field. I believe Norcal Cycling on YouTube constantly preaches this refrain as well.
Great point! Just today at lunch I heard them say something similar in the live stream. They said the person who peddles less wins…kind of thing. I already made a screen for my GPS that has only basic info on it and no power info.
I have heard the hosts on the podcast (Nate, Amber, John, and Pete, at various times) say the goal of a race like a crit should be to have the lowest possible power compared to your competitors, and to keep it as smooth as humanly possible, given the conditions and the field.
If it’s a timed race having the stop watch/time field big enough to see is nice. They’ll give you a laps to go count at some point but often you’ll be flying blind for the first half of the race or so.
Power is actually nice to see too. You won’t be looking at the big numbers but when things ease up it can help to see you are at a doable level.
This is useful, to a point. I would say that you have to know what you’re doing, in a multitude of situations, for this to ring true.
As this is your first crit, I would suggest that your ability to navigate a pack, moving at pace, will determine your overall efficiency. Do you know how to position yourself in cross winds? Corner whilst maintaining momentum?
Whilst the statement holds water, it takes a while to perfect the few basics I’ve mentioned. There are numerous other factors that can come into play.
Either way, I hope that you have fun and catch the crit racing bug
Agree with the above that you certainly shouldn’t be looking at power or HR if you’re responding/defending in a race - keep your head up, do whatever is necessary to follow wheels, unless or until the time comes that you can’t!
That said I prefer to just use the same screen layout for all my training and racing on the basis that the familiarity enables me to glance at it to get the information I need in the shortest time possible, even with an oxygen-deprived race brain. That layout includes 3 second power and HR. I find them useful if/when you get on the front foot in a race and need to measure your efforts more. E.g. doing turns on front of a break or group, or if you’re solo in a break or bridging effort, and you need to keep things at a repeatable/sustainable level. RPE in a race can be pretty unreliable, especially when you’re new to it. In your first race you’re probably not going to get in a break, and you shouldn’t be doing turns on the front of the main bunch, but could be the race breaks up and you find yourself in a small group working together to get round and power might just help you to pace your pulls so that you can stay in the group.
I have no idea what I’m doing. Frankly, I’m not even good at group rides! The advice is really appreciated because it’s all I have to go on. At this point it’s just a mental exercise. I’ve watched a bunch of crit races, know not to cross wheels, know to stay on a wheel, but its never been put into practice. This is a 4-race series. I hope to do 2-3 of them and just learn.
…I’m glad you wrote this. It was exactly my plan (to hang out at the back) but I’ll try to be in the mix.
I’m going to try to ignore the GPS and try even harder not to crash.
In a crit you will not go into it with a power plan. Unless your plan is to go off the front from the start and hold it to the finish, your power output will be whatever it takes to stay with the group. Also, your PRs are most likely pretty steady efforts while in a crit you might be pushing 500 watts out of a corner, then coasting, then SS, then coasting, then sprint, etc etc. So the avg power won’t be representative of the effort.
Going into a 35min crit with a power plan is definitely overthinking it.
I would say the person who peddles less to find themselves in the same position at the end has a greater chance of winning. But the first and most important part of that is the ‘same position’ part. Someone who averages 99% of their FTP but exits the last corner second is probably going to beat the person who averaged 80% of their FTP but is at the back.
For your first crit, I wouldn’t worry about that at all. It will only mess with your head when you’re inevitably pushing super hard to stay with the group and all you’re thinking is “I’m wasting all my energy”. You should just focus on staying with the group, moving up a couple wheels when you can, and trying to be relaxed. You will most likely be fairly overwhelmed that you won’t be able to focus on much of anything during the race.
Starting to race is a bit like learning to drive. Your first race will be like the first time you drove on the highway and your dad is saying “Okay, now while keeping your speed steady, you’re going to want to check all your mirrors, check your blind spot over your shoulder… NO you’re drifting out of your lane! Stay straight. Okay, now when the lane is clear you’re going to turn on your turn signal and slowly change lanes. But not too slowly or else that lane isn’t going to be clear anymore!” All the while you barely hear him and think every other car is going to smash into you in a fire-y wreck and everything is flying past you like you’re in hyperspeed. But now you are able to drive at 80mph while drinking coffee, changing the radio, reading that stupid billboard with one hand.
Record everything for reviewing after…but during race I’d just have time (or distance whichever race based on) and that’s it. Nothing else matters. Maybe have power on second screen in case in breakaway etc when may be of use, but generally in crit just time…nothing else matters, you stick with group…or you don’t!