First Crit recap, UPDATE with Second Crit recap, and Third..A win!

I’ve been riding and training for the better part of 13 years, but so far the only racing I’ve done has been XC racing. Over the past 6 or so years I’ve become more more of a roadie than mountain biker, but still hadn’t pulled the trigger on signing up for a “crit.”

An unsanctioned 4 race series popped up at a local purpose built criterium course and I thought that would be a good place to get my feet wet. It was just a 30 minute race. I signed up for the “C” group, which was described as 4-5. There were about a dozen other riders.

Lining up at the start, I sized the others up and figured I’d be one of the strongest in the field. That said, I proceeded to make as many newbie mistakes as I could. We got out to a moderate pace with me on the front and despite looking back a lot, easing up at times, I was having a hard time getting the group to pull through. I was a bit worried (unneccesarily so) that the pace wouldn’t be hard enough to make a selection so I couldn’t convince myself to just stop pedalling and slot in somewhere. After two laps on the front, I was spared one lap, thankfully, only to end up on the front for the fourth. The fifth lap was a Preem lap and I led about 3/4 of it before we were attacked on the hill (pretty big for a crit course) by the ultimate winner of the race. Nobody was able to follow, especially me since I was a bit gassed on the hill being on the front so much. The only smart thing I did when the race director chastized us to “work together” to catch that dude and some of the other guys laughed at the idea was tell them “we’re going to lose to THAT guy if you don’t” and that got another strong guy to take up the chase. He chased him down on the sixth, but again I ended up on the front for laps 7, 8, and 9 mostly. On the 10th and final lap, the guy attacked again on the same climb and got away by about 30 seconds. 3 of us started to gap the rest of the group on the climb, but two of us opened a bit of a gap on the 4th guy. I smartly sat in the draft from the other guy until the sprint. We sprinted too early and I dropped him, but the 4th guy had more in the tank and caught me just before the line. I ended up 3rd. Was a bit disappointed with that given the fact that I did way too much work and sprinted too early, along with numerous other smaller mistakes, but was happy with the accomplishment overall. I probably also didn’t help my cause by doing a threshold workout in the morning, but I didn’t really care. I was just trying to get a race under my belt.

I have another sanctioned race tomorrow, probably with a slightly more experienced field, but hoping to learn something there also.

It’s very humbling that a 300+ watt FTP and 4w/kg means almost nothing in a beginner race, but hopefully my tactics will get better and I’ll be more effective.


Prime… it’s a french word. Like Grand Prix.


Tactics and reading a race count for so much. I have a 3.5W/Kg FTP, a half decent kick and manage to race at a 2nd/3rd cat level.

Having said that. Small bunches are always the hardest to race in, one or two “bad eggs” and everyone follows. You need to treat these as breakaway tactics - you should match the guy doing the least work - but sounds like you know this already. Just remembering it when racing is the trick.


??? You got third in your first crit. Hardly “nothing”. I think you are looking at it the wrong way…despite doing too much work and making several tactical errors, your fitness and numbers still allowed you to get on the podium.

Pretty freakin’ good, if you ask me. The majority of people in their first crit get blown out the back (seriously).

and @jnye131 beat me to the “prime” correction. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


yeah I know, not nothing. I didn’t really mean the result wasn’t worth some positivity, just that it wasn’t as easy to separate from the rest of the field as I hoped. I imagine those other guys may have had much lower FTP’s, but were nice and content following my wheel no matter how hard I tried to pull.

It’s a much different experience from XC racing as raw watts usually creates separation.

Sounds like you did great!

FWIW - just because you are on the front does not mean you have to be working. Just slow down and ride easy, either the whole pack will slow or someone will pass you.

On the velodrome, match sprint racers literally stop and stare each other down in the “race” to not be the lead guy. It never gets that slow in a crit but don’t be afraid of Sunday ice cream ride pace if that’s what it takes. Its not a real crit if the pace does not get under 20 mph at some point :wink:

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P13’s First Rule of Bike Racing - Never let your nose hit the wind unless it is strategically imperative. Especially in a crit.

Seriously…there is no reason to ever hit the front unless you absolutely have to. Need to move up? Someone else does too…wait for them to come by and then ride their wheel to the front. Worried the move went and you missed it? Someone else will chase…ride their wheel.

Patience is hard…hell, I broke that rule a couple times on Sunday myself. Did my first road race in about 15 years and hit the wind a couple of times…once to try and get up to an early break (failed) and then attacked with ~15 miles to go (brought back after a couple of miles). Both were moves of impatience… :man_shrugging:


If you don’t break the draft, most people you are racing against even with much lower w/kg can match your acceleration up to your 4w/kg top speed in a draft. The trick is a explosive burst to get a gap. Then at least you and they are doing the same amount of work.

Within reason, it doesn’t actually matter how fast you top out at, its how fast you accelerate when you hit go.

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yes and no…IME, my best breaks have been when I basically noodled off the front (even when the pace is high). Blasting off the front can send a signal for others to start chasing immediately…“oh, crap! he’s going for it…gotta go!” Just upping the pace a bit and creating a gap can lead to a false sense of security in the field “he’s not serious…let him go.” Then once you have a gap, you continue to increase the pace…but it is harder for them to recognize because of the spatial relationship.

Another favorite is to attack through the Prime…don’t contest it, but surf the wheels of the guys going for it and then slingshot through them and keep your speed going after the line. Most guys are expecting to be able to recover and there is often already a small gap to the main field…

(Worth noting that those tactics probably work for me because I suck at explosive power…:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)


Agreed, 4 w/kg just means you are helping 2.5 w/kg guys set new personal speed records before they out sprint you unless you use some tactics of one sort or another!

My comment was aimed at the more basic “no matter how fast I go, everyone can still keep up with me” situation he appeared to be referring to.


Chances are the next race is going to play out completely differently. Or exactly the same. Depends on what you’re preparing for mentally, and it’ll go in the opposite direction. :laughing:

If you find yourself on the front constantly and nobody pulls through, soft pedal the headwinds and go hard on the tailwinds. Punish those SOBs.


Riding people off your wheel from the front is extremely difficult unless there’s either a huge fitness difference, you’re on a steep enough climb that W/kg starts to trump the draft benefit, or it’s the end of an attritional race and everybody is shelled. Get yourself further back in the pack (slow down enough and eventually somebody will pull through), and attack from there. Slingshot past the front with a decent speed differential and they’ll actually have to work harder than you to accelerate up to your speed and get on your wheel. Whereas when you’re accelerating from the front they have to work less hard than you to match it. Best case scenario you get enough of a gap to get clear and let your fitness start to count. But even if they close you down they’ll have burnt matches doing so and will be weaker next time you attack. And with a bit of luck the surge in pace will have shelled a few weaker riders off the back.


FTP Has no place in crit racing. Acceleration and repeatability have, but we don’t have single numbers to measure them that we can boast about to our mates.

If you’re doing a 400w turn on the front, the guy in your draft needs 300w to stay there. There aren’t many cases where someone rocks up to a race with +30%ftp over the field.

I’d also suggest that you were too strong, if you were doing monster turns on the front no one wants to work with you because you’re obviously stronger. So meter out the efforts, commit to one or two distinct moves during the race. To me this is what makes it fun - brains over brawn.

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Alright, just got back from my second crit. This one was a USAC sanctioned 4-5 race with about 12 riders in it on the same course as before. Was 50 minutes. This time I sat in the back 3 wheels the entire time and despite the field being fitter overall, this race was easy. Almost too easy. I was able to follow all the moves and closed one unfortunate gap caused by me. Sat on with a group of about 8 on the finishing straight and sprinted for 4th. Afterwards I almost felt bad that I didn’t try to do something because I literally felt like I rode too easy. I’m happier with the 4th than the 3rd because I definitely rode this one smarter. Looking forward to the next one. Thanks for all the advice.


Obviously nothing I could know for sure, but looking at superficial things like the bikes, cut of the jersey, body composition, where they lined up, and how they reacted at the start line. With a little bit of ego on my part as well. Someone could have definitely been a sleeper and fooled me and actually two of them did.


How fast are your crits averaging?

Our 4/5 race Wednesday night was 66 starters and averaged over 27mph. Multiple Cat4 teams in the field working together, which means they race differently than a collection of solo efforts.

I usually make it a game to see how far up I can finish with the least amount of power.

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This course is a little unique, probably more of a circuit course than a crit course because it’s about 1.1 miles with a .25 mile climb at about 6%. That climb kind of slows everything down. The pace was only about 22mph.

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Nice job and good on you for pinning it on!

I really detest how the proliferation of power has distilled racing down to ftp and/or w/kg. It all matters until it doesn’t. How and when one applies the pressure gets discussed but, I guess, since we can’t define that as precise as ftp or w/kg it’s harder to pinpoint. Not saying you just a general comment. How you ride against the field to break or bridge (15 sec, 30 sec?) or how you ride a big break or a small break are all different. I can not tell you how many races I dropped riders who (said) their ftp was 100W more than mine. I’ve lost more being overconfident wasting energy and trying to force something to happen.

Working my way up the cats I learned the way you race against 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1’s is different and can be different on different courses, field sizes, conditions, teams, etc…you’ll get good at learning to size up the players and how you ride against them. Only way to really get good is racing often.


This 100%. I’ve even seen the same course race different just base on wind.

And 100% on FTP and w/kg. There is sooo much more to it than that.

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Nice. So next one find the middle ground where you try some decisive moves but don’t pull all day?