First Race crash avoidance + prep and cornering advice

I have my first ever bike race on the first weekend in August so like two weeks away. It is going to be a category 5 criterium basically. Corners flat course etc. Here is the race map:

So my first question. How should I prepare the few days in advance for it. Anything special? My FTP is 250 watts (4.5w/kg) I am a smaller rider so my bigger races are going to be climbing ones so I don’t have high expectations (I signed up because I really just wanted to race), but I still want to attack and finish top 1/2 and have fun. I am pretty sure I am strong enough and I will have a teammate racing with me.

Next week I want to not do a lot of endurance riding I just want to practice corners and sprinting as that is relatively low stress on the body.

The BIGGEST Question… My bike is an allez sprint with DI2 Ultegra and carbon 50mil wheels. tbh I am actually concerned about is my shifters and derailers getting damaged/broken in a crash. I plan on letting small gaps open up by a few feet in corners and I want to try and take the outside for cornering. Aka If it means I have to put in a small effort out of corners it is fine because I will still be upright. I say this because I know I am not the most confident when cornering even though GP5000’s have given me more confidence recently.

I am also curious for a cat 5 race in the standard right hand turns (like stop sign turns) how fast should I be taking them (assuming dry fair condition road). Right now I can take them at 22mph so is that fast enough or are my going to cause a crash because I am going slower then everyone else.

Thank you!

Do you know a racer locally, maybe from your cycling club for example, who could take you round your course? It will blow your mind how fast a bike can go round a corner and once you’re comfortable with this and how to position your body to achieve it then you can take the inside line around corners and be in control of your own destiny rather than being at the mercy of others.

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This is a common misconception about corning. People feel if they are on the outside of corner, all the bad will happen inside and they’ll ride away cleanly.

Generally it is just the opposite. If you are the most inside rider, no other rider can crash and take you out (other than the guy directly in front of you and this can be addressed to some extent too). When a crash occurs in a corner the carnage travels from inside to outside. It almost will never travel from outside to inside.

If you can put your front wheel behind and slightly inside the rider in front you you, if he goes down, he will slide out and away from you. This means you can stay in the corner on your line and he will slide out and away from you. If you are outside of that rider, you generally have no place to go as he’s taking all the riders from where he goes down to the outside across the turn. You can be on the outside and completely not involved in the crash and next thing you know you are sliding on the pavement.

Two good examples I just grabbed from the internet…

Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 12.36.56 AM

The only two guys safe in the picture are the guy on the front and the guy in the pink. The rest are toast. The guy in the orange helmet should be more where the guy in the pink is. Inside and behind, even if only a little, rather than outside. Especially that far outside. You are saying you want to be the guy in blue with the white helmet on the outside. There are at least 6 riders in this picture that can take him out. The guy in the orange helmet in the rear outside of the corner is in even worse positioning.

Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 12.37.44 AM

The second pic shows a different peloton, one that is more single file than bunched up. That is true but it still shows how more knowledgable riders will ride inside and behind as much as possible in corners rather than hanging out wide. If this were a 4/5 race, those first three riders would be opposite in terms of their inside to outside positioning. Feels safer, but really isn’t.

Wide/outside feels safe but generally you are better off riding smooth near the front and inside than letting gaps open and surfing the outside.

As far as speed goes, it will be faster than 22 MPH more than likely. But, if the guy in front of you goes through it pedaling, you can do the same. Trust your bike and don’t grab brakes. You are fit enough to have a good time. Enjoy it, looks like a great course.


Whilst it’s always useful to understand how crashes happen (and therefore, how to avoid them), don’t become fixated on them (although it’s hard not to when first racing). Letting these thoughts dominate can really derail the brain and lead to poor decision making.

Breakaways are generally the safest place to be - especially if it’s a break of one… :grinning:

Hopefully your first experience goes better than mine, almost 6 years back now. My triathlon season was wrapped up so I figured I’d join in on the Provincial road championships event (TT, Road Race, Crit) and went out with the local racing focused club for their Tuesday nighter to get a feel for things (there were probably as many people out racing as there would have been in my Cat at the “championships”–small population). Handled things really well across the ~50km route and stayed up at the front of the B group who lead out in front of the chasing A group until the sprint for the finish. I was sitting about 3rd or 4th back and two guys out front ended up crashing into each other and going down right in front of me and I couldn’t avoid running into one of them and going ass-over-tea-kettle right onto my shoulder doing 50km/h+…a hard bump and a bit of sliding later lead to a broken collarbone and some road rash (and proof that helmets are useful as mine got cracked up a bit too). Needless to say, I haven’t had an urge to return to road racing since–stick to my what’s-supposed-to-be-non-drafting world of triathlon. :joy: The one regret I have looking back is that had I known exactly where the finish line was I would have tried for a breakaway from the group and either made it or got swallowed up and got spit out the back, but I wouldn’t have been in the same position I ended up being heh.