First Race tips?

So finally after 3 years of TR and 5 riding I signed up for two races this year, one is May 23 the other June 19. They are both .75mi crits which I’m somewhat familiar with from our local Tuesday night practice granted that one Is 1.5mi in length but I expect more chaos on a smaller course with 2x more riders

The guys thag I tend to stick with there are cat 2/3/4 (granted the 2 are harder to hang with) but am a bit nervous racing in a novice field of Cat5. I may be a bit over prepared for cat5 at 4w/kg but several of my tuesday buddies suggested doing a few races in 5 instead of self upgrading to 4 and racing with 3/4 right away. Now you may say “you’re a novice too racing in cat5” and you’d be correct, but realistically between my time riding road and MTB and fast group events I’m probably more prepared than someone who hasn’t done the above. It’s really a situation of I feel I’m over trained for Cat5 but not confident enough to be with 3/4 in a bigger field as well so I’m eating my humble pie and sticking to the lower group

My biggest concern is being in a group of 50 potentially inexperienced riders, granted I don’t have official racing experience but the Tuesday rides have taught me a lot over the last 3 years about how to at the very least ride safely for myself and the group but there’s always the fear that a newbie is going to cut out in front of me and end my race and my bike.

Both races are 20 laps, so I’m debating potentially attacking in the first half and trying to hold everyone off, because my sprint isn’t that great. The other thing is the June race is a “state championship” with a lot of folks from May racing again so I don’t want to give up too much in May and have no element of surprise for June.

Probably overthinking this, but I don’t want to come in mid pack, ideally I’d like to win but do realize I’m new to racing so I should have appropriate expectations.

Any general tips for a new racer? I finished my interval training about a month ago and am not planning on getting into another structured plan until fall, with the exception of supplementing with indoor TR for crappy weather


If it’s a lower level race, initiating a break is a good option.

Sounds like you’ve got the power to make a good job of it, it’ll keep you out of the crashfest behind, and often the main group is not organised enough to chase in a coordinated manner.


Yea my buddy said if I attack early enough nobody will usually chase because they won’t think I can hold them off the rest of the race, or there may just be confusion/waiting in the pack to see who chases first.

I’m on the heavier side of 4w/kg at a 322ish ftp so a flatter course definitely suits me well and holding say 105-110% may be enough to stay away for 10-15 minutes if there’s not a super coordinated chase, problem being I think that’s too late to attack without being chased

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I think the relative danger in a Cat5 field is greatly blow out of proportion.

Also, an early break in your first race seems really boring.

Use your fitness to keep yourself safe by staying at the front of the pack or tailgunning it in the rear. Crashes often happen midpack.


I did a bigger AX group ride Thursday and spent most of the time at the back as sweep, hardest place to be IMO with all the surges and braking. I felt much better on the front at a steady pace when I had the chance.

I’d like to stay somewhere in the front 5-10 to ensure if a break happens I can go with it and then attack from the back. Going off the front sounds boring but it’s my first race and my Stravatar is Pickle Rick and this is the Pickle Juice Crit so I REALLY want to win

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While you’re certainly going to be one of the fitter riders in the race, don’t assume that you’re going to be able to just ride away from everyone. There will be at least a few people that can hang with you especially factoring in drafting. And, anyone who knows of the doing is going be looking for someone like you to latch onto and use as a tool for their own victory :-). When the chips are down, it’s going to take tactics and strategy to win, not just raw power. Placing in the top 10 is all fitness. Winning out of the top 10 is about 80% tactics.

Use the Tuesday night rides between now and the race not just hanging on wheels but to work on seeing what happens when you attack, getting a feel for what kind of repeated efforts you can put in and still have something left; figuring out how to move up in the pack and other tactical things that you need in the race.

Also, do some VO2 interval work between now and the race/


This. If your numbers are what they are you can probably walk the field and stay out of the fray.

Overall. Don’t worry. You need these experiences the same as you need experience with more skilled riders.

It’s a part of the process. Enjoy it.

IME in the UK cat 4s don’t chase as everyone thinks group will chase the breakaway down. My recommendation would be to startt/get into an early break, the other stronger guys will join you and you almost have a guaranteed top 5 with a possible sprint from a reduced group.

I’d try to get in a break early on. Hopefully you can get a few others to go with you and that they’ll work together well.

@Cleanneon98 here’s something to think about…if it is really a Cat5 field you’ve got a power profile that probably puts you in the top 1/4 of the field for sure. Start hard right out of the gate & hold that for half a lap or so. Don’t go overboard but ‘set the speed’ for the group…there are a bunch of inexperienced racers in the field and a lot of them will just think, ‘Hey, I’m racing. This must be how fast we go.’ When you pull off riders who can hold the pace just might go on and hold it. Pretty soon riders will be getting shelled off the back.

If things slow down and the field mushrooms…well there’s your break away opportunity. But in any event that will keep you near the front which is probably safer than mid pack with a bunch of over-excited riders.


If I were racing that course I’d make sure to get on the line and to the far right. Go hard off the line so you get a clean line into those first couple left turns (especially want to carry speed trough the 1st 90 degree left). Then follow wheels and race on instinct from there.

Anyways…big point is with that much cornering it’s all about energy conservation so line will win the day.

In my experience the cat5 field will be safer than a 3/4 in the mid Atlantic region. Others may not agree. Besides the actual racing, I have spent many days working at all the south jersey races and have witnessed the crashes etc.

The majority of the cat5 field will not be inexperienced and will be similar to you but there will be a few. The average speed of the cat5 race will be within a 1/2 mph of all the other fields (~25). The difference is the 5s speed will be pretty much a steady speed and the higher fields with fluctuate much more with 30+ mph laps and then easy laps before the next attack. Very few people get away solo in a cat5 crit. There will be plenty who will spend all day working to pull back breaks (for no apparent reason - and sometimes when they have a teammate in the break). If you want to be in a break try to join a few others.


Not sure if I’ve missed this info but, what does the profile look like for both courses? Are they courses you’ve ridden before? Sometimes just knowing the course and being confident with your lines can be worth a couple of bike lengths and enable you to preserve energy.

Why not practise a couple of race scenarios with your ride buddies? Send someone down the road, give them 15 seconds. You start five wheels back from the front of the bunch. Can you pop off a 5-10 second effort, clear that group and get onto the wheel of your buddy down the road, without dragging the bunch across?

Simple things like this really build confidence. It also makes training rides varied.

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May race: Pickle Juice Race 2021 - PRE-REG ONLY Online Registration

June race: Pottstown Bike Race - PRE-REG ONLY - PA CATEGORY STATE CHAMPIONSHIP Online Registration

Both circuits are same length and similar elevation, the may race has a more technical section. I believe Claudio Marquez has done both last year and is a member here but can’t recall his username to tag him

TJ is right - don’t underestimate the fitness / strength of your fellow cat 5’s.

You won’t be the only 4 w/kg guy and there will likely be some much stronger guys in the field. All wanting to win and thinking it’s easy because 5’s are newbies. (*)

Y’all aren’t new to bikes. Y’all are new to parking lot criterium and pack racing.

That may course is dead flat with a bunch of 90 degree corners. Very hard to get away and almost impossible to get out of sight of the field. Looking at the video of the course, if it’s new footage, there is some cracked pavement about 1/4 mile before the finish. Be mindful of that so when you are in the pack you don’t ride down the middle and get stuck in the rut.

(*) Good news is someone else, possibly multiple someones, are thinking exactly what you are thinking. I would let a couple of those guys go first and see what the field does. 99% the pack chases down anything that moves in the first few laps.

Then guys start getting tired and tired of chasing and kind of want to cruise for a bit. That is when you hit them hard. If you can get a counterattack and bring a couple of guys with you - even better would be to see a strong guy go and you go with his move - then you have a chance to make something stick.

My experience, the only guys who can make the solo from the gun breakaway work are going to be either super strong guys who are serious watt monsters but never do road races or crits, or more likely the kid who is going to be a cat 2 in a year and a cat 1 in 2022.

The sweetspot to go is right after those initial laps when folks want to settle down and cruise around doing a fast group ride with numbers then a town line sprint. If you go too early they are all fresh and chase you down. If you go too late the field is not letting you go.

Good luck - GIve it a rip and see what happens!

If you survive let’s do that mountain bike meet up in a month or so.


My suggestion would depend on what your practice crits look like.

If those practices have 25+ guys and people are actually racing hard shoulder to shoulder at high speeds, then you have basically already done crits and focusing on a result can make sense. Try animating the race with some attacks and see what happens. 4w/kg isn’t going to ride away from the pack if there are people there who know how strong you are. If no one knows you, you might get away with it (once).

If the practices are more like spirited group rides, then I would focus on learning the basics of racing in your first few races. You may have more experience than other first timers, but you’ll have less experience than the majority of the field. You won’t learn much of value trying to ride off the front. The first few races are a good opportunity to put the ego in check and learn as much as you can about race dynamics, being efficient, etc. Plenty of time for results later.

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A valid point re: training crits vs real races. Back in the day, there was a twice-weekly training crit that I did religiously. It was a Points format and I often contested the mid-race points sprints as well.

But when you got to actual races, it was faster and bigger. Early on, I could hang fine in the training crits, but was fighting to not get dropped in real races. When I was at the pointy end in the training crits, real races were still significantly faster / harder.

You’ll get a lot of new guys that you have not seen before at real races…and some of those guys will be just as strong as you (or stronger).

But at the end of the day, go race…try stuff. Even try dumb stuff (like attacking early…not dangerous dumb stuff). See what happens, get the experience and have fun. Don’t sweat the results…there will be plenty of time for that later.

The practice rides are def race pace but shorter, I have a mentor in the pack and he said he goes considerably harder in the practice days than real races. Some of that may be pack size, well usually start with 20 riders, 30 minutes of warmup, then we take off so it usually splits into a 5-10 man group for A and the rest for B.

What put me over the top is 2 weeks ago about 8 guys went early, so my mentor and I stayed put doing warmup for the remaining few minutes, then when it real go time we worked together to reel in the first pack, hung on for a lap, then counter attacked and they never saw us again. That day I knew I had to try the real deal

I just know when I get there my HR and nerves are going to be elevated so the first few laps are about not doing anything stupid (dangerous)

@cmarquez are you Claudio from YT? I think you’ve raced both Pickle Juice and Pottstown, any advice?

True - and following a year of no racing, Cat 5 will be more stacked than usual. in the early races, there are always a guy or two who will be a Cat 3 by the end of the year but you’ll have last year’s crop of new studs too.

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Have you used yet? - we wrangle data so you don't have to

Looking at the picklejuice race on bikereg the first cat5 field is already full and second is at 35 of 50.

If you look at both cat5 fields in the race predictor on road-results you will see about half have points meaning they have raced before. The * means that their points are over a year old which everyone is showing due to lack of racing last season. You will also notice that most are members of teams meaning they are not just some clueless dude with no experience or idea of what they are getting themselves into.

If you haven’t already registered, don’t wait. The second field will fill up soon. I didn’t look but there will be some doing both cat5 races that day. Most importantly just have fun, learn, and don’t worry about a result in your first race.