Hi I am an Australian and I race in C grade. I used to race a little when I was younger and I have just gotten back into racing. My FTP is 300 and my weight is 80 Kgs, I am 6ft 1. I have a 1200w x 10second sprint and I also have decent 1 minute and 5 minute power. However, I still find myself struggling to keep up with the bunch in criteriums, especially if it is windy. Most of my training is indoors but I have minimal pack riding experience. I have raced around 8 criteriums this year but I have only managed to contest the sprint once, All the other times I got dropped. For that criterium I had an average power of 266w and a normalized power of 303 watts for 50 minutes, which seems quite high for a C grade criterium? These are all on relatively flat courses btw. One part of me thinks I do not have the bike handling skills to be efficient, another part thinks I am not fit enough, and another part thinks that I cannot mentally push myself to the limit as I am not yet comfortable riding in a bunch yet.
I would love some advice!
When do you get dropped? Last lap? Penultimate lap? Or before that even…?
Cycling, especially bunch racing, is a tactical sport. Fitness can get you into the game, but there is way more to it.
It isn’t about bike handling as such, it is about understanding the group you’re riding in - where to be, who to follow, when to go hard etc.
Maybe think about the times you got dropped - where was it, what happened before, where in the group where you and what went wrong?
Is your PM fully calibrated and up to date?
I will echo what the other have already said in that being efficient and smart in the bunch makes a huge difference. I would recommend watching some NorCal cycling videos if you haven’t already done to to help out that area.
The only other thing to add to the above is, are these flat courses? If so, raw power is going to be more important than w/kg. Pre-pandemic, I rode regularly with a work colleague. His FTP has him at about 3.5w/kg (or it was, anyway); mine is just under 4. Up hills, I can ride away from him. But he is 6ft 3 and 90kg; on the flats, if he puts it down, I struggle to hold his wheel. Could raw watts be a factor here?
Yes, fully calibrated favero assioma duos
Good Times. I only ask as I didn’t calibrate my PM for a while and thought I was a beast but still struggling in races. Turns out when I finally calibrated the PM I lost about 20w.
Haha no worries. I have stalked other peoples stravas and they averaged similar power to me
Were you sitting out in the wind? Sitting offset from the wheel in front of you would leave you exposed to the wind - leave you doing a whole lot more work than you would have needed to.
I’ve a triathlon background but well used to riding in groups. From my one experience of a road race on closed roads - we were able to swing out to the other side of the road approaching and leaving corners. That was not something I’d any experience of before and was pretty uncomfortable doing (more of a mental block than anything). Was fine for the tailwind sections but for the headwind sections I’d have to work hard for a bit to get back on. Was fine until the last lap when the pace went up and I couldn’t bridge the gap.
I say more more LIT if you can fit it in…
I love Tim Cusick who once wrote (paraphrasing): “FTP wins races but, the lack of fatigue resistance loses them.”
Also, Kolie Moore wrote a piece for Training Peaks that is sort of related to what Tim said linked below. Check it out.
The above were all good points, the one I would add is to make sure you’re not at the back of the pack. There are a lot more surges and slowing down at the back than in the middle. I try to stay somewhere in top 5-10, I’m not going to cover breaks, but want to sit in on a consistent wheel, and not expend too much energy. The times I’ve been dropped are when I start in the back, and people are breaking into corners and sprinting out of them, and I’m constantly trying to just hold on.
If you can find the strava post for someone you know who did better than you, perhaps you can see what their average power was and see if you are working too hard.
Otherwise, people are fast and your watts per kg of 3.75 isn’t quite high enough, I don’t think, to be competitive without being better than the pack in other ways.
I’m pretty sure I got dropped in the first 10-15 crits I raced. We also raced twice a week - a training race mid-week and then a race on the weekend.
I think you just have to do it more. By the time I was four years into racing, I was really good at crits. I could easily sit in and always have a shot for a top 10.
How’s your short power repeatability?
The guy who can consistently kick out 600w and then coast will have an advantage over the the guy who can do 300w for the entire duration, IME.
Do you think you’re a sprinter? If not, maybe don’t set yourself up for the final sprint but find ways to work to your strengths in the race.
I think Pete from TR has some videos they posted on things like not losing momentum in turns during a crit and on crit strategy.
I also think Jeff on Norcal Cycling has some really awesome videos.
When you do head outside, do you ride in windy conditions? I ask because simply making yourself smaller in an effort to be more efficient, might not be more efficient. If you’re in the drops and you can’t produce the power required or even recover sufficiently, this will be an issue. Do you alternate your hand positions whilst training indoors? This could highlight an area(s) for improvement.
Do you feel comfortable in the pack? Can you navigate within the pack? Even with limited experience, you might feel right at home with other cyclists only inches from your bars. If you’re having to sit towards or on the edge of the bunch for the whole race, you’re doing a fair bit more work.
I have a few ideas on why this might be, but I’m also curious, are you racing crits in Melbourne or Sydney by chance?
Haha… you said “windy crits” and I immediately thought Sandown! Tuesday’s CCCC crits, even in C-grade are fast, Thursday’s Masters crits are equally so (thinking A&B) grade.
Your power looks good, I’d be keen to hear more about how efficient you feel you are in the bunch, being tense, micro accelerations, etc can take their toll over an hour, especially when it starts getting spicy as the attacks start. PM me, in Melbourne too, most likely racing the same events.
Yep i race sandown and glenvale! Had a top 10 at glenvale but dropped at sandown later that week