Post Race Analysis: First Crit

I just did my first Cat 5 Criterium last night and had a great time. I stayed with the peloton for 4.5 laps (15min) before coming out the back and I am both very happy with my performance and just a bit disappointed at the same time.

Race Data

I’ve been using TR for about a year and am pleased with my FTP of 233 and w/kg of 3.2.
When I look at the race analysis it looks like the difference between the time I was in the group and the time I was on my own came down to how peaky it was in the group. For the time I was in the group NP was only 237 with an average W of 216. Both of those seem like I should have been able to maintain the pace for the entire 45 minutes. Last month I did the hour power challenge and completed an hour at 216w.

After getting dropped I continued at a hard pace for the next few laps at 220NP 210w before a crash neutralized the race.

Those look close enough to me to be a bit disappointed that I let the gap open up in the climb (20 sec at 425w) and came out the back, and also that I didn’t give it one last HARD dig to get back on the group. I know if that was a TR workout and i could SEE the effort coming I could have completed it.

I am currently doing the mid volume short power build plan which feels like the right fit to help me adjust to the peakiness of the race, and I have to work on my mental game to stay focused on keeping the gap closed and smoothing out my power delivery while in the group.

Does anyone have ways to train the mental toughness for when you don’t know how long or hard the effort needs to be, or when the next one is coming?

The 425w for 20sec is telling, so far all my TR workouts have only gone up to 320 for 20s. Should I be doing something specific to train this or stick to the plan? I’ll be racing the same course for the summer.

My next race is in two weeks, and I am looking forward to it!

Hard group rides and lots of races! You can get in great shape on the trainer and it will give you many (but not all) of the tools you need to race well. But fitness is just a tool. Racing is a craft. You need to practice with your tools. Just giving someone a great saw does not make them a cabinet maker.

There is no way to simulate the mental game of those random racing efforts on a trainer or any way to learn tactics on a trainer. You need to actually get out there and learn your craft. Conditioning means nothing if you don’t know HOW to use it. So, go out on some group rides where you are at risk of getting gapped or even dropped and practice keeping those gaps closed (or better, not letting them open) and that will train your brain to react appropriately (and train your body for those micro accelerations too)


Not precisely training mental toughness, but two things that tend to hold true in my race experience

First - when you are hurting so is everyone else. Try to think of this as motivation, not demotivation. These guys are all barely hanging on, if I can last longer than they do it’ll be the perfect time to attack the group

Second - Crits always start hard but they almost always get easy. Particularly at the lower categories the first 10-20 minutes can be brutally hard, but then the pace will ease up. Don’t think about it as ‘I have to last 60 minutes like this? screw it!’ - instead think, if I can hang in there until it gets easy then I have a few recovery laps and maybe I’ll be stronger than these guys later in the race

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This is so true! You really need to get comfortable just focusing on the next couple minutes, or even just the next few seconds sometimes, and not on the whole race that is left. I can’t tell you how many times i have let a gap open up because I had had all I could take, or so I thought, only to have the group get a little ways up the road then slow down to my solo pace within 30 seconds. Now I’m doing more power than I’d be doing if I had just sucked it up for 30 more seconds! It is ALWAYS better to make the extra effort if it is in any way humanly possible.

This is one of the only negatives of interval training. It can train your brain to equate hard efforts with a finite known end time. You need to recognize that and do some mental readjustments to counteract that.

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I agree that riding hard outside is the best way to acquire this mental skill. But I also advocate hiding (or ignoring) interval time/duration in hard workouts. You might be surprised how challenging an interval can be when you don’t watch the seconds count down.

Even if you know the interval is 2 minutes long (or any other time)… it can become more mentally challenging when you can’t or don’t watch the countdown. I have employed the “blind” method after having similar issues as the OP.

It’s easier for me to tackle something when I know exactly how long the suffering will last. The unknown of group riding and racing is great, but we can work a bit towards that with more deliberate work on the trainer, to ignore the time.

This works best with ERG trainers, but can be done in Resistance if you find the desired cadence for the power target, and just watch that during your effort. I highly recommend that people give the “blind” approach a try and see if it helps in this regard.

I’ve done SSB, Short Power, and now midway in Crit specialty. All the training I’ve done shows a lack of really hard training for anything under roughly 3 minutes. It does look like the Crit specialty expands on the shorter efforts that the Short Power build and SSB doesn’t do so much of. Is it enough? I’ll find out but I’m sticking with the plan to see. I was told being able to repeat those shorter efforts is the key to see improvements. The specialty plan covers repeatability as well.

Once you get to your breaking point, go another 30 seconds. You’ll thank yourself

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This is something that I see a lot in newer racers that have decent fitness thanks to things like TR, Zwift, etc…

You perform well in your workouts and have good metrics, but those things aren’t the only part of the equation in racing.

Three actionable things to work on:

  1. Stay on wheels, and in the draft.

    • More than likely, when you were in the field, you weren’t close enough to the wheels in front of you, and were sucking a lot of wind. Probably more than you realized. This takes a huge toll on you over the course of a race. Staying in the draft allows you to work less and recover more.
  2. Push yourself to completely empty yourself on hard group rides.

    • When I say hard group rides, I’m talking about group rides that you more than likely will just barely hang on to. It’s better to be hanging on to the back of a hard ride than off the front of an easy ride. This usually means you’re riding with guys more experienced than you, so you will begin to pick up on things that you can do as well to improve. In addition, you want to completely empty yourself on these rides, you’re not trying for any sort of result so there’s no risk in burning the whole matchbook.
  3. Learn efficient handling.

    • You’re more than likely grabbing a lot of brake through the corners, which means that you constantly have to accelerate out of corners by sprinting. This will end your race very, very quickly. You can get better at this by practicing cornering (similar to how one would “session” a section of MTB trail), but you can also follow faster/more experienced riders around a course or ride and take the same line, at the same speed and know that if they made it, so can you. The faster you can corner, the less you have to work afterwards.

      Also, I tell all newer racers the same mantra: Chin up, Eyes Forward. Your bike will go where you’re looking. Don’t look at the wheel in front of you, look through the corner and where you want to go. Wherever you’re looking is where your body and brain is going to steer the bike. Yes, it’s probably scary to think you’re not focused on whats right in front of you, if you’re looking ahead properly, your brain has already processed all of that information and taken it into account. Trust yourself.


I endorse what @TheCyclissimo states plus to anticipate moves look several riders ahead to spot movement off the front,or riders moving up the outside at speed as they are sure to make a break.
Finally instead of just suffering in a small gear going OVER a hill, move up one or two gears and kick over it. You can recover on the descent and hopefully will still be in the group. The use of a bigger gear is a fast twitch effort and easier on the lungs and aerobic system.

Ride outside. Do hard group rides. Empty yourself during those. And go again. Or if you have a rolling loop of short hills, empty yourself on those. I have a small loop I can do with five or six rollers that usually take anywhere from 10seconds to 2 minutes. I completely bury myself on those. Do that loop for about 60 mins or so.