Signed up for my first crit - race strategy? (RESULTS ARE AT POST #57)

So, I’m going to officially toe the line at my first criterium ever in a couple months. I’ve got my USAC license, and am an official CAT 5 :metal:

I’m going to do the CAT 5 race, and then the 4/5 about an hour later. These are “C” races for me.

This may sound crazy, but I think I can win the CAT 5 race. I also know I probably won’t – but I think I have a shot. Here’s why…

– I live in Chicago – and it’s been a cold, snowy winter and this is an early season race, so unless a bunch of level 5 racers have spent the winter on a trainer (I have) there won’t be a ton of fitness on the start line.
– On race day, if everything goes according to plan, I should be carrying an FTP of ~315 and ~4w/kg to the start line. This is a pan flat course. From everything I’ve read/heard here, that sounds like it will be an uncommonly high FTP for a CAT 5 race. (True?)
– There isn’t a secret cadre of mountain bikers that might show up to a crit and tear everyone’s legs off. This is Chicago. It’s flat here.
– There could be a crazy fit triathlete that does this, but again, due to the winter here I view that as not very likely.
– The race is only 25 minutes long – so any power penalty I pay due to not being as skilled and efficient as I could be will likely not cost me too much in the end. However, I generally ride road races and gravel races – so I am not unaccustomed to close quarters riding and pack dynamics
– From watching YouTube videos of past versions of the same race, it always seems to end in a sprint and I have a decent, but not exceptional, turn of power at about ~1200 watts.

The only concern I have is the course has a 180-degree hairpin turn about 600 meters from the finish – course map can be viewed here: Lincoln Park Crit Map

So my question to the wise and experienced forum is this: given all the factors listed above, would you go into that last turn in between P3 - P5 find a fast wheel and leave it to the sprint? Or would you try and take a long range flier about 2 laps out and try to solo for the win to try and take that corner out of the equation?

Or am I full of it, and have no shot of winning?

Edited by Chad McNeese, to add direct link to results post below.


Finish without crashing.


Try to stay around 10th wheel. Don’t pull the peloton. Don’t follow any breakaways until the second half. Try to follow all the breakaways in the second half.


Wouldn’t worry about it.

Your entire on-paper analysis will go out the window once the race starts.

Don’t crash, go HARD!, and have fun. :+1:


Yes you have a shot. Whether the W comes from 2TGo or getting a gap just before the 180 and holding it to the line or following wheels until 50M depends on so many things. I wouldn’t want to be further back than 5th wheel going into the last 180 depending on how the guys take it in front of you and maybe what the wind is doing.

Good luck have fun! 25 minutes sucks. Totally against the short crits but, that’s another thread…


The strongest person rarely wins. Maybe in a cat 5 race, but, still. Finish without crashing. Your strategy will go out the window five minutes into the race. I wouldn’t want to be no more than 5th wheel going into the 180 turn on the last lap. Ideally, third or fourth. You’ve done road races but this is the first time getting your license? What kind of road races? Like a fondo? I guess those are races.

As for thinking you’ll be super sneaking with your fitness. This crit is a few months away? You’re not the only one sitting inside on a trainer. And by the time this thing comes around, other cat 5s will have done races prior to the one you signed up for. Plus, if your area is anything like what we have in CO, there are some ridiculous athletes who decide they want to try road and are ridiculously fast. We have a few 4s/5s on our team who have cat 2/3 fitness. Can they race? Meh. Race smarts and handling comes with time.

You’ll probably do well. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t win. Stay off the front, don’t pull anything because chances are there will be 10 people all trying to show off how strong they are by chasing everything down and doing hero pulls. Those people are suckers. Don’t do that. Just chill and if you’re feeling it sure, go for a 2 lap flyer, or just wait till the 180 and then go. If a break goes the second half, I’d jump on it. But only if it looks promising. Which will be hard to tell in a cat 5 race because no one knows anyone or their style of racing/fitness. Then again, it’s only 25 mins long.
Do the 4/5. You’ll learn way more.


Don’t die.


Well, I pinned on a number. And they timed it. There was a podium. Also they had a results page.

They feel like races. Maybe I’m doing it wrong?

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Depending on what the wind is doing you could always jump the field a corner before the 180. If you have a good gap going through that you’ve got a shot. Cat 5s frantically charging into that turn is in your favor.

I’m not a sprinter and the only crit I ever won I jumped 3 corners out. When everyone tried to follow they stuffed themselves in the corners fighting for position and I coasted in for the win before they got on the straight.

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Confidence is good… When it doesn’t go to plan, and you don’t win, don’t let it get to you though. Keep that confidence in your training, the skills come with experience. Like said though, there is a lot more to it than power.

I have an FTP of between 325 and 335 most of the year, race at the lowest level in UK crits (4th cat), and I’ve never once been inside the top 10. Of the beginner category. After 3 years of trying.

Hard to keep confidence when you suck like that :wink: and then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of self doubt.


Ok. I wasn’t sure. Wasn’t trying to sound negative. I’ve never done a proper fondo, have done our charity rides which is the closest thing. I’m not sure on the competitive nature and pack riding of those. THat’s all. Things can get squirrelly at sanctioned events for whatever the reason. FWIW, I love and race crits pretty much every weekend and do a lot of the USA crits. I may even do our local fondo, but damn are those pricey.

Edit. All this talk of numbers might be sending the wrong message. I’m a 3, soon to be 2 hopefully and my numbers are nothing to rave about. I for the most part just race smart, wait for our lead out train to get going and then ramp it up. Or my style honestly is to attack. Attack some more. Maybe another and hopefully by then have a group of 3-5 people ready to dig or get back in the group and go for the sprint.

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Like @nico_synergy, I race in the same category and have never won. The thing that’s let me down - bike skills and race craft. It often not the person that pedals hardest that wins the race, but the person that pedals least.


Exactly. She/He who pedals the least will be there at the end.

Last year I was carrying a 4.5 watt/kg threshold into crits last year and I didn’t win any but I sure thought I was going to. Those races are all about racing smart. Your trainer numbers aren’t wants going to get you the win in this race sorry to say.

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good topic, one I’ve been wondering about myself, I’m not a racing novice, but I’m coming into this season with a huge increase in fitness (right now at 295w 4.2w/kg from 275w) and still a cat 5, since my I don’t do a lot of road races. first race is a crit at end of the month, but I don’t suspect to do all that great, basically because I’ll probably not be all that smooth through corners and lose wheels in a famously windy course. Also, I suspect some >300w big guys to come out, I think there are always a few starting out. Either way, have fun, conserve energy and stay smooth!


Cat 5?

  1. Your FTP means very little in a crit.
  2. How many times you can sprint out of corners and burn through matches is very important
  3. Experience and tactical nous goes a long long way
  4. Don’t ride at the back.
  5. Get out of the wind.
  6. People bluff
  7. Your competitors will make errors
  8. Trust your instincts
  9. Enjoy it
  10. Get out of the wind!!

Race like you do, but be safe. There are too many variables. Plenty of people start racing after getting a fix with Zwift and some of those people might be strong. If your local scene is anything like mine, you might have people who have raced CX for a long time and now want to level up quickly on the road. Everyone has to start at cat 5, even seasoned racers from other disciplines.

I think it’s fine to go into your first crit wanting to win but it probably will all turn out very differently than you think. In any case you’ll be a smarter rider after and that’s what it’s all about.