UK Crits Level in 2021

What is going on in cat 4?!

I did a few races in 2019 (London based), avg speeds 38-40kmph. All fun, felt like a boss.

2021 and it’s mental! Hillingdon 4ths we’re lapping at 44kmph avg every week. (for those with local knowledge: presence of Onyx clearly contributing).

Anyone got any theories? In my mind the potential explanations are: 1) backlog of natural cat 3s due to 2020; 2) general progression of cycling level 3) 4th races are 30mins+3, I think previously 40mins+3.

Is this the case elsewhere across the country?

Zwift racing?

Presence of onyx?

It’s going on everywhere.

Without social riding, people discovered structured training and have a year of that under their belts now, plus people were just putting more miles in with WFH (less time commuting).

In the US, in my region, our combined Cat4-5 fields are averaging 27-28mph (44-46kmh) regularly and it takes ~1000w (at about 70kg weight) @ 11s sprint to win a Cat5 group sprint.

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Onyx are a South West London invite only club full of ringers / elite level guys and gals. As crew they hold the lap record for Richmond Park which, and I may be wrong on this, is the most popular strava segment in the world. Didn’t bother racing last few yrs, but have turned up in cat 4th en mass.

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To be honest, a 27mph lap of Hillingdon is usually safer than a bunched up 24 :rofl:

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I think its a combination of the backlog of 2/3 years of people who are far too strong and then the people who have been doing more/structured training.

My first crit this year i was blown away by the level. A few more races and whilst the strongest had moved up, there’s certainly more people in the mix

See the up side of the situation, you’ll be a much better racer for not being able to rely on power to be competitive :wink:

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Was watching some TR race analysis videos yday of E123 untech races at c. 40kmph (they give avg speed in description), makes me feel cheated out of easy races :joy:

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same down on the south coast, ~45kph average at Goodwood & Mountbatten, but that is in the E1/2 admittedly.

I think this is the answer - less opportunities for the stronger riders to upgrade too.

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I’ve noticed in previous years the early season races always have sneaky big hitters who have fell down the rankings a bit before moving back up. Takes a little while for races to settle down a bit

Well this concerns me.
Entered my first cat 4 crit in a couple years at the Olympic Park a week on Saturday and was hoping to go in with a w/kg near 3.9 and see how I get on but by the sounds of it I’m going to be woefully underprepared.

Anyone got any experience racing there?

The cliché of staying near the front is even more true at Lee Valley. It’s technical and has multiple pinch points - a bad one being the dip / wiggle after the start finish straight getting onto the first bridge, two crashes at this point when I raced there. It feels like the track was designed by an architect and not a cyclist. I think the races coming up there are sold out so should be a full track too, only reinforcing this advice.

At 3.8w/g you’re more than prepared fitness wise (unless you’re incredibly light), but positioning is more important given there’s no real hills, just lots of unnecessary undulations and ramps.

(as you may tell, I don’t like the track, sure some guys / gals love it, just not me. When I raced there they also put jnrs on the track in the same bunch, with the diff in weight and absolute power this became a nightmare and dangerous)

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Thanks for the advice.
I was slightly under the impression that the course didn’t have many tight corners, have I got that wrong or is it just technical as it is undulating/thin/pinchy?

They’re not tight as in you need brakes for them, all can be taken full tilt, but the dynamics of a bunch make it so people do touch brakes, there are bad lines taken etc which concertinas through the bunch. Ie those at the front get to take the best / fastest line, those mid pack and back don’t thus having to slow and then re-accelerate. Plus there are pinchy points.

That’s good to hear, sounds like the plan is to stay as close to the front as possible then…

Not done the course, being from up north, but had a quick look on google maps and it looks like it should be a fast circuit.

My advice for CAT4 would be get up towards the front of the race as early as possible. If it’s a full field then the difference in abilities will likely be huge and you could easily get caught out on the wrong side of a split if your just hanging around in the middle or rear of the pack.

Not suggesting that it’s what you should do and people will think it’s stupid but i often try to get on the front for the first few corners so i can take my own line and not get stuck behind someone who’s in 6th wheel and slams the breaks at the first corner then 5 are up the road never to be seen again (it’s happened to me more than once this year!). It may cost a bit of energy initially but then you can move back into the group after the race has settled and conserve energy from there.

Good luck. Most important thing is to stay safe and have fun

I felt the level up here in the North West of England was no different. Only thing was that positioning became easier as maybe fewer people were good at it, but the courses I was racing were vaguely technical/selective. I got my best ever set of results, was starting to knock on the door of cat 2 by the last few races.

Perhaps I spent more time doing structured training overall, or maybe doing more outside workouts helped.

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The level in my club (NW England also) has certainly stepped up. I’m not interested in crits, but a lot of the guys in the fast group on club rides do race regularly, and that’s gone from being a ride I can reliably handle (when I am in halfway decent shape) to being a ride where I have to look carefully at who’s going to be there before going. And I am probably over 4 w/kg if I retested now - which is as fast or faster than I have ever been as I got some great gains myself over lockdown!

I’d say this is exactly the correct strategy to have, anytime you race somewhere you are not familiar with, or you know that it could be selective early on like you describe.

Though there is a subtle difference between being on the front and at the front, that you might like to explore in future races. On the front is driving it, IMHO, at the front is giving yourself the option to be in the wheels and respond to anything that happens.