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  1. #1
    All Bikes All The Time Sawtooth's Avatar
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    Race Report: Idaho Center Criterium Series # 3 (my first race)

    Thanks to everyone who gave me support before my first race yesterday. Here is the report (sorry so long):

    To set the stage, the race was held on a 1km course in a stadium parking lot. The course was shaped like a giant cowboy boot with a very sharp turn at the "toe" portion of the boot. The wind was 15-20 mph out of the North West and it seemed like you never really got it at your back but there was somewhat of a tailwind on the home stretch.

    I got there an hour early and tried to warm up (not really sure what I was doing). I took the advice of some forum members and printed off warm-up instructions I found online but really just did 20 minutes of pace riding followed by 5-10 minutes of quicker riding & sprinting before lining up.

    I was the one and only wreck of the day. It occurred while my team was lining up. My buddy and I were rolling slowly into a 180 degree turn to face the line when he planted his feet, grabbed his seat post and whipped the rear end of his bike around. His rear wheel clipped my front wheel and I went down in a pile at 2 mph with the entire field (roughly 30 racers) watching.

    I was expecting to go hard from the whistle and was surprised that the pack took its time clicking in. From the starting line, we had 100 yards to the first left turn. I had 4 teammates in the race and we positioned ourselves in the front of the pack for the first turn. My goal was to hang onto the rear wheel of my faster teammates and not let go for anything. Given that this was my first race and I had little group riding experience, I was a bit squirrelly in the corners at first and struggled not to make a hazard out of myself. I have to admit that I hit someone's rear wheel at one point and cut another out of his line later on. People seemed to be doing that kind of thing all over the pack, however. It was not long before my inexperience holding my line caused me to concede one or two places and I lost my buddy's wheel, never to find it again.

    I held my place in the front 3rd of the pack roughly halfway through the race before two pivotal moments cost me dearly. The first critical point was when I lost positioning to the rest of the pack and found myself at the back holding on for all I was worth. It occurred just out of a corner. I was keeping pace with the leaders but the rear of the pack attacked and moved past me. One of my teammates said "they will come back" and I assumed it meant "don't worry about it" so I kept my pace while, unbeknownst to me my teammates and the rest of the heretofore leading group were speeding up to reel them in. So that was it; before I knew what happened, I was at the back of the pack and finding myself struggling through every corner to hang on.

    The second pivotal point was when I was spit out the back. The group turned a corner onto the front stretch and jumped. I think I was mentally soft in the corner and was not anticipating the effort so when I tried to catch the jump I found myself 6 yards off the back and unable to bridge. It was at that point that the race (my ability to stay with the pack) was lost for me. It was like something in my soul died and I zoned out of the race for 15 critical seconds. When I got my lungs and legs back the pack was gone. The wind was merciless out there by myself. Over the next 15 or so laps, I was lapped twice by the pack. I tried to hang on both times but was unsuccessful in getting up to speed for re-entry.

    Looking back, I found that I made some critical mistakes.
    1: I got used to being in the front of the pack and not having to sprint out of the corners; when I found myself in the back of the pack, I failed to sprint out of the corners and subsequently lost the pack.
    2: I really need to work on my race attitude. It was like I was just out for a fast ride and not a race. This contributed to my being lapped twice.
    3: I have some tactical skills to learn. My teammates said they say the attack from the rear coming because they were watching the shadows and were geared up by the time the attackers hit them. I handled a couple of charges initiated from the front well, but never even saw the critical one from the rear coming.
    4: I have some work to do on both sprinting and cornering. I will ask to initiate some drills on my group rides from here on out. I also have a different idea of how I need to work my commute between lights.

    Overall, I found the experience to be more fun that I imagined (although I could not wait for it to be over) even when I was out on my own. I got my butt handed to me, but I was certainly not the slowest either. I lapped a couple of people multiple times myself and even pulled one teammate (it was his first race as well) back up to speed twice. When the pack left me, I looked behind and thought I was all alone, but we had dropped many riders off the back in the first half of the race, so I don't feel so bad. Lastly, I hear that this is pretty normal. My teammates who led the race for some time and contested heavily in the final sprint were spit out of the pack only a couple of weeks ago. I will keep at it.

    Thanks for the support.

  2. #2
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    Congratulations - I am glad you were able you somewhat enjoy your first experience. The only constructive critism I can give you is as follows (take it or leave it):

    1) From my experience, I do not think you should try to "lock" on the wheel of a friend. Crit packs are very fluid. You may be worrying to much about maintaining a position - thus using up too much energy. Just try to stay in the front half of the pack in general. I have found there is a certain equiette in the pack. If you are not in the first 5 guys, you should not be squeezing people out. It gives you a bad rep. What goes around comes around. If you in the middle, let someone in if they are "out in the wind". They will do it for you. Just try to relax and be fluid in the front half of the pack.

    2) Are you pedaling through the turns? In most crits I have been in - if you pedal fluidly through a turn - you will not have to get out of the saddle a crank (wasting energy) after a turn.

    3) Are you looking through the turn down the road? Some new people concentrate too much on the apex of the turn and are actually slowing through the turn as opposed to accelerating through the turn by looking down the road.

    Good Luck - hope this helps. I bet you will have 10 times the confidence next race.

  3. #3
    Meow! my58vw's Avatar
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    First congradulations on your first race. The hardest thing it seems for new racers to to just get out... that is step one.

    I think you had a good race for your first one, very much like my first race. With time you will learn how the pack works and the "edicate" of a race. A couple of things that will help you for next time.

    1. Your warmup, 30 minutes minimum but do not get really tired, you should be sweating at the end of your warm up. You do not need to pound or sprint during the warmup, maybe a quick out of the saddle or two. You do want to get a little bit of time in around "race" pace on the trainer to get ready.

    2. When we say the pack is go from the *** that means that once the first corner hits the race is on and the speed will increase huge. Do not think because people are clipping in that the first lap or so will be cake. If you sprint out of the start you will be at an advantage getting into the first corner.

    3. Pedal through the corners "if you can". That means if the corner is very steep and you are inside you are going to have a hard time pedaling. Learn the point that your pedal hits the floor and if you are beyond that point just coast on through. Usually if most of the pack is coasting then coast.

    4. Do not get locked in behind any particular person, just try and stay towards the front. As most said the pack is fluid and you do not want to get caught behind someone getting dropped.

    5. If you find yourself in the back do everything you can to get back in before an attack. If you go 100 percent for a second and bridge a gap it may save you time and time again from getting dropped.

    6. Keep your head up, watch what is going on. You can sense when something is going to happen, usually the pack starts shifting around or people start accelerating. Do not be afraid to take the corners fast and agressivly and ride right next to people. A little bumping will not cause a crash most of the time, just be aware of it. Get some more group rides in to learn these skills.

    7. Remember it is a race, there will be pain, people will not "wait" for you if you get tired... just keep pushing. Racing is one of the most fun things you can do. If you get dropped just use it as an oportunity for a good anaerobic workout. It took me getting dropped in 5 races to finally hang on for 30 minutes. Get as much race experience as you can, some races will pull you if you get lapped.

    8. It gets better, you will get stronger and more experienced... just have fun, it will come with time.
    Just your average club rider... :)

  4. #4
    All Bikes All The Time Sawtooth's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice guys. Very relevant; both sets of comments. At the risk of overstating the obvious, those corners and attacks were getting the best of me. I intend to go out with a group of friends and do some drills in the drops.

  5. #5
    Meow! my58vw's Avatar
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    That is the need for anaerobic work. When I started it hurt so bad to just sprint after attacks and corners but to race criteriums that is essential.

    The most important things in crits though are muscular endurance, power and anaerobic endurance. I personally lack the power which is what is causing me problems in crits, everyone is different though...

    Good luck on your next one.
    Just your average club rider... :)

  6. #6
    On Your Right ZackJones's Avatar
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    Sawtooth: Sounds like you had a great first race - congrats!
    "You never fail, you simply produce results. Learn from these" - Anonymous

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