Originally Posted by FeltBikeRider
Right, the race is 13mi... I believe laps are .75ish...
I group ride with a fast group some but not enough ... the rides conflicted with run/race schedule year. Plan on skipping a lot of running next year to commit to cycling. Thus should be able to group ride 2 days a week.
I can't help but be on a trainer as the weather and daylight during the week are limiting. I plan on riding weekends as long as the roads are safe and free of ice and snow [north east]
Okay, 3/4 mile course, so just over 1 km. The good thing is you'll know the course after a lap or three.
31. Okay I can sort of say this then. Racing is like driving, like sex. Someone could describe what it's like to you, you can read about it, watch videos, you can practice on your own, but you simply can't know what it's like until you actually do it. Having said that doing all that practice stuff will help you get an idea of what you're getting into.
The biggest thing you can do is to ride with at least one other racer, hopefully someone that has been racing for a while, doesn't need to beat you, and doesn't mind doing some drills with you. For me the drills would be something along the lines of what I outline in the following link, which is what I tried to do at a race series I promote/d. Cat 5 clinic stuff
. I've had riders come up to me during the season for a couple years telling me how this or that drill helped them. You can do bumping drills easily - it doesn't need to be much, literally 5-10 minutes at a time maybe 5 times.
What bumping drills allow you to do is to reduce the size of what I call your Sphere. That's the area around your bars and front wheel, your personal space on the bike. Once someone intrudes in your space it's very hard to keep from backing off. I didn't realize this until I raced on the track, pretty much for the first time (I rode on a track bike twice before although I'd raced 25+ seasons). I simply could not get closer than about 8 feet to the next bike, just could not. Laterally I was fine with a few inches, which is what my Sphere is on a road bike, but with the track bike, with no brakes, my Sphere elongated significantly fore-aft. New racers have that Sphere problem and doing drills, drafting a single steady rider, keeping your eyes up ahead, they all help reduce your Sphere size.
If your Sphere is too big then you invite other riders to cut in. It's like driving in heavy, bumper to bumper rush hour traffic but being unable to get within 50 feet of the car in front of you. Inevitably people will cut into your lane.
The best way to reduce Sphere size is to practice touching wheels, i.e. touch your front wheel to another rider's rear wheel. You're guaranteed to fall while doing the drill but it's the most common situation that results in a crash, even at higher categories. If you can practice this (slow, on grass, with lots of clothing and protective gear on),
Think about cornering lines. It's free and you can practice when driving, pushing a shopping cart, etc. Keep in mind that cornering lines aren't always your choice - if you're not in the lead part of the field you simply follow the others. However, if you're at least aware of cornering lines, you will have some idea of what to expect. An early apex means you (and whoever else) will go a bit wide on the exit. Late apexes mean the riders can accelerate pretty hard pretty early. Etc.
Also, if you ease a bit early going into certain corners, you can coast for a bit and not get gapped. This works best when you're at the back of the field ("tail gunning") and it's something I do all the time.
Notice that I haven't said much about training. Criteriums emphasize short, peak efforts. It's not really easy to train for them. However, as unscientific as I am about training, I'd consider two exercises after working on base stuff.
One is a way to increase your max speed. Consider if your max speed is 31 mph, which from what I've seen seems to be a typical top speed for a new racer. It's very possible that an attack goes at 31 mph, even in a Cat 5 race, if you consider grade, wind, etc. If that's your max speed then you'll be hard pressed to follow such an acceleration. If your top speed is more like 38 mph then a 31 mph attack won't seem quite as bad. I call it MOSS, you can read about my thoughts here
The other thing I'd do is do some pyramid intervals. These are efforts where you go really hard for a short time, recover for a not-long-enough-time, then go again. It simulates a crit where you need to constantly accelerate, ease, then go again. I don't have a workout in mind but Google gave me this one, which is straightforward and has some thoughts/comments:
GamJams.net: Go, Racing!: The Flagellation Files: Pyramids x 5
For me I do base training all the time and I race to do any interval work. Mentally I'm pretty fried and unmotivated in terms of intervals, even the easier/longer ones, so I basically JRA ("just ride along") for my training. I try to race regularly. My Strava is here
and you'll see that for much of the summer I basically rode just on Tuesday, at the Tues Night race, and maybe one other day. I generally don't warm up at all, just get dressed and ride to the line, so when I say "I just raced" I really mean that I just raced. My lack of training caught up with me by the end of the season when I had three DNFs in rapid succession. I wasn't being generous with efforts, like I was in the DNFs I got on Tuesdays, but rather I simply couldn't follow wheels. My teammate Aaron pointed out that if I trained 5 hours a week consistently instead of 1-2 hours a week that I'd be able to recover a bit better from efforts and maybe stay in races longer.
Finally, although I seemed to have written off videos up above, they do help give you an idea of what to do, what to expect. You can check out the race video thread
in this Road Racing sub-forum. In my clips I try to convey what I'm doing, why, and give some advice if applicable/possible. Most relevant to you would be the last three I just published, where I race with my Cat 4-5 teammates (I'm a 3). I don't have a "before" video but that might help because the team was a disaster, chasing each other down, pulling at the front for no reason, etc. Everyone told them "stay near the front, it's safer and easier". Total lies haha. They were absolutely shattered by the end of a 50-55 minute race, unable to follow anything for the last 5 laps. Once they realized they didn't need to "stay in the top ten" they started to relax a bit, not use up their reserves for no reason, and they could make decisive moves.
Blog post after the first good race, which includes links to the different things the 4-5 racers messed up as well as a report of sorts on the messy race the week prior.
Sprinter della Casa: Racing - CCAP Tuesday Night Race, May 27, 2014
Remember, the races below include Cat 4s and 5s.
First race, where Heavy D (then a Cat 4), wins. Nick and Aaron got 2nd and 3rd but were scored differently as the official thought some other riders lapped the field (but they didn't). In particular Aaron does a really smart race, very savvy. Wild card is Esteban, a long time Cat 3 racer, who I never met until this year.
Second race, where Aaron wins. He thinks out loud the most about tactics out of the Cat 3-4-5 racers and we've talked a few times off the bike about tactics and such. Aaron upgraded a little while after that win.
Third race, where Heavy D returns to the 3-4-5 race to help me out. He's realistically the most supportive rider in our club and his generosity really shows in this race. There is a rider in a white kit with black panels and green lettering. He's a teammate of a forum member here and he's doing his first crit ever. I don't point him out in the clip but he's the one that almost gets clipped when a rider in yellow (Cat 3) attacks a bit aggressively considering the race was a midweek training race with Cat 4s and 5s in the field.
I don't have a video but in late August Aaron gets 3rd in a really tough race. I was off the back in literally about 10 minutes and he and a few teammates were there at the end. He managed the leadout (for himself, but it meant balancing patience and position) and did a great sprint. I think it was his first real race as a 3.
So that's my one post "how to race a crit" bit.