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First Cat 5 Race - Am I going to get Smoked?

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First Cat 5 Race - Am I going to get Smoked?

Old 03-09-06, 05:58 PM
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Fivetenfrank
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First Cat 5 Race - Am I going to get Smoked?

I have entered my first Cat 5 race in Philly this Sunday. Its a crit. If anyone is familiar with USPro Race thats held every year in Philly, the crit is a 1km loop around Lemon Hill.

Anyway, I am just looking for some survival tips. With it being so early in the year, I dont have a great base of fitness in place as of yet. I have been mostly doing some interval training on the trainer and a few spin classes here and there. I have only been on the road ONCE this year (last night). Normally, I dont hit my peak until end of June because by that point, I have been MTBing fairly consistently.

My biggest fear is that:

a) I am going to get dropped like a stone and get pulled
b) I am going to cause a crash because I have never done any pack riding

My background: MTB Sport Class racer (retired since 2002), 31 years old, about 10 years experience XC mountain biking, just started road riding to do a few sprint tri's this summer.

All advice welcome!!!

I have spend the majority of the Winter (Dec - Jan - Feb) running and swimming. I think I am *good* shape just not riding shape, let alone racing a fast crit,
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Old 03-09-06, 06:31 PM
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1. Yes
2. Maybe
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Old 03-09-06, 06:48 PM
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Yes, you will get smoked because you never, EVER fully comprehend the speed of your first peloton until it's too late. It'll feel WAY harder than you expected, even if you expected it to be moderately hard. Your heart rate will skyrocket from the effort coupled with your intense nervousness and anxiety. You'll get gapped, battle back on, get gapped again, start to freak out a little, and your poor cardiovascular system won't know what in the hell to think. You'll get jostled, bumped, yelled at, intimidated, and probably have your front wheel (unintentionally) cut because Cat 5s are maniacs -- inexperienced, anxious, nervous maniacs. I know. Used to be one way back when.

If you're lucky and careful, you'll stay upright and not get dropped (by much). And then you'll start thinking maybe you want to try it again...

Good luck, and have fun.
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Old 03-09-06, 06:53 PM
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Dropped... hmmm.
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Old 03-09-06, 06:54 PM
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I did my first crit 2 weekends ago and got smoked in the Cat 5 race, I think it was what they were saying above, and begginers anxitey, The weekend after that I lost a sprint for fourth place, and in that weekend the pack was bigger and harder, Its in your head man, just stay close to the front, keep your eye out for accidents and dont pull theres 34 other cocky men that will probably go after it and just go after them, hope it helps
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Old 03-09-06, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by MATTO
I did my first crit 2 weekends ago and got smoked in the Cat 5 race, I think it was what they were saying above, and begginers anxitey, The weekend after that I lost a sprint for fourth place, and in that weekend the pack was bigger and harder, Its in your head man, just stay close to the front, keep your eye out for accidents and dont pull theres 34 other cocky men that will probably go after it and just go after them, hope it helps
What HE said. But note: this was his SECOND race. You will get smoked in your first. Chalk it up to experience, then try it again.
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Old 03-09-06, 07:31 PM
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1. Hard to say - it's early in the season and it depends on your fitness level and how the pack is doing. Riding smart can do more than fitness alone. Stay towards the front and stay out of the wind. Look for the jumps and grab a wheel. If you're not passing people then you're going backwards.

2. No sudden movements!! Go with the flow and follow the wheel in front of you through the corners. If you end up in the middle of the pack, don't panic.

Good luck!
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Old 03-09-06, 07:58 PM
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Is it around Lemon Hill or UP Lemon Hill? We used to do sprints up Lemon Hill from the boathouses/river side, it's pretty steep. If it's up that way, the pack is going to fragment like all hell.
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Old 03-09-06, 08:11 PM
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oh yeah, it's UP that hill, half the field won't even finish.
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Old 03-09-06, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by my58vw
Dropped... hmmm.
Listen to the master. If anyone knows about being dropped.....
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Old 03-09-06, 09:29 PM
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Ah man, I'm jealous. I'll be at the UMD crit on Sunday but I'd love to do that crit up in Philly. I'll be doing some races in Philly this summer.

Oh, and yeah, you'll get smoked.. maybe
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Old 03-09-06, 11:32 PM
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a) yes, most likely you'll be dropped and pulled. Don't worry about that, we've all been there.

b) don't worry about a pack, there's only three guys you have to worry about. The guy directly ahead of you and the guy to your left and right. That's all that matters really for your first race. Follow the guy ahead of you EXACTLY, you are his shadow, wherever he goes, you go, trace the path of his tyres with your tyre. That's "holding your line" and makes for an orderly flow of the path around the course. Remember, you are NOT competing against the course, like a marathon or track & field event. You are competing against the other guys, so watch them. Stay near the front and follow the ones who are strong and have been staying at the front. Pretty soon you'll find yourself in 3-5th position on the final lap, prime spot for taking the win!
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Old 03-10-06, 12:04 AM
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Just remember, if someone dives in front of you in a turn you are allowed to crash them out of the race.
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Old 03-10-06, 12:30 AM
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Funny, I was never dropped as a cat 5, but I guess I always did well. I would just like to point out that it is possible that you won't get dropped like a rock. Having said that, almost everyone I have spoken to got dropped HARDCORE in their first race. Your level of fitness indicates that this may be so. An advantage you have is that it is early in the season for everyone around here (on the east coast) so it is possible that they will take it a bit easy in general.

As for the pack riding I have two recommendations, neither of which you will like. The first is learn how to corner. Since you haven't been out much, your bike handling will likely have suffered over the winter. Get some cornering (you don't have to take them at race speeds) in so that you get the feel of the bike because you are going to be looking at 20-25mph corners and DONT BRAKE in the corners (if you do, rear brake). The other thing is suck up some wind on one of the peloton edges. This doesn't give you the best cornering line, and it will cost you a lot more energy, but it makes sure that you have riders only to one side, forward (maybe) and back. This will give you some wiggle room if you aren't used to being boxed in.

Good luck and have fun. Give us a race report and tell us how it goes!
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Old 03-10-06, 04:52 AM
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Here's some hope for ya: I placed 6th in my first-ever race last summer, a 4-corner flat crit. If I'd had any sprint at all, I'd have had 5th easily (I was coming by the guy, but slowly, as we hit the finish line).

Stay upright, stay on the road, ride as smooth and predictable as you can. Also manage expectations: I'm not at all serious about racing. All I want to do is ride safely, have a good time, get a good workout, and finish the race -- in that order of importance. In my limited experience I've found that if I'm out there focused on those 4 things, then I do pretty well. Good luck!
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Old 03-10-06, 06:26 AM
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All Fantastic Advice!!!!! Keep It Coming!!
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Old 03-10-06, 06:31 AM
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I hit the send button too fast.

By the way, to the persons who asked about the course, its UP Lemon Hill. The course map is located here for all those familiar with Fairmount Park.

http://dolphin.upenn.edu/~cycling/race2006/

Based on everything that I have been reading, my goal now is NOT GET PULLED. I dont really care about winning. With this being so early in the "season" this is more of a learning experience for me. Another Philly Cycling Club is hosting a Crit on the SAME COURSE on April 8th, so if I really screw this up, I get a second chance a couple of weeks later.

Just so everyone knows, I have owned my road for exactly 2 weeks before I found out about this event. This race is being hosted by Upenn and Drexel, and I was on the Drexel Cycling Team way back when, so all of the Alumnio are coming back to do the race. Believe me when I tell you there are guys in worse shape them me racing this thing.

This will be a good tune-up for my next race that I am pre-reg'd for - a MTN Bike Dualthlon on March 25. I will post a race report Sunday night.
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Old 03-10-06, 08:46 AM
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Ok I'm not sure I quite follow. In the OP, you say you've never ridden in a pack. In post 17 you say you were on the Drexel Cycling Team. If you mean you've never done any pace line riding with a decent sized group, I would strongly suggest you get a few group training rides in before you try your first race. If your comfortable riding in a paceline and done some fast group rides, then go for it. There's only one way to find out whether you'll hang.
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Old 03-10-06, 09:50 AM
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Couple of things:

Get to the front at the starting line and be ready to sprint, and I mean sprint, on the first lap. Move up as soon as the pack starts to move. Sometimes, the race just flies from the beginning and you get dropped in the first lap just because you got
caught behind traffic.

Don't, don't overlap wheels! Get completely behind the guy in front of you, or right next to him. If you overlap someones wheel and they twitch and hit your wheel, you will go down immediately. The guy in front has the right of way and can go anywhere on the road that he wants, by not overlapping wheels, he can do whatever and it won't affect you.

Don't use the brakes, especially the rear, all it will do is lock up your rear and it provides very little braking efficiency. Keep a "heads up" so you can anticipate the pack slowing down and then soft pedal and if necessary, move around the guy in front of you and hopefully move up a place or two.

Alright, especially in a cat 5 you will need to use your brakes because, lets face it, cat 5s haven't learned the no brakes rule. When you do, use only the front and sparingly and try to combine it with getting around guys infront of you.

Try to stay in the top 10-20. You will actually use less energy up there because everything is smoother. When your at the back of the pack, you get the "accordion" effect. Eveything gets amplified towards the back. If the guys at the fron are slowing, the guys in the back have to brake. When it speeds up at the front, you have to accelerate much harder at the back to keep up.

In the natural flow of the pack, you may come to the front. Get off the front immediately on the same side as the guy in front of you got off. No heroics, don't tow the pack. Also, don't sit out there in the wind beside the pack, muscle your way back into the pack so you're in the top 10-20. Some guys might try to not let you in but be firm. Once they see you at the front for a couple of pulls, they will give you more respect and let you back in.

Good luck and have fun!
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Old 03-10-06, 09:51 AM
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What is the average speed of a cat 5 crit, would you say?

I know it all depends on how many corners and whatnot, but if I can average 18-19mph on a ride while drafting/pulling 1 other person should I be able to stick a race out?

My nerves are jittery about my first race this weekend and I don't want them to get the best of me.
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Old 03-10-06, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by $0.00/Gal
What is the average speed of a cat 5 crit, would you say?

I know it all depends on how many corners and whatnot, but if I can average 18-19mph on a ride while drafting/pulling 1 other person should I be able to stick a race out?

My nerves are jittery about my first race this weekend and I don't want them to get the best of me.
Cat 5 or Cat 4/5? If its 4/5 youre likely to be able to hold on for about a lap. On a flat course fives are usually 22-23 average which is fine for the type of speed you are talking about. A 4/5 will be 23-6 average and if you can't solo ride at 21+ you won't be on for long. Jut don't worry, have fun, do your best and if you are dropped like a hot potato, use it for inspiration to go train some more.
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Old 03-10-06, 10:12 AM
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San Rensho's advice is excellent and spot-on. Read his post...about a hundred times. Commit it to memory!
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Old 03-10-06, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by $0.00/Gal
What is the average speed of a cat 5 crit, would you say?

I know it all depends on how many corners and whatnot, but if I can average 18-19mph on a ride while drafting/pulling 1 other person should I be able to stick a race out?

My nerves are jittery about my first race this weekend and I don't want them to get the best of me.
It's really not about average speed. It's more about the ability to go extremely hard in short bursts, recover and do it again, and again, and again, and again. Sometimes average speeds are pretty high, other times they can be rather low, depending on the dynamic of the race.
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Old 03-10-06, 10:40 AM
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It's 4/5

I'm gonna go like hell until my lungs and heart give out.

edit: my friend and I are going in together as first timers and we're gonna try to stick together, get dropped together, and get pulled together. hah
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Old 03-10-06, 10:51 AM
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You might/probably will get dropped, and if you do thats ok. It happens.

Lot of good advice here. My first race was last Oct. in the AMLI crit here in Austin. One thing I noticed immediately that I'd like to add is a very simple thing. Don't look down. Ever. And avoid people who do, they're carnage waiting to happen. Practice grabbing your water bottle (leave spout open), taking a drink, and putting it back without looking at it. Never look at you gears, ect.... Keep your eyes on the road/bikes in front of you.
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