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First criterium questions

Old 04-11-05, 10:41 PM
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First criterium questions

I'll be racing in my first road race ever (which happens to be a criterium) in about 3 weeks and I had some basic questions.

- I am reading that a lot of criteriums have avg speeds of 27+ mph! I average more like 20 or 21 mph on my 25 mile training rides, which is about the length of this crit. How am I ever going to keep up with the pack at 27 mph?

- Should I replace my tires before the race? I only have one set of wheels and tires, and they are the ones I train on, so they probably have 400 miles on them or so since the last time I changed them. I know that I'll be flying around turns at faster-than-normal speeds, and the last thing I want to do is go sliding across the pavement if my rubber won't hold.

- Anyone have any basic tips to keep in mind for my first race? I don't have any delusions of being the first one across the line, but I would like to put in a good effort. I would also like to keep the skin I have in place, rather than leaving it on the road. Should I try to fight it out in the first third of the pack or am I just asking for a crash?
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Old 04-11-05, 11:02 PM
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- I am reading that a lot of criteriums have avg speeds of 27+ mph! I average more like 20 or 21 mph on my 25 mile training rides, which is about the length of this crit. How am I ever going to keep up with the pack at 27 mph?
Is that an average of 20 or 21 without someone to draft off of? If that is with a draft you might have a hard time, but if that is by yourself and you are confident enough in pack skills to stay close, you will probably be fine. Average speeds of training vs racing can't really be compared. We have a lot of climbs around here (mountains). My average speeds on training rides once you throw in some climbs will plummet. If you are climbing half the time, there is no way your speed will be 20+ mph. If it is, you are either a damn good climber or your climbs are really hills, hogbacks, overpasses, rollers, etc. So don't try to compare the two. If its a cat 5 crit. the speed may get to 27mph, I really doubt the average will be that high, but maybe. Just go try it, if you get dropped then you'll know for sure.

- Should I replace my tires before the race? I only have one set of wheels and tires, and they are the ones I train on, so they probably have 400 miles on them or so since the last time I changed them. I know that I'll be flying around turns at faster-than-normal speeds, and the last thing I want to do is go sliding across the pavement if my rubber won't hold.
I would say no. 400 miles means that unless your tires are made of Trojan Latex they are just broken in. I know a lot of people say you shouldn't race on NEW tires. Its better to let them get scuffed up - they'll actually grip pavement better. Make sure they are really flattened on the top (happens from lots of trainer miles on the back, plus the back tends to flatten faster as the miles go by.)

- Anyone have any basic tips to keep in mind for my first race? I don't have any delusions of being the first one across the line, but I would like to put in a good effort. I would also like to keep the skin I have in place, rather than leaving it on the road. Should I try to fight it out in the first third of the pack or am I just asking for a crash?
Its my experience that you will be safer if you can stay in the front of the pack. It depends a lot on the course. See, in the front you don't have to brake as much (if at all, but keep that pedal up on the inside...) in turns. Braking and taking crazy lines causes a lot of crashing. If you can stay near the front 25% of the group, fine. (If there is a breakaway you may or may not want to go with it). I can't help you put in a good effort. You may end up realizing that you are not using 100% staying with the pack. If this is the case, you will save that extra little burst of speed for a break, bridge, or sprint. Its my experience that more "fighting it out" goes on in the middle of the pack than the front. Plus, the guys in the front (at least after a few laps) prob. have more experience and will be less likely to crash you. The more people you have in front of you, the higher the probability that you will hit someone who falls.

As for not falling - don't overlap wheels unless you are damn sure the guy won't move over into your wheel (ie he's on your team and knows you are staying out of the wind to one side of his back wheel). Know how to corner. Keep your weight balanced. I believe the consensus was reached on here that the best way to corner is to lean over the bike and keep your body more upright, over the bike. I'm sure that will cause a flame war... Also, if you are passing someone on the inside, let them know in the corner. You don't have to yell INSIDE WATCH YOUR LINE like a crazy man if they aren't coming towards you. However, I find it helpful when people squeezing by me on the inside (sometimes in the gutter) when they calming say (loud speaking voice, not screaming) "On your inside, man" or something liek that. I return the favor. It keeps everyone safer....
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Old 04-11-05, 11:13 PM
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jbhowat- Thanks a bunch for the advice!

Yeah, the 20 mph avg is on rides by myself, so no drafting. I'm from North Texas though, so I only have like 4 "climbs" (hills) on my rides. Hopefully with a little help from the pack, I'll be able to keep up. If I can't, oh well, that just means I need to get out there and train harder for next time.
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Old 04-11-05, 11:19 PM
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stay in the top 10-15 at all costs, its the safest and easiest up there.
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Old 04-11-05, 11:57 PM
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top 10 or 15 is the best. The middle is a lot of moving and jocking around for placement more pysical, and you have less of an idea of what is going on ahead of you. The back takes the most effort because you have to brake and there is more yo yo ing going on. So the closer to the front the better. Good Luck at the crit and just have a good time.
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Old 04-12-05, 12:00 AM
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How long are your "climbs" and how steep.

I am cat 5, like hbjowat, and the 25 - 27 MPH Averages are real for a flat to mild inclined crit course. For hillier and more technical courses 22 - 25 MPH are more like it. Of course as I say averages mean absolutly nothing in a crit. I can average 20 - 21 MPH all day on a "flat" course, "flat meaning no more than 2 percent inclines with downhill peices, maybe one or two climbs.

Riding with the pack is easier than by yourself by any stretch, that is for sure. You will be amazed how easy it is to hold 27 MPH in the middle of a pack. In a criterium though it is not sucking wheels that is going to keep you there, it is sprinting and accelerating. The pack can go from 20 to 30 MPH out of a corner in a few seconds. Hill climbing can be a chore in crits also, expecially when the pack attacks.

The only thing I can say is just go out and race and see if you can hang. Nearly everyone goes out and gets dropped there first few if not more races. Crits are very hard races, even in cat5. I have done 4 crits this season (4 crits, 1 circuit and 4 practice crits), and have been dropped in all of them. I would not consider myself a slow rider either. Being in shape is much different than being in race shape. We all start somewhere.

Try to stay in the front (easier said than done) and hold your line. Corner confidently and you will be fine. If you get dropped just keep on going, worst you will get is pulled and you will get an awsome workout.

I would definitly work on anaerobic skills for sure along with some LT work. Good luck and let us know how you do... good luck!
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Old 04-12-05, 06:50 AM
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The best thing you can do over the next 3 weeks is train with fast group rides and do cornering drills and bumping drills to get some experience in bike handling in a tight group at fast speeds. Your average speed is really almost meaningless to determine if you are ready to race. 21 is a high average speed for example but if you cannot jump then you will not be able to hang on.

Your tires will be fine, they are just broken in. While it may be safer for you to be up front imho that is not where you belong on your first race and most likely you won't be able to stay up there very well unless you are naturally good at bike racing. I would recommend that you just sit in. Do your fast group training rides and be safe.
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Old 04-12-05, 07:44 AM
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Just stay out of peoples way. I hate when some newbie lines up at the start and thinks that hanging with the front runners will help his chances. More likely to just splinter the race and piss everyone off.
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Old 04-12-05, 08:03 AM
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BINGO ewitz!
"If I start at the front, I'll be fine!" Big mistake.

Though everyone is telling you to stay at the front, it's most likely that you'll never even SEE the front.

Just do your best to hang in. Give yourself some room. DON'T PANIC. Don't forget to breathe.

And stay on the inside through the turns. If a crash happens, centrifugal force will take it outside.
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Old 04-12-05, 08:43 AM
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Hahahaha.

Until reading this thread I was stupid enough to think I wouldn't get my ass kicked too royally if I rode the weekly local crit tonight. I even thought I'd remain uninjured.

Thanks for the reality check, the bike's staying home tonight and probably every race night.
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Old 04-12-05, 08:51 AM
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Thanks so much to everyone for your responses, its nice to have a bit of knowledge of what to expect. I'm sure I'll still be terrified when I'm standing at the start, but I guess that's part of the fun!

I'll probably start out somewhere in the middle of the pack just to test the waters. If I'm not getting dropped and I'm feeling pretty good about my ability to hang, then I may try to make a move towards the front. And to be honest with you, if I make a "mistake" somewhere and piss a few people off because I'm a newbie up front, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

I'll post some results once its all said and done.

Thanks again, everyone!
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Old 04-12-05, 08:53 AM
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alison in oh go out and race, crashing is part of the gig. And if your dropped keep going and if the pack comes around and laps you try and grab on to the back. Experience is part of what makes people a better rider.
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Old 04-12-05, 09:06 AM
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During a race stay in the drops. Less chance that your bars getting tangles with some one elses, plus you can draft easier. Be aware off where you are in the pack. If you are moving left or right more then couple inches, check that no one is on your left or right. You don't want to be the guy who takes out half the field. If you haven't done any group rides, I highly recommend you find an organized group ASAP. Staying close to someones wheel while going in to a corner can be a very intersting experience.
And lets not forget, have fun.
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Old 04-12-05, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by alraicercsu
alison in oh go out and race, crashing is part of the gig. And if your dropped keep going and if the pack comes around and laps you try and grab on to the back. Experience is part of what makes people a better rider.
I've seen these guys race. They're squirrely. I thought my chance was to hang at the front. But now I see that even if I am confident in my ability to hang with a fast group (and my friends tell me the B group only rides at ~23-24) chances are I'll be dropped regardless and will make enemies in the process. The other choice is to try to hang onto the back with the REALLY squirrely riders, and risk going down in the 45 degree turn (where a centerline rule is in effect but nobody obeys it, nor even really holds their line worth a damn).

No, I think I'll try a time trial for my first race. Or maybe a women's road race.

But I'll go out tonight and watch them with a closer eye than I did last year when I had no intention of racing. Maybe they're less squirrelly than I remember.

Squirrelly is a good word.
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Old 04-12-05, 11:05 AM
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Remember, its going to go like hell from the gun.
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Old 04-12-05, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by UmneyDurak
During a race stay in the drops. Less chance that your bars getting tangles with some one elses, plus you can draft easier.
I would say just do what ever is most comfortable for you. if your not comfortable in the drops, dont ride in them because you think you will go faster, you wont.

also get a GOOD warmup, bring a trainer or borrow one. just rolling around for 15 min is not a sufficient warmup for a crit. you need to be on a trainer for 30-40 min and at the end you need to be sweating, the race is only ~40 min long and is 100% from the start, so you don thave time to mess around with warming up during the race.
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Old 04-12-05, 01:00 PM
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I just went and drove the course in my car. There is a 180 degree turn that is going to be hairy, but I think the more dangerous spot is a hard right at the very bottom of a hill. I'm a little concerned about 50 riders flying through that thing at like 35 mph.

Any tips for negotiating either of those two types of turns in a pack?
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Old 04-12-05, 01:11 PM
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my experience w/ crits:

nothing but good. i've raced 3 now. admittedly, they're 'training crits', whatever that means, but it's a race. the pace is high. staying in the pack is no problem. trying to ride out front is very very hard. the sprints out of corners aren't so bad. being near the back is kinda nice b/c you're pulled along by the group. no crashes yet. it's been nothing but fun and pain in my legs and lungs. plus, i won a pair of shorts in the prime. they don't fit, but who cares.

i say: if you're interested in racing, you owe it to yourself to try. it's fun.
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Old 04-12-05, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by jreeder
I just went and drove the course in my car. There is a 180 degree turn that is going to be hairy, but I think the more dangerous spot is a hard right at the very bottom of a hill. I'm a little concerned about 50 riders flying through that thing at like 35 mph.

Any tips for negotiating either of those two types of turns in a pack?
Brake before the turn not in the turn, hold your line, and say a short prayer
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Old 04-12-05, 04:25 PM
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the group is probably going to be going really hard the first few laps then it will slow down, so stick in there, it will slow down.
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Old 04-12-05, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Gustaf
I would say just do what ever is most comfortable for you. if your not comfortable in the drops, dont ride in them because you think you will go faster, you wont.
I mainly said it because I think it's safer, and prevents you handle bars accidently clipping some one else.
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Old 04-12-05, 07:46 PM
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Three weeks? Do intervals this week and next. I can't push myself hard enough in non-race conditions to do proper sprint intervals, so I do hill intervals instead. I have a long hill in a no-traffic area that I do 10-12 reps on- training my heart rate to approach max and quickly recover.

The key to newbie crit riding is closing any gaps that form- to stay with the pack at all costs. If you are behind the wrong wheel, and the guy blows, you're done for. Look for signs of the guy in front blowing.

If the crit has any hills or technical aspects, you'll be all strung out- it won't be like 50 guys trying to clear a corner together (worse, it will be a gigantic yo-yo effect- and you'll go from being a few meters behind the leader going into the corner to 100 meters away coming out).

Don't quit unless you get pulled. If you are off the back, stick it out. You'll probably find a few stragglers to help out.

If you completely suck the first race, don't give up. I've had top ten finishes followed by bottom ten races a few days later...

You'll learn new definitions of suffering.
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Old 04-12-05, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by filtersweep
You'll learn new definitions of suffering.
couldn't have said it better myself
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Old 04-12-05, 11:02 PM
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Originally Posted by djpluv
couldn't have said it better myself
Exactly what I would say...

Borrowing a quote from star wars...

You will find a new definition of pain and suffereing as you are digested over 1000 years (or 45 minutes in a crit)

Basically go out and run and see how it goes.

I can predict that you have a 95% chance of getting dropped. If you can get in the back again try to do it. What everyone has said it is true. My understanding as you get stronger the suffering will be less... with time.

It is alot harder to hang in the pack than you think...
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Old 04-12-05, 11:16 PM
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