Stay very alert to the situation around and ahead of you, expect to get dropped, and anticipate a last place finish. Find a friend to ride with and have fun. Low expectations going in will make the race fun and you won't be hard on yourself afterward. You'll either be hooked and want to ride more races or you'll say no thanks, to intense.
- there will be periods of painful speed. But it's important to remember that they won't last forever. In other words, the group will always slow down again. If you can tough it out until it does, you stay with the group.
- if you're doing a criterium and do get dropped from the group, you have the option to relax, take a breather and rejoin the group when they catch you. Your hopes of winning are obviously shot, but at least you're getting your money's worth of race training. Rejoin the group, again and again if you want to. If you do this, a point of race etiquette: don't contest any intermediate sprints if there are any (primes), and drop yourself from the group on the last (bell) lap so you don't get involved in the final sprint.
PS: forget about crashes and yelling—they're part of all bike racing, from Cat.5 to the pros. It's a total waste to worry about them because when racing hard, fear evaporates. You do what you have to do, caution be damned.
Expect to have a great time. There will be times where it's really fast, and times where it's really slow. Some people will be super strong, others won't. Stay towards the front, and expect that there will likely be a pack finish if the race is flat. If there is a big climb, then all bets are off and the pack will be blown to pieces.
If it's a crit, you will work just as hard in the back of the pack as you would if you were on the front. How are your bike handling skills? How long have you been riding/training?
If it's a TT, expect to suffer. Those things hurt, or at least they should, no matter what the distance.
Should you go out expecting to get dropped - Never. Will you get dropped - Possibly.
I know if you show up with the idea that you will get dropped and finish last, then it becomes real easy to give up when the race gets really hard.
I think you should go in with the expectation that you won't get dropped, no matter how deep you have to dig. If you do get dropped, make a note of where it was in the race, how hard and long the effort was that caused you to get dropped, and how much work you'd done leading up to it. This will give you a basis for what you need to train in the future to avoid getting dropped.
I used to race race mountain bikes but never road. I have been training all winter for this just to stay focused. I just want to find out my weaknesses on a road bike. I ride by myself and never done a group ride. would it be a good idea to start riding in a group?. I kinda like riding solo, but i have a feeling that will affect me in a negative way.
It's more than just a good idea—it's important that you do for two reasons: to have any chance of success, and to keep you and everyone else safe.
At the heart of mass-start bike racing is conserving energy by riding in the draft made by a group or by another rider. This means that you need to have some experience and be comfortable with riding within inches of other riders at high speed. It's not rocket science, but you really should get a few weeks or months of group riding under your belt before you enter a mass-start race (like a criterium or a road race). Of course, the organizers will cheerfully take your entry fee in any case, and you could just ride by yourself during the entire race, but what's the point in that?
As an added thought: while you get some group riding experience, why not enter some road time trials? The mental toughness you developed as a mountain bike racer will serve you well, and you'll get an excellent idea of where you stand in comparison to the people with whom you're going to race criteriums and road races later in the year.
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