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Loves to Suffer
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So I lined up for my first training crit earlier today. I am a mountain bike racer who trains on the road, so I thought I'd give it a go. I hung tough for about 4 laps, and then something happened. I passed a bunch of people and then almost instantly I was out in the wind on my own. It happened very fast. I think that there were two groups off the front and then me, and the rest of the pack seemed to fall apart. I think quite a few dropped out, as I don't remember seeing most of the starters out on the course after about 10 laps. Honestly, I am not sure.

Anyway, I got lapped in the end, and at one point, going uphill into the wind thought "maybe bike racing isn't for me!" I didn't do well in my first few MTB races, so I think I will probably get better if I stick with it.,It's great training for the MTB races anyway. It was fun, but I hope things improve. I'll be back next Sunday and give it another go.

One thing that perplexed me was the braking on the downhill. Should I just make a pass if the mid-pack guys are braking or going slow on a downhill section? I could have passed without pedaling!
 

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Most exciting thing I've ever done are Crits. Even if you are not that strong eventually you'll get in a race and be able to hang. It is just a ball. And yep those first four or five laps are harder than sh--.

Very rarely do you ever need any Power drafting downhill. Most of the time the Pack is grabbing brake. I just drift to the front. If I start asking myself "What the hell am I doing here?" then I just drop back in on somebody's wheel. If it feels good and the timing is right "Drop the Hammer"!!!!
 

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Don't get discouraged, part of staying with the group during a crit is strategy and not just sheer ability. In a crit I'd rather be up front taking an occasional pull than trying to hang onto the back dealing with the Yo-Yo effect, plus things usually aren't as dicey up front.

Just keep going at it, you'll improve.
 

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I thought the same thing at one point of the first 2 crits I was in. 3rd one I stayed right with the pack, got wrecked by some kid who cut across my line and made it to the pits, got back on and finished with the pack with blood running from the hole in my elbow. It is an amazing thing to realize you can hang with the pack and its mostly about confidence. Now that I know I can do it the next race will be cake. Plus I don't have my first crash hanging over my head anymore...
 

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road is not MTB. unless you are part of that special 1%, you need the pack. drafting is your friend. you cannot do it on your own. you also cannot ride the peloton off your wheel(see the 1% rule again). tuck in, keep your nose out of the wind, stay in the first 1/3 to avoid the accordian. learn to ride in a group. I race MTB and road, and trust me, they both have their unique requirements
 

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A crit is very different than a mtn bike race. I tried a long mtn bike race-- once-- and it was much more like my nemesis-- a time trial. I'll take a crit any day--- the mtn bike race was hours of unending suffering by comparison. I thought 90 km--- that's nothing. Off-road it really beat up my body.

After you get a feel for the tactics of a crit, you'll learn to love them.
 

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bauerb said:
you also cannot ride the peloton off your wheel(see the 1% rule again).
I'm new to racing, so sorry for the noob questions, but I am still trying to understand how the above works in terms of breakaways, solo or group.

I get that the point is to gun it initially and get up the road before settling into a somewhat more sustainable speed and then (hopefully) finishing ahead of the pack, but what doesn't make sense yet is how to do that if you are out in the wind. I can see how a big enough break of strong guys could work together until the end, but especially in the case of early breakaways, how do they sustain that pace for hours unless the group sits up?

And how does a solo rider do it? Do you just have to be stupid strong to pull that off by yourself? I ask, because despite the above comment, some people wind up doing this all the time. Are they the 1%?
 

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are you more than 30% stronger than everyone else? sitting 3rd wheel or so allows you to use up to 1/3 less energy. riding away from everyone requires that you be faster than everyone else in the race who get the advantage of taking turns drafting. It is very, very common for confident beginners to get in front, and feel like they can hammer on the field. most peopel will never be able to do this
 

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Getting away from the pack is a bit different in a crit than a road race also. In a crit if there is tight corners you can create easy distance by getting off the front and taking a very aggressive line and holding your speed while the majority of the peloton is forced to take the corners a bit slower the speed difference becomes less the lower the cat. This is only really worth it if you can get a few strong people to go with you off the front or do it last lap and try to catch the field sleeping.
 

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Experience

Going from Mt Bike to road racing is a bigger change than most imagine. You'll bring your fitness, but you'll have to learn very different skills. There's much more interplay between riders on the road, especially in the crits. Good results often depend on being able to minimize your wrong moves and making sure you are positioned so your odds of getting a good 'break' is more likely than the other guys. These skills come with lots of races...you'll probably make many mistakes as you learn, miss many chances to go, catch the wrong wheel for sprints, etc etc. The better guys aren't necessarily the stronger guys, they are often just the better racers with fewer mistakes..

I recently raced against a recent convert from Mt. to road in a two stage race where the second day was a very short RR. It was pretty easy to position for the sprint win against this fellow who was the obvious strongest competition...He said later he'd expected us all to do "one more rotation" in a pace line before the sprint finish we all could anticipate..It didn't take a genius to sit on his wheel. I was also wide awake enough to be ready to react when an impatient guy went by both of us. We left him wondering..."What the ___? We all worked together for a couple of hours then I got beat??" He won't make that mistake again.

Each race you should look back, afterwards, and try to figure out what mistakes you've made that lost you places...then try to avoid making those same mistakes in the future..As time goes on, you will see better results.

Don Hanson
 
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