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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, 38-years-old, in tip-top shape, ready to rage, going into my first Cat5 crit. My TT speeds are consitently in the 25 mph neighborhood, so I think I should have the legs here. I've already been told Cat5 crits are pretty much chaos...but you gotta start somewhere. My wife is scared to death...thinks I'm going to end up squished. In an effort to minimize that reality...any tips on strategy to stay upright and hopefully competitive?
 

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jcpreuss said:
Okay, 38-years-old, in tip-top shape, ready to rage, going into my first Cat5 crit. My TT speeds are consitently in the 25 mph neighborhood, so I think I should have the legs here. I've already been told Cat5 crits are pretty much chaos...but you gotta start somewhere. My wife is scared to death...thinks I'm going to end up squished. In an effort to minimize that reality...any tips on strategy to stay upright and hopefully competitive?
There's a thread 2 down from this on "My First Crit", but the advice there probably doesn't apply to you.
 

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If you just want to survive...

The following tips are for staying upright. They are not general crit racing tips.

-Stay near the front. You're less likely to get caught up in any mishaps.

-Stay towards the inside on the turns. When people loose it or get nervous they sweep to the outside and take others with them.

-Stay to the outside of the pack rather than in the middle. You may end up doing more work but you'll be safer.

-Don't overlap the wheel in front of you. Either get up next to someone or stay completely behind. If your bars are behind their hips but your wheels overlap, you are asking for trouble.

-If you feel the need to look behind you, look under your arms. Great for checking your blind spots but more stable than turning your head.

-Stay in the drops. This is the most secure position for control.
 

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Your first cat 5 race

I don't know where you are located, however, if you're racin' in Cali or Colo for that matter, no matter what kind of shape you're in, your strategy should be to finish, with or without the pack. Fitness is a part of the equation. In LA where regional or national class triathletes moonlight in the 3s, 4s and 5s, fields are large in the 5s, 50+ on a tight course, 100 on others, 20 somethings who think they're invincible are everywhere, new racers who are bound to be 3s by the end of the season are off the front on the first lap, good solid guys who are on steady Friel diets are right there, racing is downright tough.

Do you know how to corner? If not, please find a local racing oriented club or a coach in your area to help you out. Find a 3 somewhere that you know to practice a little countersteering with, wheel rubbing, shoulder bumping, wheel protection, etc. When I was a 5 back in the day, things were really quite rough. I was extremely aggressive just to keep the squirrels away. Nobody took a line inside me if I were taking the inside. Nobody gonna sweep me out, no way. That's the worst part about the 5s. Nose divers who get inside over their heads and can't hold line.

I would say on average, there was about one or more crashes per race. Survival is the idea.

Good luck, have fun.
 

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Talk to everyone

The constant yelling of "Hold your line!" is not that productive, but letting people know that you are near them is. Some will complain about this, but so what. At least they know where you are and are therefore less likely to cut you off, etc.
 

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cornering technique

I was extremely aggressive just to keep the squirrels away. Nobody took a line inside me if I were taking the inside. Nobody gonna sweep me out, no way. That's the worst part about the 5s. Nose divers who get inside over their heads and can't hold line.


I'm just curious what kind of techniques you use to prevent people from coming up on the inside before the turn. I find that inexperienced women (and experienced women with lousy cornering skills) do this all the time and it makes me crazy. Unfortunately, I haven't been unable to figure out how to minimize it and I have to race in an open field for the next two months so I could use all the advice I can get. What exactly do you mean when you say you're aggressive? Do you swing off a bit before the turn to block the space on your inside? Or something else completely?

Thanks!
 

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In my training crits, the women are the most aggressive. If you give up half a wheel entering a corner, forget it, you're in the gutter.

BTW, they're also the safest too for some reason.
 

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Cornering technique

Firstly, speed keeps people from coming up on the inside. I don't know about you, however, when you've done enough of these things, you can *feel* what's going to happen. Without seeing anything, many times you'll *feel* when someone is coming up behind you. Spunout has it right, give up a millimeter of a wheel and you're toast. If the pack slows before a turn I will almost always take a further inside line and lap the wheel in front of me. I won't get taken to the inside curb because rarely do 5s or even 4s for that matter like to run the gutter or even close. Also, should someone want to, I will slowly pinch them further inside with elbows up and out and tell them *you can run the gutter pal, but sweep me out and I'll curb you*. That typically makes a less than 3 back off, makes a 3 laugh while he runs the gutter and blows a snot rocket your way upon exiting the turn. Let it also be known that I feel very very comfortable in fast tricky turns. I am a very confident and competent technical rider. I've got nothing much else, so I better be!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
how much physical contact -- elbows, shoulders and the like -- is there in a crit?
 

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Unless you're in an insanely tough area with very good cyclists a 25mph TT speed and some decent cornering ability should easily be enough for you to stay up near the front and out of trouble and probably put you into contention unless there is a team that has good tactics working together. (Team tactics seem pretty rare at Cat 5?)

If you are good at cornering my first crit my reaction wasn't so much that people were not able to hold their line, it was that they all *****foot into the corners so much that I could almost always move almost all the way from front to back on the corners no matter which line I took. Most people were not pedaling through the corners and we were maybe going 25 through the corners. I knew I could pedal those corners at a speed of at least 30mph without hitting a pedal so it was pretty weird.

Ben
 

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jcpreuss said:
how much physical contact -- elbows, shoulders and the like -- is there in a crit?
If you haven't done one it will probably be a surprising amount... depends on who is there, what people's moods are, etc..

I got punched in the shoulder in my 3rd crit. Don't remember why. You'll get bumped but it probably won't be too severe. If you've dealt with hitting wheels with other riders before you'll be fine.

There will also be people (probably slow) who are whining about getting you to move up, etc.. usually they seem to be slow people who are looking for a wheel to use to move up in the pack. Anyone with a chance of winning a prime or the race will not need a tow to move up inside the pack.

Ben
 

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Depends

If you're in an area where you've got a whopping field of 15 cat5s, you'll probably not see any. Here in LA and just a couple other areas I know of, you'll find full fields in some tight and some wide open courses.

In the 5s, you'll find people jerkin' their rides around when drinkin', when others get close, to avoid potholes, dots, etc. Thus creating contact. In the 3s, you simply don't find that.
 

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I wouldn't get overly confident at any sort of TT ability. Like I said, fitness is part of the equation.

I know relatively weak appearing rec riders that can get in a crit and thrive. I know very strong riders that simply cannot deal with a crit.

Someone above mentioned talking a lot while racing. I say don't. Keep it to a bare minimum. You start warning people you're around, you'll start annoying them. I'll give someone space if they're aggresive and compentent and talented bike handlers, not those who are sheepish and nervous and scared and feel they need you to know they're there. This brings up a rule. If you've got a half wheel on someone, you're in control, period. Don't bother me with anything else. Second, by talking, you're not breathing. Talking spikes the HR, no doubt about it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
That makes sense...as it is, I worked with the Bondurant Driving (racing) School and it was the same dynamic. There we're folks that could get on the track by themselves and be blindingly quick, lapping at near pro levels. But as soon as you'd get behind them and fill up the mirrors, tap the bumpers, and the like...they'd go to pieces. Interestingly, there seems to be some similarities in strategy between the crits and car road racing in terms of fundemental technique. For instance in a car race, the fundementals are -- look ahead, brake cleanly and firmly before the corner, don't apex the corner too early, always look ahead, and you cannot get on the gas fast enough when apexing and exiting the corner.

One other question, someone mentioned 30 mph speeds -- is that typical for a Cat5 race?? Seems pretty brisk.
 

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You'll be fine...

jcpreuss said:
That makes sense...as it is, I worked with the Bondurant Driving (racing) School and it was the same dynamic. There we're folks that could get on the track by themselves and be blindingly quick, lapping at near pro levels. But as soon as you'd get behind them and fill up the mirrors, tap the bumpers, and the like...they'd go to pieces. Interestingly, there seems to be some similarities in strategy between the crits and car road racing in terms of fundemental technique. For instance in a car race, the fundementals are -- look ahead, brake cleanly and firmly before the corner, don't apex the corner too early, always look ahead, and you cannot get on the gas fast enough when apexing and exiting the corner.

One other question, someone mentioned 30 mph speeds -- is that typical for a Cat5 race?? Seems pretty brisk.
With your experience in the cars, you'll have a better understanding of cornering technique than most of you competition. Most riders at the 4/5 level, especially younger, lack a solid understanding of the physics involved. They make up for it by sprinting after each turn.

Don't be surprised if you easily gain places in each turn. Many riders scrub far too much speed by braking or not pedaling. I say, dive into those corners and easily stay at the front of the pack.

Biknben
 

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I’m going to be doing my first road crit next month, NCC Kansas races. I’ve done a few dirt crits, and love them. I’ve had some success and am really looking foreword to the road crits. I’d have to say my strengths on the road are distinctly MTB-ish. Even among other MTBers in the Dirt crits I found I could brake later, corner harder, etc. I’m hoping to carry this over to the road. Are any of you “crossovers” in one direction or another that could give me some insight? I plan on going out when the weather is better and really laying down the Roadie and finding the limits as someone already suggested.
 

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Troyboy said:
I won't get taken to the inside curb because rarely do 5s or even 4s for that matter like to run the gutter or even close. Also, should someone want to, I will slowly pinch them further inside with elbows up and out and tell them *you can run the gutter pal, but sweep me out and I'll curb you*. That typically makes a less than 3 back off, makes a 3 laugh while he runs the gutter and blows a snot rocket your way upon exiting the turn. Let it also be known that I feel very very comfortable in fast tricky turns. I am a very confident and competent technical rider. I've got nothing much else, so I better be!
Re: your first sentence. I beg to differ. I've seen some AMAZING things in my years of riding and racing... There's always someone that sees daylight and goes into the gutter right before a corner, just to end up jamming on the brakes as the pack cuts his line.

I've had good fun over the years riding people off wheels. All it really takes is some confidence... This usually don't work too well once you get too much past the 4s, though.

To the OP:

Your first crit is going to be a chaotic free-for-all. Usually there's nothing resembling team tactics, even when you have 20 guys riding in the same jerseys!

The first 5-ish laps are going to be pretty fast as the pack tries to shake off the dead wood. Then the pace'll settle down some. Then someone's going to get the bright idea of trying a breakaway. The pack's going to chase till they catch him, then settle back down.

The last 5-10 laps are going to be as fast or faster than the first 5-ish laps. THIS is where you really want to have paid attention when you were riding around in circles for the last 30min... There's probably a few fast guys surfing the pack. If you've picked them out, ride their wheels to the finish, hopefully sprinting for a placing.

I've never quite figured out completely which train to be on. Lots of times I'll pick a train that dies in the last 50m and gets passed by the other train... Racing without a team makes things a little harder for me.

Staying at the front means less work. Not ON the front, at the front.

Mike
 
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