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Everyone knows that it is a good idea to stay near the front in crits, both to avoid the "accordion" effect as well as to reduce risk of crashing. Everyone also knows that it is best to avoid being caught out in the wind at anytime during a race. However, in my (limited) experience, these 2 things are in constant conflict.

It seems that when I am in 5th-10th wheel in a crit, any time the pace at the front slows even a tiny bit, there are another 5-10 guys per side that flow up to the front (simply from momentum or whatever). Now I am boxed in with guys on either side of me, and I went from say 10th place to something like 30th place (assuming I was 10th wheel in a single file and now I am 10th wheel in the middle of 3 columns -- 3 wide by 10 deep). From here it seems the only way to proactively stay in the top 10 (especially if the pace picks up and it starts stringing out again), is to sneak out into the wind and move up a bunch of spots, burning energy in the process.

How do you handle this situation? What strategies do you use to either avoid the situation or at least minimize the effects? It seems to come up all the time, at least in the lower Cat races.

Thanks.
 

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You see your problem correctly - it's the old "if you're not moving up, you're moving back" crit thing.

There are too many variables for me to offer specific advice, but in a general, I think a bit more aggressiveness would help. As soon as you notice riders flowing up to the front on either side of you, you need to join them. You don't want to dangerously muscle your way between two riders - but you also don't want to ask permission. The move is somewhere in betweeen - smooth, but firmly telegraphing "I really need to and will come in here, so make a bit of room."
 

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Move up when things slow down. That's the time to do "work" at the front, if you're stuck there.
 

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gastarbeiter
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all good points made. i always think of a crit i did in vermont where i was sitting somewhere like 7th or 8th position at the front, and basically finished 7th or 8th. the crit was so damn technical, and the pace so high, that it was nigh impossible to move up and recover. i think it started with 70-80 riders, and ended with about 15 :eek:
 

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Are you referring to...

botto said:
all good points made. i always think of a crit i did in vermont where i was sitting somewhere like 7th or 8th position at the front, and basically finished 7th or 8th. the crit was so damn technical, and the pace so high, that it was nigh impossible to move up and recover. i think it started with 70-80 riders, and ended with about 15 :eek:
...the last stage of the GMSR? Yup, hardest crit I've ever done!!
 

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It's also possible to surf the back on certain courses if you are playing for a sprint finish. Riders like Carney and Harvey Nitz were known to often sit at the back until the last few laps.

If you have the right technique, riding at the very back is often the smoothest place to ride
 

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Makes you wonder why anyone bothers to pull at the front while in the wind without wanting to get behind someone..




pace21 said:
Everyone knows that it is a good idea to stay near the front in crits, both to avoid the "accordion" effect as well as to reduce risk of crashing. Everyone also knows that it is best to avoid being caught out in the wind at anytime during a race. However, in my (limited) experience, these 2 things are in constant conflict.

It seems that when I am in 5th-10th wheel in a crit, any time the pace at the front slows even a tiny bit, there are another 5-10 guys per side that flow up to the front (simply from momentum or whatever). Now I am boxed in with guys on either side of me, and I went from say 10th place to something like 30th place (assuming I was 10th wheel in a single file and now I am 10th wheel in the middle of 3 columns -- 3 wide by 10 deep). From here it seems the only way to proactively stay in the top 10 (especially if the pace picks up and it starts stringing out again), is to sneak out into the wind and move up a bunch of spots, burning energy in the process.

How do you handle this situation? What strategies do you use to either avoid the situation or at least minimize the effects? It seems to come up all the time, at least in the lower Cat races.

Thanks.
 

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I would never ride at the very back regardless of any technique - you will get caught behind chumps who don't know how to ride crits, you will get caught behind people who are in the process of gettin shelled 'cause they can't handle the accelerations, you will get caught behind any crashes that happen, and you will not be able to consider any primes worth gunning for - the back might be a good place if you want to do a jillion intervals and practise closing gaps - but why pay $$ for that?

What wim said - get aggressive and start moving up when it starts to swarm. Generally speaking, super nice, friendly & mellow guys make pretty $hitty crit racers.
 

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The Carlster said:
I would never ride at the very back regardless of any technique - you will get caught behind chumps who don't know how to ride crits, you will get caught behind people who are in the process of gettin shelled 'cause they can't handle the accelerations, you will get caught behind any crashes that happen, and you will not be able to consider any primes worth gunning for - the back might be a good place if you want to do a jillion intervals and practise closing gaps - but why pay $$ for that?

What wim said - get aggressive and start moving up when it starts to swarm. Generally speaking, super nice, friendly & mellow guys make pretty $hitty crit racers.
I would never call Harvey or Carney $hitty crit racers...

If you want to win a race, you have to adopt a plan that works for the course, the situation, and your abilities. Surfing at the back on some courses is a strategy that can optimize your success if the race turns out in a certain way. Yes, riding at the back in a beginner race can be disastarous, but at the elite level the back of the pack can allow you to conserve lots of energy so that you are fresh for the finale. You can take a better line, there are less accelerations, and it's much steadier and calmer when you are tail gunning. Of course, you can't contest the primes and you are screwed if a break goes up the road, but that's what team mates are for.
 

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I think so. I was talking about the Burlington Crit, which used to be a stand alone event, because Killington was the big late season stage race. All turns, only straight part of road was uphill. Man, i still have the circuit burned in my head, and i raced that in 1993 :)

jtferraro said:
...the last stage of the GMSR? Yup, hardest crit I've ever done!!
 

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Yup, I'd say that it is a brutal loop in Burlington.

When you're near the front and the pace eases, you can't slack off and suck wheels. That is when the surge up the sides occurs, and you'd better be in it. It is a better effort (I think) to keep the power on and stay up front than to increase your risk at the back. Sure it might be harder, but nobody wins a race (or gets better) by hiding out of the wind all day.

In your next training crit, try to stay top 10. Easy when a break with a teammate is away, then you are sure to simply roll off the front every time you get sucked to the lead.
 

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Spunout said:
Yup, I'd say that it is a brutal loop in Burlington.
for sure. all that effort and all i got was my favorite pic of me on a bike out of it ;)

 

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Tobu,

with the pros, hanging at the back isn't much of an issue. They keep their speed through the corners and riders aren't shooting out the back. But for the 98% of us that aren't racing at that level, hanging at the back is the wrong plan. Breaking before turns, sprinting out of them, closing gaps from riders that lose the wheel ahead. Dodging crashes within the field.

If a rider can hang on the back of the 3s or 4s for 3/4 of the race and still be a threat in the sprint he's due for an upgrade.
 

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"with the pros, hanging at the back isn't much of an issue. They keep their speed through the corners and riders aren't shooting out the back. But for the 98% of us that aren't racing at that level, hanging at the back is the wrong plan. Breaking before turns, sprinting out of them, closing gaps from riders that lose the wheel ahead. Dodging crashes within the field"

I think you'd be surprised by what takes place in a pro field. It's a huge pain in the butt trying to close down a gap in a pro race when someone blows up and loses a wheel. And there are tons of riders who break unnecessarily in the corners, perhaps not as much, but still enough to cause problems for those behind them.

So why would anyone ride at the back? 1) better field of vision. you can see people getting dropped or crashing but you must be alert and aware. 2) safety. It's more spread out at the back and people aren't fighting for wheels. 3) faster and steadier speed through the corners.

I'm not advocating racing at the back for every course or situation: I personally prefer to race at the front if I have the strength -- but it's just good to be aware that there are alternate strategies. There are many courses where racing at the back is terrible -- courses where it's super hard to move up. Courses where chunks of riders are coming off the back. On the other hand, there are some courses where it's super easy to move up in the last few laps -- so why waste energy fighting for the front if you're not strong enough. Some races are races of attrition. It doesn't matter if you are at the front or back if the final selection is only 20 riders.
 

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jtferraro said:
Cool pic! You guys almost look like T-Mobile pros riding a tandem. I think the number on the upper arm makes a lot of sense and wonder why they don't do that anymore?
T-Mobile!?! We were really wearing purple, not fuscia :D IIRC that's one of the few time that I ever had to have a number on the arm.
 
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