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*saw* my first crit this weekend (now i fear i'm hooked)(8 posts)

*saw* my first crit this weekend (now i fear i'm hooked)JS Haiku Shop
Apr 15, 2002 5:21 AM
watched the age group, cat 4, 3, and finally the cat 5 races. observations:

cats 3 and 4 were pretty much the same, with cat 4 dropping a few off the back closer to the middle/end. lap times were pretty close, too (<1 mi urban course). the guys were all on teams, except for one or two in each bunch. pretty interesting to see for the first time, but nothing i'd go back and watch if i could've been riding instead (knee).

cat5, otoh...now, there's something interesting. you could tell the difference between the 4s and 3s, especially that the 3s seemed on the verge of professional, or something. hard to put into words. there seemed to be some actual teamwork in the teams on the 3s, as opposed to the 4s, where it looked like every rider for himself.

the cat5 guys were a hodge-podge of semi-serious-looking ("looking" being the operative here) guys and others that obviously came from the bike shop to the ride. of course, the only guy with the full team kit and matching bike was the first one lapped and pulled. the others were clearly weekend warriors, working daddys, and the first ones to attack and get dropped on the saturday club ride. lots of hairy legs, pro team jerseys, reflectors, blinkie lights, seat packs, frame pumps, you get the idea. no hydration packs, though...a few seemed like maybe tri guys, mtb racers, or sandbagging cat4s (or better, maybe), or even some that had raced before but not for awhile since.

guess i eyed the cat5 race a little more in particular since that's where i'd have been (since i've never raced before). as soon as the start countdown ended, there were guys jumping the line and off the front (first to get shelled out the back on the first lap). the field broke into three distinctive groups, the first of about ten, who seemed to be working together. the second of about 5, who were infighting. the third was the rest, who were not riding together, but just trying to keep up and not get lapped/pulled (didn't work!). interesting that the lap times of the leading bunch (first to finish) were just a few seconds longer than the cat3, and the second bunch to finish were an entire half lap behind them. in retrospect (and after reading what i've just written), it seemed like the front group were either driving sandbaggers or smart hangers-on, and the middle group were honest cat5/cat4s, and the rest were, well, the rest.

conclusion: since there are few races 'round here (and i'm always riding when there are crits), this is the first one i've seen. from reading here and other places 'bout the meat-grinder reputation and squirrely nature of crits, i never thought i'd have any interest. fortunately, this loop was more like a figure-8, and had some (slight) variations from flat city roads. thought there may not be another here 'til next april (d'oh!), i think i'd like to join in the fun.
Definitely try one!speedisgood
Apr 15, 2002 6:09 AM
I always think of crits vs. road races like espresso vs. coffee. Both are good but you get the good stuff quicker with the espresso!

There's something innately scary about crits (the speed, the tightness of the pack, all those corners, etc.) that really brings out the fright factor at first. After a while, though, you get used to it and it becomes less scary and more of a thrill. Kinda like rollercoasters. You just GOTTA go back to get your fix.

Hope you go through with the crit! Let us know how it goes. Just remember to warm up well before and stay towards the front of the pack, especially the first third of the race until things get settled down.
you will be assimilatedDuane Gran
Apr 15, 2002 6:10 AM
Just kidding... racing is addictive. Your assessment is pretty correct. The fitness level (and consequently the average speed) of the laps isn't much different, but the ability to stick a well intentioned attack increases as the category increases. I would look at the speed of the final three laps as a better indicator of the fitness differential.

As you saw, the cat5 races have a lot of color and character. They are good for getting people involved in the sport, but if you can join a team early on it will be to your benefit.
you DEFINITELY will be assimilatedweiwentg
Apr 15, 2002 6:40 AM
well, maybe not. but I know I'm hooked...
remember: if someone crashes in front of you, DO NOT BRAKE AND DO NOT TRY TO BUNNY HOP. SWERVE INSTEAD. (i think tjeanloz posted that on the racing forum. if i'd remembered i might not have a bloody steel plate in my right collarbone).
give it a shotgrandemamou
Apr 15, 2002 6:47 AM
Your observations are true for racing in this area too. Cat 5 is very diverse. There are lots of strong Mtn bikers and tri guys who race 5. Add to that really strong riders that only race a few times a year and you will find that the times for Cat 4 and the lead pack of 5's aren't that different.

I don't particularly like crits but do them anyway because there isn't much other racing to be had. Give it a shot you may find that you like it. Try to stay close to the front but not on the front. If you can mark the breaks you may find yourself in the winning group.
hee hee... another victim... err... initiatelonefrontranger
Apr 15, 2002 10:58 AM
Do you lurk in the Racing forum? BigLeadoutGuy does some impressive race reporting of his own, too.

My favorite cat to watch is Masters 35+, even though the fields tend to be fairly small. Lots and lots of powerhouses, and incredibly savvy tactics. You will learn a huge amount from watching these guys and the Pro/1/2 field. If you ever watch a crit with a big, talented Pro/1/2 field, watch how their field strings out to hug the inside curb coming into a fast corner, then gracefully swings across to the outside to start the corner, goes all the way curb to curb at full bore thru the corner without touching the brakes, then swings back and hugs the curb again. It's a beautifully choreographed and coordinated move that's like watching a school of fish or flock of birds in flight. They do this to discourage attacks through the corners, and also to minimize options for attackers - if you're hugging the right curb, then the attacks HAVE to come off the left shoulder, so you know where they're going to come from and can watch/listen for them. No other fields can do this with quite the same kind of panache.

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the other cats, though. Most Cat 3 guys have a team and decent team strategy going in, and are experienced enough to execute it.
What race and where? I was at the crit in Santa Cruz(nm)James
Apr 15, 2002 10:53 PM
re: *saw* my first crit this weekend (now i fear i'm hooked)Troyboy
Apr 16, 2002 6:33 AM
Go ahead and give it a go. I believe races differ depending upon the region however, here in SoCal, there are multiple crits going on every Sunday. The 5s are every bit as serious as the fours and every bit as fast. The 4 races are simply longer. Yes, plenty of day licenses and unattached riders in the 5s.

They are a serious rush.