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What to expect in a Cat 5 crit ?(5 posts)

What to expect in a Cat 5 crit ?HouseMoney
Aug 24, 2003 5:18 PM
... besides a lot of crashing, that is! I learned a few days ago that there's a local crit in 2 weeks, 15 miles for the Cat 5 (1 mi x 15 laps). I bought a road bike last November, primarily as a training tool for mountain biking, but I find I'm now reaching for each bike equally. I raced mtn bikes for a season in '00, doing very well, but haven't raced since. (Would've moved up & continued racing except for an extended illness in '01 & a career change in '02.)

In addition to my regular 17 mile loop (ride against the clock) once or twice a week, I've been doing 1 group ride a week for the past 2 months. No structured training, though, and with only 2 weeks to go, I'd probably be doing more harm than good if I started now. The group rides are considered "B" level (16± mph ride avg, though last week we did approx 35 mi and I ended w/ an avg of 18.3 mph...but this ride was mostly flat). And, of course, I still find time for a day or two on my mtn bike.

My strategy when racing mtbs was to get out at a fairly good pace, though not risking blowing up, and then pick racers off along the way, particularly on the climbs. Problem is, this crit has no climbs and I doubt if I'd have the luxury of a moderate start until I settle into a groove. But compared to the other Cat 4/5 races I've seen around that are longer distances, I figure I can handle a purely Cat 5 race that's only 15 miles (or until I get dropped, whichever comes first).

Bottom line, should I just expect to get spanked my first time out (and 2nd, 3rd, ...) and just do it, learn, and have fun? As a relative newbie, will I be more of a hazard to other racers, i.e. should I continue to ride for fun and get more miles under my belt (and more accustomed to riding in a pack on group rides) b4 I think of racing? Unlike my mtb racing days, I don't have any delusions of podium finishes. I'm thinking of racing more for the personal challenge. Would the Citizen category (I think it's 35+, I'm 44) suit me better than Cat 5? Thanks for any advice/tips! (heck, 8 months ago I didn't even know what a crit was!)
Make your own decisionfiltersweep
Aug 25, 2003 5:07 AM
Here is what to expect-

Accelerate- corner- accelerate - corner- over and over and over again... and I mean the pack will be hitting +30mph coming out of every corner.

The other issue is the technical side to cornering (and holding your line through the corner). Don't even worry about tactics at this point.

My first crit was NOT what I expected: and there simply was no groove. You can wait, but you'll never really be prepared for the first race. Might as well give it a try so you know what to expect next time, and structure your training around whatever those needs may be.
The strategy for my first crit…TFerguson
Aug 25, 2003 5:36 AM
was to start near the back, stay out of trouble in the first corner, pick a strong wheel, and latch on to the wheel of any bike that passed me. Hopefully you will form a small secondary pack. You won't finish with the main pack, but you will gain an unbelievable amount of experience.

As far as which race, since you may not last long enough to really get tired in the first, plan on doing both.

A comparison to your MTB experience...biknben
Aug 25, 2003 8:10 AM
The pace is almost the exact opposite of a MTB race. On the dirt, everyone goes nuts in the begining, bumping and grinding their way to the first singletrack. Then, once people spread out, all is dandy to the finish.

In a Cat. 5 Crit it will start relatively slow (maybe brisk) and slowly ramp up towards the end. There will most likely be long accelerations and drops in pace. The last two laps are where everyone busts a gut. When I started out, I often found myself comfortable until the last couple laps. I'd hold on as long as I could and often just watch the finishing sprint from behind. These can get pretty dicey so I slowly got into it as I raced more.

IMO, Staying towards the back during the race will kill you. The guys at the front should not need to brake for most turns. They may stop pedaling and scrub off some speed. As you go back, each person slows down more. The further back you are, the more you slow down. Once out of the turn everyone sprints to catch up to the guys who didn't have to brake towards the front. That is an endless cycle.

I'd recommend staying as far forward as comfortable. Stay to the outside so you are less likely to get surrounded and claustrophobic. Stay in someone's draft but give yourself an "out" if you get uncomfortable. As the race continues, find a consistant rider to follow and stay with him.

Most of all, relax and consider it a learning experience. At this point, how you finish should be secondary to what you gain from each race.
A little more...MShaw
Aug 25, 2003 9:54 AM
...I've noticed that most crits start off like a bat out of h3ll for the first 5-10min, then slow down once people realize that they're not going to shake the pack, then go like a bat out of h3ll again for the last 3-5-7 laps setting up for the field sprint. If you can get through the first hard part the middle is fairly easy.

I'll second the part about being at the back being hard. If you want the good workout, stay there. Just be careful to pay attention to who you're following so that you're not taken OTB by someone sitting up.

DO NOT try to jam your bike to the inside of a corner. This is a good way to see exactly how hard asphalt is!

If you can stay at the front but not ON the front, you'll be OK. The trick is to be able to make up the places you lose when the back of the pack overtakes the front of the pack and swarms around the outside. It takes concentration and a situational awareness of where you are in the pack to stay at the front. Work on that if you can.

Most important piece of advice: RELAX. Yes you may get bumped, you may even have to avoid a crash. Don't put a death grip on the bars, bend your elbows, and if you are bumped, don't freak out. Chances are if you're being bumped, if you freak out, you'll crash. If you're relaxed, you probably won't.

That help?