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How does a criterium run?(10 posts)

How does a criterium run?filly
Dec 17, 2003 11:25 AM
I understand that you race for a certain period of time. Then, you race for a certain number of laps after that. Whoever is first at the end of those extra laps wins? That simple?

How is the end of the timed portion signaled? Does it matter how many laps you complete in this timed segment?
Pretty much,TJeanloz
Dec 17, 2003 11:36 AM
They're run one of three ways:

1) Strict lap count, known from the start, i.e. 25 laps.

2) As you describe, 75 minutes (or some other time) + 5 laps (or some other number of laps), where the clock counts down, and then, eventually, they start counting down laps at the start/finish area.

3) They specify that it will be 75 minutes (or some other time), time the first handful of laps, and then determine how many more laps it will take to fill the announced time, and begin counting down laps (from, say 25).

You must remain with the leaders for the whole race, except for mechanical mishap, when you are commonly granted a "free lap". However, everybody finishes at the same time, regardless of how many laps down you might be. So if a rider, or group of riders, laps the field, and then finishes together with the group, the group doesn't race another lap - everybody's done at the same time, and results are posted as "minus a lap" or "minus two laps" etc.
OK, what's some strategy?filly
Dec 17, 2003 11:49 AM
Just stay close to the front? Unlike a road race, I guess getting a position right from the get-go is crucial? Seems like you'd want to stay up front entirely to alleviate risk of getting strung out 20 riders back and never making up your loss?
It depends,TJeanloz
Dec 17, 2003 12:22 PM
Most new racers tend to believe that it's really important to get a good start and stay near the front - the goings on to get position at the start line of a Cat 4 race can be pretty funny. Once you get more comfortable racing, you realize that in 99% of crit fields, you can start at the back, and get to the front in the first lap or two. Staying near (but never *at*) the front is important to keep yourself out of crashes, and to avoid the constant acceleration and decelerations further back. Positions from about 5-10 are ideal, 10-30 is also fine; you don't want to be in the top five or way back.

When it comes to the sprint, don't go it alone until you have to. The field will continue to accelerate all the way to the line.
Getting the start nailedEric_H
Dec 19, 2003 1:16 PM
I disagree, starting the race at the front is important, even more so in lower race categories. In the lower categories, the first lap or two can be the most dangerous, as guys who start at the back take risks to move up and guys who start at the front but can't hold on to the pace start mixing it up. This is when bad stuff happens

In higher categories starting at the front is not quite as important, as riders tend to equal out in fitness and bike handling ability. Most local cat 3 and cat 1/2 races are easily started at the front or near the back. However, this does not apply when the crits get big with the pro teams. I have done a decent number of 100+ field P/1/2 crits with several pro teams in attendance. In these races, they always do call-ups for the top riders (guys like Fraser and McCormack). I have found it is imperative to position myself as close to the front behind the call-ups for start. I will skip riding around the course and just wait near the start to get good position. The pros start the crits SO fast, at the back is always a huge accordion and one runs the risk of getting gapped, and sometimes closing 10 metres at 55 km/h is pretty much impossible.

So, I think it is a good habit to always try to start near the front. Let someone else be the lazy man.
more on strategeryDougSloan
Dec 18, 2003 8:48 AM
Much of strategy depends on your motor. If you have the horsepower, you can employ much more strategery than if you can barely hang on.

Here's the basic idea - you want all your opponents to get more tired than you, then be in a position to be ahead of them at the finish line. Sounds simple, right?

There are various ways of doing this. 1) you can simply sit in and save energy, then go for it at the end; 2) you can escape and not pull anyone else with you, then last until the end; 3) you can escape with others, then use them up and beat them at the end; 4) you can have team mates repeatedly attack and wear out the group trying to stay with them, or else they escape and win, all while you sit in the main group, letting others work. There are lots of variations and combinations, but I think those are the basic plans.

Basic rule: "Clean your opponent's plate before starting on yours."

I would not worry too much about the start. While I have seen some breaks go from the start, any decent Cat 4/5 group is going to chase down everything, towing you along for the ride. As TJ noted, instead of sprinting from the start and blowing, you might be better off taking it easier and working your way up.

Don't be shy about working your way up. It's amazing how you can, with a little assertiveness and confidence, just move from wheel to wheel up through a group. Many riders don't mind at all if you take their wheel (they are following), as they'll just fall in behind you. This is probably more true in the middle than the outsides, where you might find yourself in the wind if you lose a wheel.

All that aside, at first I'd just draft, observe, and learn. Forget strategery, other than not doing any work. Don't worry about chasing down escapes, let others do it for you. See if you can finish before you worry about that stuff. It's amazing how you can feel perfectly fine, like the pace is absurdly slow, for the first 3/4's of the race, then suddenly be pegged and praying for early death.

Also, as in road racing, but more so, be really careful about overlapping wheels, and watch for others ahead of you doing it, too. I'd bet that is overwhelmingly the greatest cause of accidents. Number 2 would probably be getting pushed to the outside of corners and either hitting a curb or sliding out. Not a problem if you are not on the outside.

Things will get very hectic the last lap, especially the last turn. I'd recommend just sitting and watching then, at first, rather than trying to sprint.

Strategery IITJeanloz
Dec 18, 2003 9:38 AM
My feeling is that lower Category racers (III/IV/V) worry too much about strategy. Particularly in the 4/5 area, the only reasonable criterium strategy is: stay out of trouble, do as little work as possible (which should be none), get good position for the inevitable field sprint. New racers tend to over-think things. Ride hard, keep yourself in a good place, and give it your best in the field sprint.

I've seen a lot of plans made in the parking lot beforehand, but rarely, if ever, have I seen them actually work on the course.

It takes some expertise to get a break to stick, and young/new riders just don't have it.
fast!! (nm)_rt_
Dec 18, 2003 8:03 AM
fast!! (nm)MShaw
Dec 18, 2003 8:44 AM
More specifically: fast in the first 5 or so laps. After the front of the pack figures out (again) that they're not going to ride everyone off their wheels, the pace settles down.

Last 5 laps: fast again. Getting ready for the field sprint.

In the middle there are certainly accelerations as someone tries to go up the road, but on the whole, the first few and last few laps are the fastest.

strategy? keep it simple. (plus war stories!)aaroncvc
Dec 18, 2003 6:43 PM
You either cross the line a solo move, or you are trying to outsprint somebody. The former isn't something that you see work on a regular basis... I like to attack, because I don't like 30-deep field sprints. Maybe you'd be better at sitting in to wait for the sprint, or trying to bust out a solo 3k flyer. You'll never know until you try everything.

There's only so much you can say about racing crits. Usually the first third of the race is brutal, the next third is more relaxed, and the last third is pretty unpredictable. Most don't go by time+5 laps or whatever, you usually have a lap card to check every time around... As a 5 you'll probably see between 20 and 30 laps for most races. Technical courses tend to be better for breakaways than wide-open ovals, as large groups take longer to negotiate turns than a group of 3 or 4 guys.

Stage up front, and fight to stay there once the race is on. Starting at the back, you can still work your way up to the front, but why put yourself through all of that work? The sharp end may hurt a little bit, but I'd rather be taking pulls, keeping myself on the tip, able to respond to attacks. If you're stuck in the middle or back, you're taking the risk of getting gapped, and the guys on the front are accelerating out of the turn before you've even entered it.

Learning to corner properly is something that I haven't seen mentioned... It took me way to long to figure it out, and there's a ton of guys who've been around much longer than I, who still have no clue. Not saying that I couldn't stand to use some work there, I'm sure most of us can... The "advice" you may get about always taking the inside line, well, it's definately safer there, but you carry much more speed around the outside of the corner. I find it easier to stay on a wheel around the outside... Figure out what you're comfortable with and go with that (it might take a few months).

While I don't really like crits all that much, one of my best memories from this year was the Wilmington Criterium. Rainy day, 4 corner rectangle, with two uphill and two downhill turns. There is a stretch of belgian-blocks in the backstretch... With 2 left, there was only about 25 of us left. Andy from AABC guns it, and gets some help from another guy. They get a good 5+ second gap, no one is willing to chase. My teammate Karl says "reel him in" - I spent 2/3's-3/4's of a lap on the front with the hammer down... Like I said, no one else wanted to help out, but I brought them back for the finale. Took 11th, some guy went down, 3rd corner, 2 wheels ahead of me, smashed his collarbone. Lessons learned that day: 1- When things are strung-out, single-file, and someone goes down in front of you at the apex of the turn, you don't hit them, they just slide to the outside of the turn. 2- With only 3 guys in that race, good teamwork kept us in contention when it was crunch time. 3- Michael C from Artemis won't believe you when you tell him he's got a flat.