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Crit Racing(19 posts)

Crit RacingRockyMountainRacer
Apr 6, 2002 3:47 PM
Ok appears that I may need some guidance and/or moral support regarding the art of crit racing. I just did my second crit today, it was cat 4 (because they didn't have cat 5) so there were over 100 riders in the field, I guess a mixture of 4's and 5's (and probably some 3's!). I was a Sport level mountain biker last summer, and this season I decided to start out with some road bike racing to get faster for the mtb and see if I liked the road. I've been training on my road bike for two years and have ridden in many group rides. That being said, here's what happened:

I got in a good long warmup and got to the line feeling good and confident. I was in the middle of the pack unfortunately, but I was in the second row from the start. When the race started, I took off like in an mtb start to get up in the pack. Two weeks ago in my first race I was dropped early because I never got up in the back and was clawing to stay on the back. So I was in pretty good position for the whole first lap, but the pack was huge and it was just utter chaos in there. On the second lap I found myself moving back in the pack--I wasn't hurting from the pace, but other riders were sprinting up the sides and moving the middle back--also, people would just kind of intimidate me out of my spot, and I just don't seem to have the cojones yet to really stake out a position in that pack. So there is my first big question, what is the best way to maintain a spot in the pack? It was just a huge pack that kept changing shape, going from strung out in a line to all clumped up...

Okay, so I had moved back in the pack but I was by no means on the back. I was in about the back half of the pack. This is when the s*&t hit the fan. Some guy tried to take a right turn too fast on the inside, lost both wheels, and toppled over to his left (outside of the turn). Since the pack was so thick, this just caused a domino effect, spilling riders all the way across the road. I was stuck behind this mess. I avoided going down barely, but that was pretty much it as the rest of the pack took off up the road. I didn't quit and tt'd after the pack (working with others when I caught them) untill they lapped me and I was pulled. One guy crushed his carbon Trek in the crash, and another tacoed a Kryserium. That sucks, but they weren't badly hurt...another guy wasn't so lucky. I went over to the start finish to watch after I was done, and several laps later some guy hit the barrier on the side of the road--the metal railing of the barrier punctured his thigh, and he was bleeding all over the road. Some fan wipped off his belt and put a turniquet on the racers thigh, and they had to stop the race to bring in an ambulance and medevac the poor guy.

Needless to say, this left me very sketched out and frustrated. Someone please tell me that crit racing can be more fun and worthwhile! I just don't feel like I even got a doesn't seem worth it at all to me to possibly hurt yourself badly or destroy some equipment, but I am just really not feeling good about crits right now.
learning experiencelonefrontranger
Apr 6, 2002 4:44 PM
Sorry I didn't see you today. I was there all day hanging out by the start/finish. That big crash that went into the barricades just about landed in my lap.

Rule #1) as you already figured out: If you're not moving up, you're moving back. Crit racing does take some cajones, and you just have to do a few before you're able to hang in. Ask BipedZed for some tips on "riding the conveyor belt"; that's what it will feel like when you're doing it right. I'm not an expert simply because women's fields are so small that we're either a) strung out wheel to wheel or b) not going fast enough that it matters.

Rule #2: If you get stuck behind a crash TAKE A FREE LAP! You are entitled to one if you have a mishap that is no fault of your own (flat or crash). If you got held up behind a wreck, then go to the official, tell them you were involved in a crash, and take your free lap.

Today's race wasn't a good example because it was the first ACA race of the season, the weather was unusually nice, the fields were huge, there was a lot of crosswind causing havoc, and no one has their handling skills quite wired yet. There are typically lots of crashes in the 4's (and 3's too, don't kid yourself) early season. Folks weed themselves out. Race in 4 weeks, you'll see the fields are quite a bit smaller and better behaved.

Keep at it, and keep racing. You'll do fine. Stazio is NOT my idea of a great first bike race for anyone just because it's so early in the season and the fields are so big and squirrelly.
ACA = Austin Cycling Association???riney
Apr 6, 2002 10:03 PM
ACA = American Cycling AssociationRockyMountainRacer
Apr 7, 2002 1:52 PM
They govern most of the road races in Colorado. We have some USCF as well, but not many at all. What's odd is they (ACA) seem to have abolished cat 5 this year, so all the cat 4 races are a mixture of both and have huge fields. Does anyone else from CO know why this is?
Good Advice LFRRockyMountainRacer
Apr 7, 2002 1:48 PM
First of all, I'd like to thank all of you experienced people who share your precious knowledge on this board--I've learned a LOT since I stumbled across it.

Thanks for the advice LFR--you may have seen me chasing after the pack from your vantage point at the start/finish--I'm a shorter blond guy on a blue Cannondale CAAD4, I was wearing a light blue Assos jersey as well. I'm glad that crash didn't hit you as a spectator, sounds like it was close. Did you see the guy in the yellow Colorado College jersey who hopped the curb, whizzed through the grass around the crash, then hopped back on the road and back into the race without missing a beat? He probably just missed you! I used to go to school with him and ride with him all the time, an excellent bike handler as you may have seen.

Anyway, I didn't know you could take a free lap if you got caught behind a crash. I sure wish I knew that yesterday as I still had plenty of fight in me when I got lapped. How do you do it? Do you just stop by the first course martial you see, wait for the peloton to come around, and say "I'm taking my free lap because I got stuck behind the crash"?

And don't worry, I will do more crits before I focus on the mtb for the rest of the summer. I'm not totally out of it, but seeing that guy get badly hurt SUCKED. I shed a tear for all the nice bikes that got killed as well. That poor Colnago, he did nothing wrong!
Stazio SUCKS!Pack Meat
Apr 7, 2002 6:14 PM
As the first crit of the year it the absolute worst! The course is difficult and when you have 100 guys forget about it.

No, you can not just go up to the official and say I got stuck behind a crash and take a free lap. You have to be involved in the crash. So you have to tell them that you crashed. So if you get caught behind the crash...fall.
on being sneaky... use with discretionlonefrontranger
Apr 8, 2002 7:40 PM
You can absolutely go to the official and say "I was involved in that crash on (wherever corner)". Technically, you WERE involved, since it shucked you out of the field, so you're not lying. They're not going to ask you to show road rash as proof. As long as you don't actually admit that you never in fact hit pavement, you'll get your free lap. Many, many experienced crit racers do this if they get caught out behind a crash and gapped off the field as a result. In absolute terms it's cheating, but it's one of those sneaky unwritten bike racing tricks, like using the lead vehicle or moto for an acceleration (drafting, sometimes used to establish a breakaway or bridge a gap) if they don't move up quick enough, or (I've seen Pro/1/2 guys do this a lot) holding onto your team car to get a tow back up to the field. I don't recommend the last one, since it's highly illegal and can get you killed in more ways than one.

Some officials I've known will even grant a free lap if they SEE you were caught behind the crash and didn't fall. Depends on the official, the race and the circumstances, but I've found that in racing, that's one of the gray areas.
Three pointsshirt
Apr 6, 2002 6:54 PM
1: 100 is too many for a Senior 4/5 crit. Stay away from those. Too many squirrels in the cage.

2: In a short crit, you're generally either an aggressor or an agressee. There is very little "maintaining your spot in the pack" so don't try to do it. Decide which one you are. If the former, you'll eventually do okay. If the latter, stick to the road races and pass on the crits.

3: Most roadies look down on crits as the ugly stepchild of road racing. But they require a special skill, attitude, and fitness. Make sure you understand that difference before you commit to doing more. IMHO, most roadies are better suited for pure road racing, so it's a pity that crits are so much easier to organize.

With that said, I'm a pure critter and absolutely love the intensity. Perhaps a background of roadracing motorcycles and an adolescence spent in early 80s mosh pits has conditioned me for them, however.

By the way: there's a vignette from a crit I won three weeks ago you may find instructive. With ~600m to go I found myself in the middle of a very big, clustered pack (about 60 guys on the head of a pin.) I really, really didn't want to be in there so I yelled, "I'M COMING OUT!!!" held my left arm out and plowed through about half a dozen guys. I did it slowly and deliberately enough that they could maneuver enough to let me out, but it was a very forceful move. You have to do things in crits like that. No, nobody crashed and I kept talking until I was clear of the pack. Apparently it was worth it, as I had a line to catch... :-)

As far as the carnage goes: "That's racing." It sucks, but you need to get used to it.

thats funnyishmael
Apr 7, 2002 9:44 AM
ill have to try that method of getting out of the pack, i laughed out loud...crits scare me too and i always just skirt the edge scared that id end up in the middle of some mob going around a turn...the cat 4/5 i got third in i sat on the edge of the mob and just passed everyone in the sprint, they were all trapped...often i find myself saying "carefull" and "watchout" to everyone around me...crashes in crits seem to always happend, i wonder if its worth it sometimes, i havent crashed yet...road races are alot safer feeling...besides my precious skin, my bike cost a fortune and if it broke id feel like an do crashes happend, who is responsible, if you touch someone from behind who goes down,what technically makes a crash, what ends up happending to bike and/or body from crashes, and how should you react in a crash????
as a non "critter"Duane Gran
Apr 8, 2002 4:56 AM
Some people love crits, but I'm a hard core road racer. In fact, the only reason I do crits is just for fitness and to work for my teammates. That said, in a crit I tend to be in survival mode and employ the following tactics:

* Start near the front and for God's sake stay there for the first two laps. It takes most people a couple of laps to get their race legs (myself included) and if someone is going to biff it, you might as well be in front.

* Always have an exit plan. Defend your wheel, but give enough room to react and dart off the side into the grass should a pileup begin. This may involve pushing a little more wind, but it a tad safer.

This advice probably sounds sissy to the people who love crits, and it might be. I find the fun/skinloss ratio in crits to be bad enough to warrant caution.
re: Crit Racingweiwentg
Apr 8, 2002 5:42 AM
see my post about broken collarbones in the general forum. this should make you feel better :P
the guy in the brown shirt on the wheelchair who's grimacing in pain is me.
Is that a disabled parking space you're in?shirt
Apr 8, 2002 7:27 AM

oooooooooops nmweiwentg
Apr 8, 2002 3:38 PM
How's that left-handed typing going???shirt
Apr 8, 2002 6:16 PM
it's a painweiwentg
Apr 9, 2002 5:11 AM
but i seem to be not bad at it. :)
i'll be back tomorrow morn...
re: Crit Racingbrider
Apr 8, 2002 9:04 AM
LFR has great advice, I strongly suggest you pay attention. In addition, some one said "always have an exit." Can't agree more. Works for road races as well. Being on the side of the pack leaves room to (a) exit the road if needed to avoid carnage, (b) keeps you able to get around people who get in your way, and (c) if done on the correct side and the pack cooperates, gives you an open line for the sprint. Use a few laps to sort out what the character of the last corner is like (how the pack tends to exit the corner), and select the side you want to be on coming into the sprint. Use the last several laps to get yourself there. Being near the front is key, and if you're not passing, you're being passed. There is NO neutral time in a crit. 100 in ANY crit has got to be just insane. Front position is of critical importance in a situation like that.
re: Crit RacingTroyboy
Apr 8, 2002 11:14 AM
My suggestion is ride aggressively. Work on your shoulder bumping and wheel rubbing skills. Defend your space with strong riding. One thing I have to work on is remaining ultra aware even through the last lap when extreme fatigue starts wearing in and I'm feeling *runners high*. I find lots of guys cutting inside riders and others cutting off riders while entering turns. My suggestion is to be a good strong cornerer. You want to actually attack the corners thus not let others inside you to sweep you out or to leave room for another to cut you off and sweep your front wheel. You will bump lots of dudes throughout your career, be strong and stay upright at other's expense.

I too am a total critter and love it. It is fast and technical and just plain one frickin' rush! It's not for everyone. If you like it, keep it up. If not, hit the track or road races and check them out. The road racers on my team are always envious at the crowds and support and other stuff at all the races we critters enjoy. It is a charge to be top 2 or 3 for a good portion of the race and hear your name and team during each pass. That is a great charge for me and keeps me going.

Yes, you can get hurt. I've come from some more and some less dangerous sports.
Thanks all for the advice!RockyMountainRacer
Apr 9, 2002 7:00 AM
I appreciate it very much--all these posts are very helpfull--except for the one from that handicapped dude. Just kidding weiwentg, I hope your arm heals quickly!
Thanks all for the advice!weiwentg
Apr 9, 2002 8:03 AM
lol & thanks. :)