Crit race - is there a strategy

schred

Likes Bikes and Dirt
I'm going to try crit racing in a few weeks, fitness is ok for C/d grade, just wondering if there's any strategy tips from peeps here. Most Zwift races have a few surges to break up the pack then usually a slugfest or sprint to the end, is there another way or is that how it mostly goes?
 

ForkinGreat

Random Krishna
I'm going to try crit racing in a few weeks, fitness is ok for C/d grade, just wondering if there's any strategy tips from peeps here. Most Zwift races have a few surges to break up the pack then usually a slugfest or sprint to the end, is there another way or is that how it mostly goes?
I'm assuming you are doing a real crit, not a Zwift crit.

Before the racing begins, warm up for a few laps - just some easy spinning.

Like most racing, it depends. If you are doing the time + 2 0r 3 laps, then there may not be much happening for the timed part but you will often have blokes keeping the tempo high to burn off the less fit. Once the end laps start, things will get more interesting. There may be attacks off the front of the bunch (indeed they may be happening before the final laps) but they are more likely toward the end when the moves have a better chance of staying away.
Bike handling is critical. if you've done some scratch or handicap races, then you will be used to riding in a bunch with riders on all sides.
Be predictable and hold your line in corners if practical and safe to do so. Be aware of other riders and where their wheels and handlebars are.

If you can, stay in the first 10 or so (depends on size of bunch - but more or less), as you will actually expend less energy accelerating out of corners to maintain your position or catch back up.

learn to ride a paceline if you don't already know how. Youtube is a good source of tips and ask your clubmates too.

If it's wet, know where all the metal grates, manhole covers painted lines and slick patches of ashphalt are on the course, as you will go down in an instant if your line takes you over one in a corner. I've seen it happen.

for dry crits, corners are usually swept, but don't rely on this. you may not have perfect traction.

Never brake suddenly if you can avoid it. you are likely to have some poor bastard run into the back of you. - and you are more likely to maintain control of your bike by keeping the braking smooth.

On the bell lap (last lap) the pace will accelerate even more, and there may be attacks, or there may be blokes on the front trying to keep the bunch together for a sprint. If you still have the legs at this point, you will want to be in the first 5 or so, as you will have FA chance of winning a sprint from the back of the bunch. there is also a safety aspect to this as there is less chance of getting boxed in or caught in a crash if you are near the front.
if there are a number of corners before the final straight to the finish line, you must be in the first few through the corners - to maintain speed and be in the best position as you wind up for the sprint.

Don't lead out if possible, unless you are like Marcel Kittel in the middle of a meth binge. Other riders will grab your wheel and zap right by.
Know what your best gear is for the sprint.

Go straight in the sprint. don't weave all over the fucking road. for your safety and that of the other riders. And, you may be disqualified.

Don't try to squeeze though a narrow or non-existant gap. it's only fuckwits (eg Mark Cavendish) that do dumb shit like that. It's only a club race, and you are learning your racecraft.

Apart from all that, have fun. Racing is a buzz :)

Vidz
Short version

Full race and insightful commentary - watch the whole vid. gearing, tactics, pace etc all talked about - and interesting comments about tyre pressure at 12min 40sec.
 
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defy1

Likes Bikes
Yes manage get second or third position before the finish line. Let the lead guy pull you in, then last second sprint to take the win :)
 

schred

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Awesome, thanks in particular FG, and yes it will be in the real world. I have little road bike skills to speak of and despite the disparaging comments to roadies I'm that part will be an eye opener even in the lower grades. Hopefully its a fastish and pain free learning curve.
 

99_FGT

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Do the club offer beginners race classes? Not categories, but lessons in race craft?
The comment about not having road bike skills scares me. On a mtb it's all about you, if you need to change line to go faster you do. On a road bike in a bunch it's a different story, hold your line, steady braking, be predictable. Otherwise you and 10 others will be on the pavement.
Have a look at the pace as well, can you keep close to that pace for the race distance?
This is an outside perspective, few things I would take into account before jumping into crit racing
 

ForkinGreat

Random Krishna
Do the club offer beginners race classes? Not categories, but lessons in race craft?
The comment about not having road bike skills scares me. On a mtb it's all about you, if you need to change line to go faster you do. On a road bike in a bunch it's a different story, hold your line, steady braking, be predictable. Otherwise you and 10 others will be on the pavement.
Have a look at the pace as well, can you keep close to that pace for the race distance?
This is an outside perspective, few things I would take into account before jumping into crit racing
Good points there. If you are with a club, It would be good to go on some training rides with them. Most road bike clubs do this.
 

schred

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Do the club offer beginners race classes? Not categories, but lessons in race craft?
The comment about not having road bike skills scares me. On a mtb it's all about you, if you need to change line to go faster you do. On a road bike in a bunch it's a different story, hold your line, steady braking, be predictable. Otherwise you and 10 others will be on the pavement.
Have a look at the pace as well, can you keep close to that pace for the race distance?
This is an outside perspective, few things I would take into account before jumping into crit racing
Cheers mate, its a good and healthy perspective to have and be challenged on much as I don't like it. I don't have bicycle pack riding experience and that concerns me too given the importance of drafting, I'm planning to ride cautiously from the back for the first few as I pick it up. I may have undersold my general road bike skills, compared to 90% of road riders I've tailed/observed on the open ride and compared to the cat C & D racing I've seen I'd be ok & comparable, but it doesn't mean much as I can't say I've done it myself. Would I be comfortable riding in a Cat B middle of the bunch which is where I'd like to be, no not yet. I've raced elbow to elbow elsewhere before so being predictable, smooth and level-headed etc etc goes without saying, and on the plus side bicycles are quite a bit slower and narrower too so there's plenty of time to think about things between corners. But I haven't raced in a bicycle pack and I'm keenly aware of that. Pace wise it should be ok in C & D according to observations and recreations, but it's always different doing it for real, and as you suggest getting held up, fighting back, etc. will be different to holding a constant TT style pace. The aim for the first few will be to observe and learn from the back of the pack vs any heroics up the front. I've contacted the club to ask about prep for new racers, maybe allocated mentors hand-holders I don't know, hopefully not just training rides as tbh road riding doesn't interest me at this stage, primarily from a safety perspective. But if that's the only source of pack riding training, maybe I need to reconsider. They don't do training races, and beginners start in C or D (I've requested D already), so not sure there's any other way apart from getting out there and doing it.
 

Markee

Likes Dirt
Elbows out and use your head where necessary in the sprint! Haha
But in all seriousness have fun and be careful of the wheel chop. C and D Grade are notoriously bad for this as people’s skills aren’t great although their fitness may be.
Those same people are the ones who don’t pull a turn on the front then smash through in the sprint taking out anyone in the process.
Ride in the pack and observe and draft your way round for the first few races and learn some race craft. Then have a go at a sprint or two, timing is everything, you’ll work it out soon enough.
But most of all, get out there and have fun!
 

schred

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Quick race report, first race and first win in the mighty D grade. Don't really know how many were behind, maybe 15-20. I teamed up with two guys on L2 and we took/shared turns well and ended up lapping the d pack. Racecraft came naturally and only one moment when my wheel overlapped the slowing guy in front during a draft who then decided to change line, but otherwise very clean but we were way out in front. It won't be like this all the time so.i should savour it.

In terms of strategy I watched the other two guys mid race for the prime and they went at about 350m to go. I'm an ok sprinter but the idea of coasting 40km to end in a 200m sprint annoys me on principle. So Ive been practicing my long shots and know I have a chance anywhere from 1.5-2.5km out full gas. As the other two slowed up on last lap board to prepare and have a drink I nailed it, pulled a little wheelie and a 50m gap pretty quickly. They nibbled away but I kept my head down and made it around the 1.2km course without blowing up and finished with a 20m lead. Yeeeewww.
 

ForkinGreat

Random Krishna
Noice!!! Well done mate! you'll be in C grade next time. good to get out of D grade quickly, as a lot of riders can have bad race habits, and they rub off on others.
Keep it up :D
 

schred

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Thanks mate, race commissaire said do a few more in D to get pack experience then will be shuffled up. I don't mind tbh. I figure there won't be as much disorganisation to exploit in C grade, so I might be approaching my peak.
 

Paulie_AU

Likes Dirt
Cmon what the fuck are you doing in D? (apart from experience)

Muzz or Nundah?

Do what I used to do surge the fuck out of the bunch to break people then try to recover for the finish. Yes numerous times this broke me.....

Muzz B grade took near 60km/hr to win a prime or race back in the day. Don't know what it is like these days.
 
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schred

Likes Bikes and Dirt
Had to start on D, two wins and two primes from three races, now in C. But instead of racing against 5-6 actual competitors it's been 45-50 last few races.

I think it can be won under the right circumstances, but there's a few sandbaggers about that make it hard. Last race was a top 10 finish incl breakaway group, and I crushed them in the sprint to the line, but got boxed in so late charge. To my mind it's more strategy than fitness if the pack holds, esp in C. I'm getting better with understanding wtf is going on, but there's some wiley old and young bastards getting about.

B grade is def quick, and even if I was circulating pack fodder it is still a goal, though 60 across the line is par for course, backing it up after the primes is the hard part!
 
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