Race Analysis Request-How to Race Crits When You Can't Hang

Just wanted to toss out a request for a future race analysis video:

Can you show some ways to have fun racing crits when you don’t have the fitness to hang with the group the whole race?

I’m trying to work back into racing shape on a low volume plan (job/family), live in a town where everyone is super-outdoorsy and fit, and our weekly crit series features relatively small fields (about 20 in the 4/5 race) and just enough elevation gain on each lap that I can’t just sit in and get towed around for 40 minutes.

Riding around in circles by myself until I get pulled is not fun, so what can I do to actually race bikes and enjoy riding outside with real people?

I’m toying with the idea of doing a cyclocross start (all out for 30 seconds, then threshold for the next few minutes) or maybe looking to launch an early attack in the first few laps and then hoping it lines up with a prime lap.

Other than that, I’m low on ideas. My TR plan has conditioned me to be able to go over/under repeatedly in the 170-250 watt range (with FTP around 3 w/kg), but a couple laps with hard surges (multiple efforts around 500-800 watts) empties out the legs pretty quickly.

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I’m curious to know the course elevation here… but regardless at 3 w/kg I feel like you should have no problem at least staying with the pack.

here’s my best advice with the 9 or so races that I’ve done at the Cat 5 level, so take it for what it’s worth:

  1. Make it a game to stay sheltered as possible - always be following wheels. Stop your data when you get dropped and look at your average power - make it a game to keep it as low as possible - that way you know you’re conserving energy and doing well at keeping you head out of the wind.

  2. try to stay in 5-10 position. You can stick your head into the wind to go up here, but slot right back in. You should find plenty of shelter with 20 people in the pack.

  3. don’t worry about breaks, or chasing things down yourself, always be following a wheel. You goal is not to get dropped.

Not sure how much the elevation gain really gets you - but maybe find a flatter course too.

I found out at ToAD it sounds far easier than it is. Plenty of things I could’ve done better but at 3.8 W/kg I got my butt kicked in 4/5 with ease on the group’s end.

Everytime I just found someone to do a paceline with and work on being comfortable with higher speed turns. Sometimes that paceline might be quite slow but it’s good practice I don’t get around home. If that wasn’t possible I just dug deep trying to catch anyone I could before getting pulled.

Other than working on your turns, there is not much else you can do to make riding around off the back of a crit fun, although riding alone for part of the race or even getting pulled is more fun than not racing at all :wink:

See if you can talk the officials into letting you back in at the back of the pack after a free lap. That does not fly in regular races but allowing that is not uncommon in weekly training crits so its worth a try.

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With you on this. At 3.2 w/kg, I could not stick with the pack at all after two laps. I was blown. I found that I needed to be able to handle a 250 watt average to keep up, and my FTP was 208 or something at that time. Wayyy off the pace.

I’m up to 3.4 w/kg now, so I’d be curious to see how I go now. Still off the 250 watt pace, but deffo could stick with it for longer now after the training I’ve done.

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Races with small fields are hard and always show who is strong and who is not.

If you can’t hang with the bunch, then attacking from the gun (or any attacking whatsoever) probably isn’t going to help much.

Going back again and again, week after week, and hangining in for as long as possible each time is what will get you stronger and allow you to eventually hang with the bunch. It does suck. It does require humility. You will need to swallow your pride.

However, each time you hold on a little longer is a personal win. You can take something positive away from that and gain confidence.

A few ideas:

  1. Don’t do any work on the front until you can easily hang in the bunch.

  2. Try to be at the front of the bunch each time you reach the climb. That way, you can lose 20 positions up the climb and still be in contact with the bunch over the top.

  3. Try to sit in the front 30% of the bunch and find someone smooth (and tall) to ride behind.

  4. You should be riding no more than about 12-14 inches from the wheel of the person in front of you. If you are not doing this, and are not comfortable doing this, practice it until you are (note: top level racers are typically comfotable riding at <6" at 50kph+). This will save you a LOT of energy.

  5. There is a lot of surging in crits. Generally, the first 10-20mins are fast, then it slows up a bit, then the last 10-15mins are fast again. If you can get through the initial fast period and recover a bit during the slower period, sheer will-power and knowing the race is almost over can often get you to the line.

Good luck!

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I’m still quite new to racing only having started this year, but like others that posted above, I was around 3.2-3.3. I was immediately dropped, not lack of lower, but rather due to my lack of handling and positioning skills. Although I did find the constant surges challenging as it was something I was not accustomed to.

I’ve raced a few times and with each time I’m improving. I’ve focused my training on constant surge type intervals (ala Short Sus Power and Crit plans) and made an effort to ride outside more often.

I’m now at 3.8 with far better handling skills… Still have ton more to go, but def far better off than where I started just a few months ago. I’m way more confident going into races and really enjoy myself when I’m out the course.

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In my area there are two different training Crits that will let you jump back in if you get dropped. Maybe there’s one like that in your area.

Join up on some fast group rides. Get better at handling and being efficient. Stay in the pack, get out of the wind, and look for the free rides. At your w/kg you shouldn’t really be getting dropped.

When I was a 4, I was around 3.8 and was winning 3/4 races. Going down to sea level would help as I would get a decent boost, but you should be fine. There are people in our 2/3 fields with w/kg around 3.5 but they can repeat, go into the red and stay there, and well, just keep repeating. Plus they are crafty as hell.