By Dan Yankus, Team OAM Now Cyclist, Road Cat 2
With the upcoming (and local) Miller Energy Criterium , it’s a great time to look at some of the best strategies for racing a criterium. Of course, the best advice I can give a new, or experienced, rider is to ride. I can’t overstate how important confidence is to racing and the best way to build confidence is to ride and race. Take every opportunity you can to build on both of these. Here are some tips and strategies to consider as you prepare for your next, or first, race:
Before the Race
- Build a strong foundation- You have to train. Even if the race is short, your ability to maintain speeds, attack, and sprint come from your overall endurance. Don’t skip the long rides and don’t skip intervals in your training. You’ll need to call on both endurance and speed.
- Don’t skip the cross-training- Success on the bike comes from a multitude of places, but don’t neglect strength training, particularly your core.
- Build confidence- Ride. Train. Race. Repeat. Confidence is built with experience, but it’s vital. The more confident you are, the less you hesitate. Every hesitation during a race is wasted energy and how you use your energy is vital to success.
- Ride with groups- Feeling comfortable riding in the pack is a must. Get as much experience as you can here. Find a local group. Train with friends or teammates. Time in the pack is invaluable for building confidence and confidence is king.
- Practice your skills- Unlike endurance races, there are skills essential to crit racing, like cornering. Head over to your local school or shopping center parking lot (when empty…be safe!) and use the light posts to make a short, simulated, course. Treat each corner as its own race. Learn, and practice, how to coast/brake before the corner and accelerate out of it to maximize speed and energy.
- Know your bike and know how to use it to your advantage- Use 700 x 25c tires at low to medium air pressure (85-110 psi based on rider weight), they provide a larger contact patch with the ground and roll over the bumps in the roads with ease. Most riders are on 23c width tires, so if you go into a corner and the riders in front of you made it, so will you with wider tires. Once I changed over to a wider tire that also decreases rolling resistance, I began to attack the corners.
During the Race
- Learn to move around the pack- Getting near the front is always your first priority, but how you get there is more important. Don’t waste energy getting to the front only to fall back because you need a rest. Find a wheel if you need to and draft, but move up.
- Maintain your position- Once you find yourself near the front, maintain that position. Hopefully, you’ve used your energy wisely and can stay with the front of the pack until it’s time to make your move.
- Don’t be afraid to get in a break (a group of riders breaks away from the main group) – Especially if the course has a lot of turns, riding in break is easier than riding in the field. The pace is more consistent and there are fewer leg-draining accelerations.
- Time your attack wisely- When you make your attack makes all the difference in the world. This is where experience and confidence come in incredibly handy. Some of this is reading the race, some is reading the pack, and some is just knowing what your strengths as a rider are.
After the Race
- Analyze- The race doesn’t end when you cross the finish line. You have to look back on your performance, on how you feel, and really look at each of the elements of the race to determine where you need to focus your training.
Building confidence and building experience both come from time on the bike.If crit racing is your event, or if you’d like it to become your event, get out and ride. Get out and get experience, it breeds confidence. A great opportunity to learn from elite and experienced riders is at Athletic Mentors’ Free Clinic this Friday. The clinic is designed for riders of all abilities, both men and women, and provides drills, strategies, and techniques to help you build both confidence and experience.