Newbie Struggling with Crit Races

dhp2dhp2 Posts: 20
edited 4 October in Amateur race
Just got back from my second ever attempt at a crit race. I was dropped on the first lap and got ushered off the track.

The bunch was just building up speed to about 35mph as we turned a corner into the wind and I found myself getting pushed out to the exposed side of the bunch - quickly losing speed with nobody letting me back in. By the time the bunch had filtered past me and spaces began to open up I had lost too much speed to slot back in.

My first race (last week) wasn't much better, I kept with the bunch for about 2 laps before getting dropped. They let me continue last time and try to jump back on every time I got lapped. By the end I'd been lapped 3 times but thoroughly enjoyed it.

This week I was left feeling angry and cheated out of what was meant to be a beginner's race.

These are 50 minute races and there are about 50 people in each race. The 'beginners' race is for 4th, 3rd and Women. It's an old airfield track so pretty exposed to the wind but plenty wide enough with some nice chicanes.

I was on my own so after the race I just got in my car and went home. I saw another 4 leave the track as I pulled off so it must have been too quick for them too.

I want to learn race craft and build on my speed but crits just seem very clicky and like unless you're in a skinsuit with no hair on your legs you don't deserve a space in the bunch.

Please someone convince me I'm not wasting my time and money on this?
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  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 10,670
    If the race had 3rd cats in it, it wasn't for 'beginners'. Maybe find some 4ths only races - there must be some about. Fundamentally though, it sounds like your race fitness needs to improve. You can't complain because a race is 'too fast'.
  • Shirley BassoShirley Basso Posts: 3,132
    How long have you been riding? Are you a newbie to cycling or racing?

    What's your usual week or month training schedule?
  • w00dsterw00dster Posts: 860
    Its a race, its competitive. If I'm following a wheel, I'm not going to let you in, not even going to apologise for it, even if you had a skinsuit on and had the best shaved legs in the peloton. The longer you are out in the wind the better for me. Once you're used to following wheels (very closely) you'll be the same.
    If you're good enough to stay with the bunch it doesn't matter if you're in a skin suit, cheap aldi kit or whether you have shaved your legs.
    Being pushed out into the wind is just part of the craft. You need to plan your race. Use the warm up to think about the best position to be on certain parts of the course. Follow wheels as much as you can, if you were getting pushed out why wasn't the person you were following also being pushed out? Possibly you could have taken too much speed into the corner and were naturally drifting out. So think what happened that caused you to get dropped (and not blaming others not letting you in) - was it bike handling / positioning? Was it a surge in speed that you couldn't maintain? Why did you slow down to let the pack filter past? Couldn't you maintain your speed and then put in a dig to get on the back? Think of what your weakness is and work on that.
    Everyone gets dropped at some stage, you might just need to work on some aspects of crit racing. How used to riding in groups and pacelines are you? I find in crits its the constant sprint/accelerations out of corners that did me in, I worked on that with my training (Sufferfest has a few of these training sessions that I find really useful). Its horrible training but it worked. (I'm only an old Cat 3, generally racing 1,2,3rd races and getting spanked - but that's my choice to race those races)
    Also as above, have a look at 4th only races. I know they do these at the MK Bowl on a Thursday evening - its a kidney shaped circuit so not technically challenging, but it does have fast corners so could help you get used to riding fast in a group and learning to surf wheels. You will find though that racing is competitive, people put a lot of time into their training and they will be fast and not always polite and accommodating mid race. But while its competitive, there is still a friendly vibe before and after the ride, I've even had a good crack with guys mid race. I've never seen any clickiness, apart from in-team clickiness, but generally its about as friendly as fast hard racing can be.
    Wait until you get on the front of the pack chasing down a break and no one helps out or lets you move back, now that's fun! But its racing.
    Be good to know your training routine and how long you have been training for racing.
  • fenixfenix Posts: 4,739
    Lance Armstrong got his censored handed to him on his first few pro races. Keep at it. If it was easy it wouldnt be fun.
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 10,670
    OP - where are you racing? If it's Tuesday evening, airfield circuit and windy, then I'm guessing Llandow? If it is, then jump in your car tonight and head to Carmarthen for the 4th cat only race - starts around 7.15, I think.
  • MapaputsiMapaputsi Posts: 104
    It would be good to know your experience & also how much training you put in every week/month. Unfortunately you can’t expect to just turn up and start competing for points (even at 4th Cat.) without some decent miles in your legs and some hard training.

    I echo what others have said above – find some 4th Cat. only races, they’re how I eased myself into racing, they are generally not as fast and arguably safer (in my experience).

    A good way to train your ‘race craft’ would be to find a local chaingang/paceline and ride with them, it’s invaluable for building fitness, bike handling and craft.

    Don’t be dispirited and try to learn from your mistakes – next race work on being more stubborn and holding your position in the bunch, you will get more confident as the race goes on and you adjust to the speed into corners etc.

    Good luck!
  • dhp2dhp2 Posts: 20
    Wow, thanks for all the replies to my rant!

    Stats:
    Age: 29
    Experience: 1 year
    Weekly Mileage: 100 miles / week
    Riding Type: Hills / Mountains
    Location: South Wales Valleys
    Height: 5'10
    Weight: 15 stone
    FTP: 240

    I am a member of two cycle clubs but neither have chaingang nights. The closest I get is a fast group weekly rides at average pace of 19mph on the flattest roads we can find - 2,000ft climbing over about 40 miles. I find these rides a good work out. Then I usually try and do at least 3 mountains a week as they also tire my legs out well.

    I'm still trying to work out what type of riding suits me best. I've got my name down for a 300km hilly sportive at the weekend but no idea how I'll get on.

    Correct - Llandow, tempted by Carmarthen tonight.

    You're right to say I shouldn't be complaining about a race being fast and if it wasn't hard it wouldn't be fun. I just felt a bit cheated after only one lap. I might avoid eating right before it next time (I thought it would help keep my energy up) and try to leave work early so I can have 10 mins to warm up before the race starts next week.

    Neither of my clubs race so I'm going to these events on my own at the moment and I haven't plucked up the courage to speak to anyone yet. Its also really hard to find out information like when races are being held and timings and costs etc, I guess that's why it feels so clicky. Everyone else there knows what they're meant to be doing and I don't have a clue!

    I'm really keen to get in to racing, I've done a lot of motorcycle racing so I feel like I should be good at it but right now it feels totally alien.
  • Shirley BassoShirley Basso Posts: 3,132
    With respect, I can average over 20 mph solo on flat rides (40 miles) and have averaged over 19 mph solo on 75 and 65 mile rides respectively, also solo (albeit on the flat). I would still expect to be dropped in a cat4 race.

    That isn't to willy wave, it's a fact. After my most intensive training block of a few months doing pace lines, chaingangs and weekend rides, I STILL got dropped in a cat4 race. In fairness I have never done a structured workout on a turbo or on the road.

    As cycling has become more popular, the level of competition has increased dramatically.

    Your stats seem ok but you are quite heavy for your height, so you need to get your power up and ideally weight down, if you want to be competitive on the flat and especially in the hills. In seriousness you want to be around 11-12 stone to be a competitive hilly rider (I am 12 stone for example and could lose a few kg still) . You also need to learn to stay out of the wind, not lose a wheel and have great bike handling so you are not sprinting out of corners. These interval type workouts will really take their toll if you can't recover from them.

    You REALLY need to find a club who races as it will make all the difference with confidence, but also getting your legs tested more heavily and more often so you know what to expect. Put simply, you aren't training hard enough in my view.

    If you're nervous about chatting to one of the other riders, try asking a marshall or the organiser, or see the results and which clubs are winning?

    And good luck!
  • LWLondonLWLondon Posts: 55
    With respect, I can average over 20 mph solo on flat rides (40 miles) and have averaged over 19 mph solo on 75 and 65 mile rides respectively, also solo (albeit on the flat). I would still expect to be dropped in a cat4 race.

    Really?! What are you doing in Cat4 races to get dropped? Or are you just assuming? I don't think I could average those paces at all, but I just got promoted to Cat3, with an FTP of 245 (at 72kg - hardly a magnificent w/kg!)
  • Shirley BassoShirley Basso Posts: 3,132
    Cat 4 race was at Gravesend and I just died.

    Those speeds are surprisingly easy on the flat! Maybe the people I used to train with are so much better than me I assume that cat 4s are the same?
  • dhp2dhp2 Posts: 20
    None of your comments come as any particular shock to me.

    I am aware success in cycling generally relies on being light weight. I am quite a broad shape and whilst you might expect me to have a bit of a gut at 15 stone I am actually quite thin. I am probably more suited to rugby than cycling but I prefer cycling.

    My sprint hits around 2,200 watts and as I'm a steady climber I was advised that I might be better off trying time trials and crit racing.

    Unfortunately, I can't avoid the hills here so I've learnt to enjoy the challenge.

    I was quite happy to only get lapped 3 times in 50mins on my first race even though I was riding alone. I guess I basically did a TT.

    I've contacted a local club who races and am going on a ride with them tomorrow night.
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,031
    racing is fun if
    you work on your weaknesses
    accept being dropped for a longish time until it clicks
    not being a knob and switching in the bunch

    stick at it and forget this FTP shoite
  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 10,670
    dhp2 wrote:
    I'm really keen to get in to racing, I've done a lot of motorcycle racing so I feel like I should be good at it but right now it feels totally alien.

    I also used to do a lot of motorcycle racing in my youth. I'm happy to confirm that, apart from having two wheels, the two sports have absolutely nothing else in common.

    If you're in South Wales, then definitely try Carmarthen on a Weds eve. Also, if you haven't already, get yourself onto a track course at Newport and start riding the SQTs there. It's exactly the kind of fitness you need to develop if you want to improve.
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 5,261
    dhp2 wrote:
    Wow, thanks for all the replies to my rant!

    Stats:
    Age: 29
    Experience: 1 year
    Weekly Mileage: 100 miles / week
    Riding Type: Hills / Mountains
    Location: South Wales Valleys
    Height: 5'10
    Weight: 15 stone
    FTP: 240

    I am a member of two cycle clubs but neither have chaingang nights. The closest I get is a fast group weekly rides at average pace of 19mph on the flattest roads we can find - 2,000ft climbing over about 40 miles. I find these rides a good work out. Then I usually try and do at least 3 mountains a week as they also tire my legs out well.

    I'm still trying to work out what type of riding suits me best. I've got my name down for a 300km hilly sportive at the weekend but no idea how I'll get on.

    Correct - Llandow, tempted by Carmarthen tonight.

    You're right to say I shouldn't be complaining about a race being fast and if it wasn't hard it wouldn't be fun. I just felt a bit cheated after only one lap. I might avoid eating right before it next time (I thought it would help keep my energy up) and try to leave work early so I can have 10 mins to warm up before the race starts next week.

    Neither of my clubs race so I'm going to these events on my own at the moment and I haven't plucked up the courage to speak to anyone yet. Its also really hard to find out information like when races are being held and timings and costs etc, I guess that's why it feels so clicky. Everyone else there knows what they're meant to be doing and I don't have a clue!
    .

    I understand your anger at only getting a lap but I actually prefer it when dropped riders aren't allowed to rejoin the bunch - you end up behind one and then when they get dropped again you have to close a gap - if they are dropped for poor bike handling I'd rather they were well away from me. It sounds harsh but I'm sure if I hopped on a motorbike and headed for my local track they wouldn't let me anywhere near a race even though I have a full bike licence as my skills are nowhere near your level in that sport.

    Second the fastest average speed I've done our chain gang in is over 27mph - even coming back after 2 years getting dropped and riding it as a 2 up this week we averaged nearly 22mph so an average of 19mph for a flat group ride isn't really race training. 100m a week also probably puts you in the bottom few percent of people racing in terms of volume too - not saying you can't race on that but it'd have to be pretty focused. At your weight I think you need to add maybe 100 watts to your ftp - I know a 50 year old woman who is about 8 stone with 240 albeit she's been national vets cyclocross champion.

    Thirdly - I accept you may be built like a brick out house rather than fat but you've got a lot of weight there to accelerate out of every corner.
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  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 10,670
    dhp2 wrote:
    Its also really hard to find out information like when races are being held and timings and costs etc,

    Events are all on the BC/WC web pages. Play around with the filters to find events with the right categories/race types, but this should be a start..

    https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/event ... lter-name=
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,467
    2,200 watts???? Are you sure about that? Given that you are 15 stone and "only" have an FTP of 240W this would explain why you are being dropped. Unless you have the best tactical brain in the race (which clearly you said you haven't) then it's just a harsh reality that even 4th cats you'll be on the limit. FTP isn't everything but it's a good yardstick and I'd suggest working on your own alongside some race specific training.

    As an example, I'm 43, 69KG with an FTP of 300 (probably nearer 310), max sprint is 1,100W and went up to a Cat3 courtesy of a 2nd place (breakaway) in a 3/4. Most other 3/4's I'm comfortably in the mix at the end. These road races average over 25mph.

    Stick at it, but you need to be pushing yourself and suffering like a dog.
  • gdfgdf Posts: 24
    Give Carmarthen a go. Last night was meant to be the last one, but they're going to carry on for a few weeks until the Pembrey circuit is ready to go (three weeks-ish). Friendly atmosphere and you're not going to get pulled off the track if you're dropped. The cat4 race starts at 7:30 and is 35mins + 5 laps. Wednesdays.
  • marykamaryka Posts: 722
    240w is plenty on a flat 4th cat circuit, that was me in 2008/2009 when I first started racing (men's 4th cats) and it's only a worry if you find yourself off the back trying to close a gap. It's the bunch surfing that's the issue, but also just general fitness I would guess. 2.5w/kg means you have a lot to gain, and for that you'll simply have to ride more. 100miles/week isn't enough, and the surges will also kill you once you race anything with sharp corners or hills.
  • Shirley BassoShirley Basso Posts: 3,132
    I think the standard now is surely higher than 2008?
  • marykamaryka Posts: 722
    Probably but I still don't think I'd have any trouble staying with a 4th cat race and I'm no better now.
  • MapaputsiMapaputsi Posts: 104
    edited June 2018
    Thanks for the feedback. Couple of things that stand out to me:

    95kg is quite heavy for a bicycle racer, with an FTP of 240W that puts you at 2.5W/kg which is on the low side, and I would very much doubt you have a 2,200W sprint as that would put you at world class status according to Coggan’s power chart that you often see floating around. If you are 2,200W then get to a velodrome quick and train for the Olympics! Seriously though you could definitely do with losing 10kg+, if that is possible.

    1 year of cycling is not enough to be competing IMO, or at least to expect to be getting results. I had 4 or 5 years under my belt (1000-5000 miles/year) before I started racing last summer, and I am still only a very average 3rd Cat (28 years old). But you will get there!

    Well done for going out getting in touch with the racing club, it will make all the difference.

    And your comment about people knowing what they’re doing and being cliquey – no one has a clue what they’re really doing trust me, people like to show up and hop up on rollers with a big set of headphones on because that’s what they see team sky do at the tour, or willy wave with some familiar faces but it’s all just posturing. You’ll find that once you keep showing up and start to see some familiar faces you’ll fit right in.

    Good luck!
  • supermurph09supermurph09 Posts: 2,467
    Just out of interest, are you using a powermeter? If not how have you calculated FTP and Max watts?
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 5,261
    maryka wrote:
    240w is plenty on a flat 4th cat circuit, that was me in 2008/2009 when I first started racing (men's 4th cats) and it's only a worry if you find yourself off the back trying to close a gap. It's the bunch surfing that's the issue, but also just general fitness I would guess. 2.5w/kg means you have a lot to gain, and for that you'll simply have to ride more. 100miles/week isn't enough, and the surges will also kill you once you race anything with sharp corners or hills.


    I'm guessing you weren't 15 stone though, and even on a flat track that makes a big difference. I also think crits in London are probably easier than Wales as there are so many races all year people tend to accumulate points and move up, I know people who needed a few points to move up to second or first cat coming towards the end of the season would target a race down south and typically it'd work.
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  • imposter2.0imposter2.0 Posts: 10,670
    Generally agree with the points about weight/accelerating out of corners - but the South Wales crit/circuit scene is currently limited to Llandow (no corners), Maindy (no corners, unless they also run on the infield) and Carmarthen (no corners). When I say 'no corners', I mean no corners that you need to brake into or accelerate out of.

    That will probably change when Pembrey opens as the new circuit there will have climbs and corners.
  • marykamaryka Posts: 722
    London easier, not 15 stone, blah blah, all red herrings. 240w is plenty to sit in the bunch if you know what you're doing and have some anaerobic race fitness. Getting in a break or contesting the finish is a whole different matter of course.

    Bottom line is the OP needs to get fitter, improve his race craft, and be able to deal with surges (including the self-caused ones by being on the wrong side when the circuit turns into the wind etc.).
  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 5,261
    But if he isn't doing focused training it's unlikely he'll have great ability to recover from anaerobic bursts and go again. I know ftp isn't the only measure of fitness but it's all we have here. Mate of mine did Darley Moor at the weekend, his "weighted average power" whatever that is, for 75 mins, was 290 watts and he's probably 2 and a half stone lighter than the op.

    It may be technically possible to sit in a bunch at 240 watts ftp but realistically his power to weight is likely to be the lowest in the race. It's not a red herring, you may as well say bunch skills are unimportant just get your ftp up to 400 watts and you can sit in the wind.
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  • marykamaryka Posts: 722
    you may as well say bunch skills are unimportant just get your ftp up to 400 watts and you can sit in the wind.

    Yep I'd say that too :lol:
  • fenixfenix Posts: 4,739
    I'd not have dreamed of racing with just a years cycling in my legs - so its still early days for the OP. If he can last long enough until the race settles then sitting in the middle of the bunch should be easy enough. Providing he has the skillz.
  • paul2718paul2718 Posts: 471
    I think it is way easier to sit near the front and even spend some time on it than to be bouncing around at the back. Especially if there are any proper corners. So the OP probably just needs to give it time, and some objective thought.
  • mrpbennettmrpbennett Posts: 102
    I was just looking at crit races and thinking if I should enter one...but after this i'm going to bail and train more :lol:

    I have just started a low plan with TrainerRoad 2nd FTP test last week and I got 211 / 2.81kg/w, I'm 75kg @ 5'8 (could get to 70kg - but my gf feeds me ha) - currently training for the Ride 100. I know I can become more of a powerful rider so it's just progression.

    Defo interested in eventually doing a crit though. OP hope you smash your goals and start standing on that podium.
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