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First Cat5 Crit: Always this Fast?

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First Cat5 Crit: Always this Fast?

Old 06-05-21, 12:07 PM
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Chris O
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First Cat5 Crit: Always this Fast?

I just finished my first crit. My goals of finishing and not crashing were accomplished. I expected to get dropped and even lapped, but I couldnít hang on to the bunch almost from the start. The winners/pack finishers average speed for the race was 25.5 mph. Letís just say my average speed was great for me but not near 25.5 mph (I donít have a power meter). There were teams and lots of guys from out of state.

I ride a fair amount and did interval training for a few months before the race. It was just so much faster than I thought a ďnoviceĒ cat5 race would be. Is this a typical experience for beginning racers?

Interestingly the cat4 race average speed was slower than the cat5 race. I mean, I can get a little more fit and drop some more weight but to get to that speed for a whole race seems like an unattainable goal for me. Maybe some cat5 crits are slower?

interested in feedback and experiences.

chris
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Old 06-05-21, 12:17 PM
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25 mph isn't all that fast if you are sucking someone's wheel and getting a draft. I'm not sure what your experience level is with pack riding but it's absolutely critical to get a draft off someone. Pulling in the front is a completely different topic of course but for now you should be focused on trying to hang near the front.

Regarding 5 vs. 4, sometimes Tri guys and strong dirt riders drop in on the 5 races and some of those guys are crazy strong. The 4 dudes are most likely jockeying for position for the primes and final win. That's the difference between racing and just out for some hammering.
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Old 06-05-21, 12:48 PM
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Would have loved to have stayed in the pack riding wheels but it spit me out halfway through the first lap. I just could not hang on. Maybe if I had just pushed a little longer to hang on in the first minutes.... I thought short intervals were the key to keeping up with surges in crits, but the pack held together and I guess I should focus on longer interval efforts to keep pace with the bunch.


Originally Posted by Nessism View Post
25 mph isn't all that fast if you are sucking someone's wheel and getting a draft. I'm not sure what your experience level is with pack riding but it's absolutely critical to get a draft off someone. Pulling in the front is a completely different topic of course but for now you should be focused on trying to hang near the front.

Regarding 5 vs. 4, sometimes Tri guys and strong dirt riders drop in on the 5 races and some of those guys are crazy strong. The 4 dudes are most likely jockeying for position for the primes and final win. That's the difference between racing and just out for some hammering.
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Old 06-05-21, 01:10 PM
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Iím assuming youíre talking about nutmeg which was today. To answer your question yeah cat 5 crits are going to be pretty fast like that. Just for context when Iím riding fast on the road I can do maybe 23ish depending on the road profile. The key to keeping up in a crit is following wheels and cornering. There are always going to be strong guys near the front able to drive the pace.

anyhow yeah working on fitness always helps, I donít think your weight would have factored in at all on a crit like that, and the key is just to keep going out there and trying to hang on
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Old 06-05-21, 01:16 PM
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Thanks. Iíll do some more races. Best training for racing is racing I suppose.

Originally Posted by hubcyclist View Post
Iím assuming youíre talking about nutmeg which was today. To answer your question yeah cat 5 crits are going to be pretty fast like that. Just for context when Iím riding fast on the road I can do maybe 23ish depending on the road profile. The key to keeping up in a crit is following wheels and cornering. There are always going to be strong guys near the front able to drive the pace.

anyhow yeah working on fitness always helps, I donít think your weight would have factored in at all on a crit like that, and the key is just to keep going out there and trying to hang on
a
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Old 06-05-21, 02:28 PM
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There's a sticky at the top of this subforum about this. I'd suggest taking a little 15min read through that topic, it covers a lot of what you're asking or interested in.

Otherwise, 5's (and for that matter non racers that jump into weeknight worlds) chase EVERYTHING that moves. There's zero recognition that ain't nobody getting away alone. So, they see someone make a move or little attack and they pounce. That drives up the avg speed. So a 3/4 race can often be a slower avg speed.

If there are plenty to do, just do more of them. If you're of age, double up the "open" and "masters" race for your category. If there aren't join a weeknight worlds ride to do weekly.
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Old 06-10-21, 11:14 AM
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Thanks for trying racing and hells yes stick with it.

For all but very few a first race is like a swift kick in the teeth. You really don't know how fast it's really going to be or what's required until you do it and learn what will and won't work for you.

As for Cat 5 being fast - yes this is part of the thing that kills competitive cycling for newer racers or racers that will never really be super fast: everyone starts as a 5.... even the next Greg LeMond. The abilities at the line of a cat 5 ...errr... "Novice" race as we call it now, are so varied that it's insane. It's kind of like going to a car race and lining up with a 80's K Car at the same line with a couple of supercars. (Not saying you're the K car but hopefully you get my point). Maybe all you need is a "tuneup" and maybe all you need is experience to anticipate what's going to happen. Only one way to find out...race.

With the fact that there hasn't been much racing there are a ton of people travelling from out of state to go to any race they can. That will always raise the level of competition. Few of those travelling are hacks with no talent (like me).

My advice - be ready for all hell to break loose as soon as the whistle blows. Do whatever it takes to hold wheels. All of this is in the other threads but more fun to take it piece by piece here. The further up you are the easier it is to react. If you're timid an in the back and have a questionable fitness then you're most likely going to get shelled. Give it everything. Then if you get dropped take notes on what the effort felt like and how long it was and think about how to maximize that in the future. Sometimes all it takes is racing those efforts to get the fitness to do them over and over.

You'll find as you move up that races have a natural pace. in the 4's and 4/5's it's usually fast as f right from the gun. Super negative racing - everything that moves gets chased down by someone. Learning to just hold on to when those surges happen is key. Then they just settle down. Everyone kind of realizes nothing is getting away and they just start trying to think of their endgame plan. It never really gets slower but everyone is warmed up and ready to work and no one has any aspirations of trying to get away.

Couple key pieces of advice I like to give newer racers:
1. Look at the course while pre-riding or walk around it. If there is nothing technical (hill, sharp or difficult corner, etc) then nothing is getting away (unless there is a genetic freak that is getting away regardless) and all of the riders who "shouldn't" be there at the final sprint will be there so be careful.
2. The last 2 laps or so the corners will handle completely differently. Everyone picks up the pace and with the adrenaline you get this weird feeling you are going the same speed as you have been but you're going quite a bit faster and the bodies will get carried further into the exit of the corners creating a lot of opportunities for riders to get pinched...get to the inside.
3. You'll find you like to corner on the inside or outside naturally. Do what works for you but be aware of the physics. Cornering on the inside requires more work as you surge more (slow and speed out of the corners) but when the poop hits the fan the physics of the situation push riders to the outside leaving the inside open. Can't tell you the number of times I have watched a wreck start in front of me and just slide out to the outside opening this wide safe opening for me to accelerate into.
4. Have fun.
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Old 06-10-21, 12:09 PM
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Jumped into my first crit in 2019 figuring that if I was averaging 21.5mph solo on the road for longer distances, crit was 20 miles while I ride 25-30 or more, I'd be able to hang with the pack even if it was another 1mph faster. I couldn't hang with the pack and was lapped 6 times. Someone posted the race on youtube with their garmin synced to their camera to show speeds and such and they were doing 24mph through the sweeps and faster on the straights. I'd only managed 2 laps, each lap was .5 miles, before being dropped. Did the same race 3 weeks later, knee was better healed from a surgery I'd had 3 weeks before the first race, and managed to only get lapped 5 times. Seems like insane speed for what was a 4/5 race and seemed faster then what I remembered when I was in my 20s but I only raced road, cross and mtb and stayed away from the curcuit and crit races so maybe they were cray then too.
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Old 06-10-21, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
The abilities at the line of a cat 5 ...errr... "Novice" race as we call it now, are so varied that it's insane. It's kind of like going to a car race and lining up with a 80's K Car at the same line with a couple of supercars.
Excellent analogy.

My personal opinion based on super limited experience is that they should do "heats" for 4/5 races. Not logistically possible given how many races run at each crit, but I could imagine if you could thin the field by even half sometimes it would help with the crazy. Maybe do it like a track elimination race. It would thin the field before an inexperienced bum rush bunch sprint like $100 flatscreen tv's at Walmart for black friday.
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Old 06-10-21, 01:44 PM
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When I first started racing I did the Cat 5 race at Cherry Pie. Nate English, who ran track at Cal, was in that race, rode off the front and lapped the field. I think it may have been his first or second race ever. By the end of the season, he was a Cat 1. The season after that, he signed a pro contract. I was still a Cat 5.

So, yeah. It can happen.
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Old 06-10-21, 02:39 PM
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This seemed timelyÖ
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Old 06-12-21, 03:04 PM
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Often the shorter races just start full gas. This is especially true of junior races. Warm up is more significant. I expect your race was <30 min?
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Old 06-12-21, 03:07 PM
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My rule of thumb has always been, the shorter the race, the longer the warm up.
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Old 06-12-21, 07:58 PM
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No cat 5 races are not very fast. People are just blowing smoke up your a**. If there's a genetic freak, they'll roll off the front and the pack will be happy to let them win so that they will no longer bother them with an uncomfortable pace.

Of course, it's all relative -- it's slower than a cat3 race, which is slower than an elite race, which is slower than many European races. That being said, I'd be willing to bet that some of the riders who didn't get dropped couldn't average 21.5 on a training ride. You got dropped because of your cornering skills and your ability to draft efficiently. Like most people who ride solo (or your average MTB'er and triathlete) you have to learn that there is pretty much NO PACING in a criterium. You have to be willing to sprint and put yourself in a hole to catch and keep a draft. Done properly, you're sprinting maybe 10% of the time, riding fairly hard 50% of the time, riding easy 25 % of the time, and probably not pedaling at all 15% of the time.
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Old 06-12-21, 10:51 PM
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Bike racing is about winning. Focus on that over speed and power etc.
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Old 06-13-21, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
This seemed timelyÖ
OMFG I almost spit coffee on the screen.
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Old 06-14-21, 07:59 AM
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Thanks all, I'll do some more races. We have a local weekly Tuesday night series so I plan on doing some more of those in July and August. The experience was valuable in that I was focusing on short intervals during training, but now I realize at this point I need to do longer ones to be able to maintain 20-25 mph for prolonged periods to keep up with the pack.
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Old 06-14-21, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris O View Post
Thanks all, I'll do some more races. We have a local weekly Tuesday night series so I plan on doing some more of those in July and August. The experience was valuable in that I was focusing on short intervals during training, but now I realize at this point I need to do longer ones to be able to maintain 20-25 mph for prolonged periods to keep up with the pack.
Training advice I got years ago was that it doesnít do you any good to have good 1 minute power if youíre not around at the end of the race.
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Old 06-14-21, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Training advice I got years ago was that it doesnít do you any good to have good 1 minute power if youíre not around at the end of the race.
Along these lines - I find the hardest part about racing is listening to all of the "Shoulda", "coulda", "woulda" from everyone who never really had a chance of being there when it counts anyway. As a long time team owner here's a rule of thumb: the fast ones that could have one but didn't are the quiet ones after the race. They're usually decompressing it all and re-thinking the race and aren't trying to demonstrate to a bunch of others that lost that they "lost better" than them all.
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Old 06-14-21, 12:27 PM
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"I'd have won if I hadn't DNF'd."
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Old 06-14-21, 02:52 PM
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We always say that there is an inverse relationship between talent and the amount of talking about the race after the race finishes.
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Old 06-15-21, 02:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
We always say that there is an inverse relationship between talent and the amount of talking about the race after the race finishes.
No wonder I'm so chatty after races...
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Old 06-15-21, 02:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris O View Post
Thanks all, I'll do some more races. We have a local weekly Tuesday night series so I plan on doing some more of those in July and August. The experience was valuable in that I was focusing on short intervals during training, but now I realize at this point I need to do longer ones to be able to maintain 20-25 mph for prolonged periods to keep up with the pack.
FWIW, I never pay attention to speed when I'm in a race, and I don't look at it after the face either. You go the speed you go to hang in there. I think you'd be wasting time to focus on training at a certain speed, unless maybe you're motorpacing.
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Old 06-15-21, 06:01 AM
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Stick with it ! Most new racers find it hard and it is but learning, training and proper pre-race prep will help.
Don't eat just before the race...your body needs to focus on the racing needs not digesting food.
Warm up properly...you should have raised your heart rate to near interval rates to begin the bodies processes at such a level...timing is everything, you don't want to be on the start line exhausted but also you don't want a 30 minute cool down while waiting for the race to start...timing.
Be well hydrated...you likely won't have time to drink for the first few laps as the pace is high and you have no time...

I always walked the course backwards so I could watch how racers were handling curves, turns, etc. before my race...unless you are in the first race.
Keep a journal and note how you felt prior to the race...rest, food, etc. the night before...warm up prior to race...where you lined up...pace at start...how you felt, etc.

Being aggressive helps a lot...stay as close to the front as possible as long as you can maintain the pace...don't let gaps open as they will be filled and you will be pushed back over and over...that's one of the harder aspects that takes racing to learn and grow.
As has been said there are some very fast riders in the cat 5 races that don't want to pursue higher cats possibly because they are tri people, etc. You just have to be as fast and hold on for dear life until your abilities grow.

Additionally the more experienced racers...cat 5 experience is quite varied while 4's are a bit more stable but still do the same for the same reasons...want a very fast start to burn off the less fit and experienced riders. Generally this makes for a safer race as control, handling, etc. improves with fitness so the faster the start the safer...in general but mistakes happen and they do so quickly with little time to respond or survive.

Just keep going. If you enjoy the experience and continue to improve you will.
Good luck.

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Old 06-15-21, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris O View Post
Thanks all, I'll do some more races. We have a local weekly Tuesday night series so I plan on doing some more of those in July and August. The experience was valuable in that I was focusing on short intervals during training, but now I realize at this point I need to do longer ones to be able to maintain 20-25 mph for prolonged periods to keep up with the pack.
Cat 5 crits aren't about average speed. They're about taking a pack of wild ferrets and shoving them down your pants. Getting your average speed up won't help if you're dropped the second there's an attack or you let big gaps open in the corners.

In terms of fitness, you'll need to have the ability to go hard and recover over and over again. To recover, learn to hide in the pack and work less. Learn to coast through the corners without hitting brakes. Learn to be patient within the field.
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