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Race Dynamics: UCI Gran Fondo vs Criterium

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Race Dynamics: UCI Gran Fondo vs Criterium

Old 03-18-23, 01:43 PM
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mikethe
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Race Dynamics: UCI Gran Fondo vs Criterium

Hi,
I'm new to racing (Masters, 30+), currently in my country we have only Crits and cause I'm not cornering well, it's always the same rhythm for me:
1. Being at the end of the peloton
2. Slowing before technical maneuver
3. Gap opens
4. 1K Watts max heart rate sprint to catch up
5. Then repeat
6. After 20 minutes Garmin Load >200, Anaerobic effect 4 and I'm done out of race
+Crits are open only to club members (so I'm in a team with Coach, club rides etc.) so there are serious rival teams tactics and of course on top of my low technical skills, I'm constantly boxed out deliberately etc...
Now, I'm FTP 5.23 (tested with Lactate method in the lab and replicated IRL) and superior climber (skinny) - hence also not enough meat to Sprint in Crits...
I started thinking that maybe some UCI Gran Fondo event with enough climbs might be a good target (for top 20% qualification etc.).
I'm wondering what are the race dynamics there (considering I'm aiming for top 20% AG)?
Does every technical cornering on descents is another opportunity to loose the peloton?
Are there anaerobic sprints after every roundabout exit?
Is it realistic to catch up with the peloton after loosing it on technical point?
Are on proper mountaineer descents speeds go 85km/h and you must follow wheel behind otherwise no chance to reach 80 alone against the wind?
Generally riders tend to group in pelotons or simply trying to overtake one by one like in Marathons/running mass events?
Thanks,

Last edited by mikethe; 03-18-23 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 03-18-23, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by mikethe View Post
Now, I'm FTP 5.23 (tested with Lactate method in the lab and replicated IRL) and superior climber (skinny)
Seriously?

If that's truly your FTP, you need to get on a team. 5.23 is the FTP of a very strong Cat 1 rider, or a decent pro.


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Old 03-18-23, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
Seriously?

If that's truly your FTP, you need to get on a team. 5.23 is the FTP of a very strong Cat 1 rider, or a decent pro.
Yes, as I wrote, tested in a lab with full lactate test protocol, and replicated IRL on real rides (not indoor).
[I'm new to road racing but long time serious runner]
I'm in Cat 1 in my country (not a big deal hh small place...) but we have only those pointless super technical Crits with roundabouts and sharp corners...
So for me UCI GF event takes a toll (flying, bike bag etc.) so I want to be sure dynamics there are different than in Crit.

Last edited by mikethe; 03-18-23 at 02:13 PM.
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Old 03-18-23, 03:42 PM
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You need to work on technical skills. I am not a big fan of Gran Fondos or Cyclosportifs. You will have riders of varying ability even though very strong. I would much rather do a sanctioned road race where most of the riders will have had road racing experience and know how to ride relatively safely in a racing pack. I rode for almost 20 years as a master and the older we were the safer it was. I rode against ex professionals and even world masters champions. When I started racing, I had been a member of a cycling club for a few years and quite a few of the members were also racing at that time. They were a great help when I started racing, so much so that the very first crit I did I managed to snag a third place finish. FTP is a measure of fitness, It isn't going to help you racing elbow to elbow going into a corner at 50 kph. Road races still require the ability to get through technical sections without losing places in the pack. When I did my first crit, I had the ability to hold my own through corners, I had a lot more trouble learning to hang in in a road race however. Different skill set. If you find yourself having to sprint after every corner, you will always wear yourself out long before the end of the race

Oh, and hint from a racer: The back of the pack is the worst place to be. Being in the front third of the pack is much, much easier
My avatar is a photo taken during the crit stage of Le Coupe Des Ameriques which was at that time the North American masters championship. I was on the front when this picture was taken

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Old 03-18-23, 04:47 PM
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Originally Posted by mikethe View Post
I started thinking that maybe some UCI Gran Fondo event with enough climbs might be a good target (for top 20% qualification etc.).
I'm wondering what are the race dynamics there (considering I'm aiming for top 20% AG)?
Does every technical cornering on descents is another opportunity to loose the peloton?
Are there anaerobic sprints after every roundabout exit?
Is it realistic to catch up with the peloton after loosing it on technical point?
Are on proper mountaineer descents speeds go 85km/h and you must follow wheel behind otherwise no chance to reach 80 alone against the wind?
Generally riders tend to group in pelotons or simply trying to overtake one by one like in Marathons/running mass events?
Thanks,
UCI Gran Fondo events are nothing like crit racing. You do get big pelotons, but the pace is more consistent. They don't usually involve much technical riding, but that may depend on the course.

Your FTP is way higher than mine too. I struggle to break 4 W/kg FTP, although I am 85 kg at the moment, so flatter events suit me much better. It sounds like you would be smashing it on a mountainous course if you can descend reasonably well.
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Old 03-18-23, 05:02 PM
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Criteriums (criteria?) vs. other forms of racing are generally very different in terms of exertion demand and output per unit time - or at least that was my experience. Your 'typical' criterium isn't long in terms of mileage, but has a fast pace, and the corners (sometimes many corners) means the pack bunches up at each corner and then stretches out, creating a Slinky of Pain for those unfortunates at the rear who are constantly braking, sprinting, braking, sprinting, braking... Plus the fun when Bike A inadvertently meets Bike B in spite of collective rider skills and you see people getting brief unscheduled flying lessons.

In contrast, road races tend to be more uniform, with the difficulty more evenly spread among the racers. Everybody cruises, everybody climbs, everybody descends (in general). Plus along much of the route one can often sit in the pack and draft to conserve energy. This seems most similar to Gran Fondos, only with less style.

Then of course my least favorite, the time trial, where it's you, your pain threshold, your darkest thoughts, xx miles, and that dang junior woman that started a minute or more behind you who smiles so nicely when she passes you.

Of course races can be very different. I remember a criterium at a mall opening on a gentle oval loop road which was basically two-wheel Talladega - flat out hammering from gun to line with zero technical demands other than desperately staying with the pack as your exercise-induced "restrictor plate" kicks in and you wish you'd taken a dozen more Primatene while warming up, as being dropped was Certain Doom (for those reaching for ABRA USCF USAC complaint forms, I exaggerate slightly for effect).

I'm sure many others can pick apart my Ensign Obvious summary here, but it's how I remember it. If all you have are criteriums for racing, you might be happier if you can find other racing types. Or the discipline and difficulty of the criterium will make you an unstoppable animal when you branch out into other types of races.

Last edited by RCMoeur; 03-18-23 at 05:04 PM. Reason: forgot to fondo
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Old 03-19-23, 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil View Post
Road races still require the ability to get through technical sections without losing places in the pack. If you find yourself having to sprint after every corner, you will always wear yourself out long before the end of the race
That's the thing I want to understand to do some expectation management before I take the costly tool of flying to participate in UCI GF or any other Road race (in my country only Crits...).
As I wrote: I went through loosing place because of tech corner, then sprinting to get back into the pack, then you always at the back which as you said the worst place, at the end as I wrote after only 20 minutes into the race Garmin shows load>200 with Anaerobic training effect of 4 and at this point even with FTP 5.23 you quitting the race - it's impossible to continue. Experienced it in couple of Crits, always the same. So at each one of them I have 20 minutes/5-7 laps of "training" to practice some race tech skills hh.
When I tried to be at the 1/3 front of the pack, I then recalled from Garmin - I saw we entered into a roundabout at 55km/h with heart rate 90% of max and I had no choice rather leaning the bike and cornering like never before since I'm at the front and at this point brake levers are out of the game...
I want to understand if it's the same with regular race during flat/descending parts, or because of sparsity in tech points, if you fit, every 10 minutes 1 sprint to catch up is reasonable? The other option is 85km/h decent so even 1 corner when you touch brakes means loosing entire peloton and with 85 it's impossible to catch up alone.
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Old 03-19-23, 09:39 AM
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If you’re new to racing, but you’ve only been have bad experiences in crits, how did you become a CAT 1?
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Old 03-19-23, 10:03 AM
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OP never stated he was Cat 1, his fitness level was pointed out to be good enough for Cat 1.

The only way you will figure out if gran fondos are your thing is to do a few of them.
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Old 03-19-23, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by TiHabanero View Post
OP never stated he was Cat 1, his fitness level was pointed out to be good enough for Cat 1.
He seems to indicate he is a Cat 1.

Originally Posted by mikethe View Post
I'm in Cat 1 in my country …
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Old 03-19-23, 12:37 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe View Post
He seems to indicate he is a Cat 1.
I can't imagine how OP earned enough points for Cat 1, though, since he writes that his country only does crits, and that he does not do well in crits.
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Old 03-19-23, 02:34 PM
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OP what country are you from? Your crits sounds terrible, and flying for a race sounds miserable too. Sorry. Id look for unsanctioned stuff... get experience riding close before biting the bullet and flying for a race. Heck if you manage to get fit enough to keep up without drafting you'll be a hazard. It seems to me like youre thinking "can I go slow on technical stuff/not draft and expect to be able to do well"

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Old 03-19-23, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
I can't imagine how OP earned enough points for Cat 1, though, since he writes that his country only does crits, and that he does not do well in crits.
I think it's just the name used locally... (there is also cat 2 but there you don't have real pack and fitness level is significantly lower).
IMHO for UCI points those races categorized as 2-3.
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Old 03-19-23, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by LarrySellerz View Post
It seems to me like youre thinking "can I go slow on technical stuff/not draft and expect to be able to do well"
So not exactly From club rides (and crits) I know once you lost the peloton, especially >45km/h (and even more on descents), it's impossible to catch up alone no matter what is your FTP: "Birds are not flying alone".
What I really want to estimate is the dynamics of UCI GF:
1. Is there a structure of main peloton and those who not there basically just touring for fun?
2. Are technical parts treated as in Crit (deliberately fast) and a constant opportunity for the peloton to box out riders?
3. Is stying in the peloton requires keeping mountaineer descents on >80km/h?
3. Local bias: 95% of participants homies -> local clubs arrive together and riding group tactics boxing out independent riders/slowing down peloton if their rider in a breakaway?
Naively I would expect for the following dynamic: Calm Zone 2 cruise, teared apart on every major climb to sub pelotons, Once such sub peloton established it cruises calmly confident in it's position and therefore not rushing into technical sections, to next climb where once again it tears a part. Then on last 30-45 minutes heroic breakaways.
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Old 03-19-23, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by mikethe View Post
So not exactly From club rides (and crits) I know once you lost the peloton, especially >45km/h (and even more on descents), it's impossible to catch up alone no matter what is your FTP: "Birds are not flying alone".
What I really want to estimate is the dynamics of UCI GF:
1. Is there a structure of main peloton and those who not there basically just touring for fun?
2. Are technical parts treated as in Crit (deliberately fast) and a constant opportunity for the peloton to box out riders?
3. Is stying in the peloton requires keeping mountaineer descents on >80km/h?
3. Local bias: 95% of participants homies -> local clubs arrive together and riding group tactics boxing out independent riders/slowing down peloton if their rider in a breakaway?
Naively I would expect for the following dynamic: Calm Zone 2 cruise, teared apart on every major climb to sub pelotons, Once such sub peloton established it cruises calmly confident in it's position and therefore not rushing into technical sections, to next climb where once again it tears a part. Then on last 30-45 minutes heroic breakaways.
They can involve a large peloton going pretty hard with plenty of tempo riding, with splits and breakaways. I did one of the flatter UCI Fondos (Tour of Cambridgeshire) and that was like that. The last hour was pretty much at full gas. I also did the L'Etape du Tour last year and that was strung out in an endless line up the big cols. Descending was fast, but not ridiculous. Most riders were being sensible due to the sheer number of riders. Not many people taking risks, although there were quite a few serious crashes. Pelotons only formed on the flatter sections and fragmented into a line on every climb.

There is nothing in common with crit racing, so I wouldn't worry about it. As long as you are comfortable following a wheel in a peloton there is very little technical riding involved. They are endurance events and won by guys who pace well and remain strong at the end.
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Old 03-19-23, 07:52 PM
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mikethe,

Bike Forums has a dedicated racing subforum called (for reasons lost to history) the "33." Some of the racers who participate in that forum have shown up in your thread and have offered good information, but you might get more info if you ask the moderators to move this thread over there. (To send a message to a moderator, simply click the red "!" button at bottom left in a post in this thread.)
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Old 03-19-23, 08:03 PM
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I don't know anything about Gran Fondo, so I can't tell you what to expect. It's hard for me to imagine that it would be as aggressive as road racing, but like I said, I don't know.

I do know that for criteriums, staying near the front is important, and the back is the worst place to be, with the 'whiplash effect'. The first few riders are the only ones who can chose their line through the corners, and the least likely to have to brake and lose momentum.

The other necessity is skill at the corners themselves. IME, practicing in an empty parking lot can help a great deal. You want to get a feel for how far you can lean over and still pedal, as well as how far you can lean over, period (farther than you think - just watch a motorcycle race!), and how to apply your weight to the outside pedal when coasting through a tighter corner. Braking as little as possible is key, and is impossible to avoid at the back of the pack. When you can follow the leaders at their speed and their line through the corners, you can be a contender instead of a DNF.

Technical considerations include crank length, bottom bracket height, tire grip, and wheel weight and air resistance. Of the last two, the latter is more important out front, and the former when in the pack. Training with others on heavier wheels can help build your acceleration abilities. Switching to racing wheels a couple of pounds lighter will make you feel like you're flying on race day.

When you are practiced enough to take corners faster, a tactical move to try might be to go all out at the start to try and break away, then use your stamina to stay away. IIRC, an unknown rider named John Timbers once lapped the field in the Manhattan Beach criterium, because nobody knew who he was and so they let him go off the front. Mistake!

Best of luck in your efforts!

Last edited by Fredo76; 03-19-23 at 08:06 PM.
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Old 03-23-23, 05:22 PM
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Moved to racing forum.
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