Third Crit race, beginner's perspective

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Deafwolf, Jul 22, 2010.

  1. Deafwolf

    Deafwolf New Member

    Jun 21, 2010
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    Tonight was awesome. I felt completely relaxed coming into the race, just a little lonely since I don't know anyone yet.

    We had about 40+ riders this time in the Cat 4/5 group.I'm not sure how this happened, but I ended up on the front of the starting line at the beginning of the race. The group tends to start easy as everyone clips in. This I clipped in easy on the first go. Next thing, I'm out with the front 6, 7 riders and almost immediately a rider comes up from behind and attacking hard. So the front group speeds up and starts pulling away. Since I am here, I figure, "what the hell" and I try to grab a wheel. And while he is slipping away, I wasn't paying attention and the first turn was in my face.I ended up going more straight than turning as I wasn't prepared with my countersteering technique. (ask me if you need me to explain that) and so I get squirrely, but pull it back in line.
    Now I am in this awful limbo between front riders I can't catch up to and the peloton somewhere behind me. Of course, the peloton catches me and riders are passing. I accelerate hard to get back in, but the riders are not letting me. They keep passing to my left very close to my bike. I still have no idea how I got back in, but I managed to squeeze in behind a wheel and propel myself from there. At this point we turn again and are into the headwind, but the course is slightly downhill on a long straight. Finally back in the pack, I can ease up some and rest my legs.. just for a few seconds.
    We hit the next turn and a guy inside goes a little wide pushing me out a little, but in this part of the track, there is another turn coming up fast. We managed to stay together and I am keeping up quite snug in the middle. We cross the starting line and everything feels good. At the sharp turn again, that first one, I nailed it with everyone else. I can't help but think to myself that we are going faster than the last couple times I rode this.
    I hung on through another lap, working hard, but feeling pretty good. I'm actually pretty amazed at myself at this point. Gosh, if I can just keep with the group. When we crossed the starting line again, they rang the bell announcing the 1st prime. I didn't hear it or was not paying attention because I didn't know what the bell meant. Not until later after talking with some of the riders after the race. we round the sharp turn again and I notice I am falling back in the group. It's at this point that I feel my legs just petering out. Although I was pushing hard, I could feel I no longer had it in my legs to maintain the pace.
    After I dropped from the peloton, I took a moment to refresh my legs, then continued for the remainder of the hour.
    I have been listening to everyone's advice on the forums. I am downshifting right before the corners and accelerating hard after the first 1/3rd entering the turn. And then quickly up-shifting back to a harder gear. I am pretty much staying in the drops unless we are coming up on a turn or I'm accelerating too close into the riders wheel in front of me. I also adjusted the stem to it's proper position last weekend (I had it upside down before) which lowered my grip position a little. As far as food, I had a cliff bar 1.5 hours before the race and drank water throughout the day.
    I pedaled hard throughout the remaining time and finished with a hard sprint in the last 200 meters or so. I fought hard, pedaled hard, finished hard... and now my legs are tired. Overall, I am content with my performance today.
    Going into the race today, I was uncertain how my legs would perform. I rode 33 miles with Team velocity on Saturday. The ride was intense and definitely good for me. I did another 32 miles on my own on Sunday, moderate difficulty. Did a little swimming on Monday, then nothing on Tues or Wed. I guess a little rest is a good thing.
    Again, thank you for taking the time to read my post. Sorry it's such a novel. Again, thank you for posting your feedback after reading as well as providing any helpful tips or experiences from your own races.Your feedback has been great motivation for me.

  2. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

    Oct 3, 2006
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    Another nice report, sounds like you're making progress and figuring out the game.

    More thoughts:

    - Countersteering is awesome for twisty alpine descents, really helps you carve tight fast turns like you're on a rail. But crit cornerning is more a matter of charge up to the bend on a straight wide enough line and throw the bike into the curve riding the outside pedal. Not much active countersteering or differential bar pressure to corner in crits. Not sure why it's a different beast but as much as I love the body angulation and control of countersteering on a twisty mountain descent I haven't found much use for it in crits and don't have any troubles holding fast lines through the corners with the leaders. YMMV...

    - An angled up stem isn't necessarily 'wrong' stems flip flop on purpose so that you can get the best fit. If you're comfortable, fast and powerful in the lower position then great but the key thing is a drops position you can stay in as much as possible when things are going fast.

    -Why are you coming out of the drops before the corners? You should be able to stay down all the way around the course and do all your shifting with your hands in the drops which also helps a lot when you're forced to jump out of the saddle exiting corners to go with a surge. Standing tall with your hands on the brake hoods is fine for climbing but it's much better to jump with hands in the drops when going fast. Is it just a matter of practice or is there a reason you come out of the drops before the turns? It isn't helping you.

    - Sounds like you learned a big lesson on looking ahead and seeing the corners coming. Lucky there was enough room to correct, sometimes all you'll have is hay bales or fencing if you overcook a turn or fail to see one coming. Good on ya for keeping it together, correcting and getting back on a wheel.

    - It's really hard to explain how to get back into the paceline when being overtaken but it can be done. One trick is to try to match the speed of the group so they're not coming up as fast. If you match their speed so they're not flying by it becomes possible to 'back in' to a slot near the front without having to drop all the way to the tail end of the field. It's an assertive move but has to be done smoothly to be safe but with practice you can re-enter a fast moving group. Good deal in finding a way to grab a wheel in that situation as that can be the make or break moment for a lot of folks.

    Nice job, keep it up.

  3. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

    Feb 3, 2008
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    Sounds like you're having fun. Good job on making quick progress.

    Dave (as usual) made lots of good points.

    Stay on the drops during the corners. If anything bend your arms mid corner and get your weight a little lower. It's also a little more aero too - so you're always in a position to close and inch or two mid corner. It's not much but everything helps. I also find that being on the drops helps me sprint better - and given that I have as much of a kick as an elderly person with a zimmerframe (950 watts max) - being that bit closer on exit always helps.

    Food. Rely on refueling well immediately after your previous training session in order to make sure that your legs are up for it. By immediately I mean exactly that - I used the simple rule that the stuff has to be in your gut by 15 minutes after you stop. For events shorter that 80 minutes you don't really need to worry about special feeding if your post training refueling is followed - just avoid eating anything heavy in the last couple of hours before the race. Just don't forget to eat during the day if you get caught up in getting ready for a race.

    If it's a weekend event and the race is in the afternoon, I'd always go better if I had a hard 30 to 45 minute ride in the morning. It'd be like a pre warm up to the warm up I'd do before the race with about 10 minutes at threshold. I'd also follow the re-fueling strategy above.

    Warm up very well before the race. It's good for the body and good for the mind. 15 minutes should be good for a crit - just enough to go over threshold slightly for a minute or so during a couple of digs and get the legs and lungs ready. There's more to it that just legs and lungs but we used to say that warm-ups are like women. The better the 'legs and lungs' are the more fun you might have afterwards. ;)


    On a motorcycle you can countersteer for extended periods of time if required but you have to be on the gas the whole time otherwise the bike is going to stand up on you and mid corner that isn't something you want to happen. Right at the limit of adhesion high quality road tires and all racing tires have a 'slip angle' that varies between 5 and 15%. This is true with good car tires too. It's this that allows effective rear wheel steering and "true" counter steering.

    You can also use counter steering briefly on a motorcycle to 'tip and lean' i.e. you add weight to the same side of the bike that's on the inside of the corner as well as breifly turning the bars very slightly away from the apex to accelerate the 'tip in' before pointing the front wheel back towards the intended direction of travel.

    On a road bicycle you can tip the bike in faster going into a corner by doing the 'tip and lean' as described above but you can't really counter steer on a bicycle - the corners where it'd be great to do it normally lean the bike so much that it's impossible to pedal - and even if you could pedal you couldn't apply enough torque to the rear wheel at a constant level to properly 'rear wheel steer' the bike . You can do several 'tip and leans' during the course of a long turn but the key is smoothness.

    Of course all of this depends a lot on your tires and your weight distribution on the bike.

    Tires: I think that for clinchers the Continetal GP4000S "chili compound' is by far the best road tire. Mystical cornering, best cut resistance and I've only punctured once on these in many thousands of miles riding around country roads. A comfy tire too.

    The Vittoria Corsa Evo CX is the closest to the 4000S in terms of comfort and cornering ability but it cuts pretty easily and picks up too much road garbage (flints, thorns, tiny pieces of glass) for my liking. I had a few punctures within about 500 miles on these and rest days turned into lets spent time with pointy tools flicking the 'road garbage' out of the small cuts.

    Michelin Pro Race 3. A hateful, hateful tire. None of the grip of the above tires with added ability to cut at will and puncture at every available opportunity. These came off the bike within a month and were resigned for trainer use - and when they showered the back of the trainer with fine rubber shavings they came off after a week and into the garbage.

    The only tire worse that I've tried recently was the Schwalbe Ultra remo that came with the bike I recently bought. They look fast and I suspect they'd have you on your as$ even faster. I gladly left these on the Ksyrium wheels when I sold them.

    Weight distribution. If you have a very forward position and a stem that's pointing up quite a bit you could be negatively placing too much weight high up and on the front wheel. If you notice that the front of the bike feels twichy mid turn this could be why.
  4. tonyzackery

    tonyzackery Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2006
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    OP, I applaud you for actually stickin' your nose in there and doing some real racing. You're gaining so much perspective about what is actually required to go elbow-to-elbow with someone at 40K+ (25mph+) that can NEVER be acquired by sitting in armchair and spectating.

    Crits definitely take practice to master, unless you've got unreal TT strength and can just ride away from the field. Absent that, staying up front for as long as you can is the way must also be commended for finishing the race - even I can not say as much on numerous occasions...nice write-up too...
  5. Deafwolf

    Deafwolf New Member

    Jun 21, 2010
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    Thank you again for the the feedback. I might be misinterpreting my definition of countersteering.. When going into a turn at speeds of 20+mph, I'm leaning a little heavy on the outer handle bar and the outer pedal while just slightly pointing my front wheel opposite the direction I am turning. This allows me to lean the bike a little more for a sharper, more controlled turn without rolling out. So if I am misinterpreting my turning definition, this technique is working so far.

    Why on the hoods. I don't feel the ability to shift gears and control the brakes as effectively from the drops as I do the hoods. I probably just need to practice this a little more. I'll also ask some of the other riders about it. I'm sure my brakes are positioned correctly on the bars, but it's worth getting additional feedback.

    Also, the riders do slow a bit on the turns and I have to stay at their pace. I try to drop back down to the drops as soon as I can though. Again, just more practice?

    I am riding with Vredestein Fortezza SE Road Tires. They were on sale at Performance. They tend to be more puncture resistant. I am planning to switch to Continental GP 4000's on the front when I can save the $$. I need to save for a pair of gloves first. I still have not gotten those yet.

    Thanks for the tips Swampy. I'll start taking a protein shake with me to consume 60 - 90 minutes before the race. As for after, I'll get something as quick as I can. I assume don't take the easy route and hit the drive-thru.

    I arrive at the race 30 minutes early to register and warm up on the course. We are allowed to ride the track before the race begins.

    Side note:
    Just finished 33 miles with Team Velocity this morning. There were some real good climbs, about 1300 feet. My legs are fatigued, not quite jello, but definitely fatigued. Compared to those guys, I suck on the climbs.
  6. campbellj

    campbellj New Member

    Feb 7, 2010
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    Sounds like so much fun, I have been going to the Wed. night crits here locally, but only watching, haven't decided if I want to jump in mid-season and see what it's like, but after reading this all of you all convinced me I need to be getting in on the fun. Thanks!
  7. quenya

    quenya New Member

    Jan 14, 2010
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    If your shift/brake levers are positioned correctly you should be able to use them from the drops as well as the hoods. If one way is harder or affects your control of the bike then they are positioned wrong.

    You only have to slowdown for the riders in front of you if there ARE riders in front of you. This is why all of the racers with years of earned wisdom will tell you to be at the front of the pack. In crits, it allows you to choose your line through the turns which is a huge benefit, in crits and road races being at the back means you have to slow down at least as slow as the slowest guy in front of you then accelerate hard from behind to catch up. But this is coming from a guy who has never raced a crit.

    the Continental GP 4000 and GP 4000S are different tires, get the 4000S.

    I think that the protein shake is a great idea for after the ride, your Clif bar beforehand should be fine. Honestly after a really hard ride or the night before a long hard ride (4-6+ hours) are the only times I don't feel guilty hitting a fast food burger joint. It is far better to get too many calories after a near total effort than not enough.