case you didn't already know, are super exciting and hectic races that
typically last around an hour. Don’t let the fact that these races are on the
road fool you though; a crit isn’t the same as riding a road race.
approach to a crit race is different to the regular road race; from the overall
style of racing and the fitness needed to compete, to the tactics involved. Expect
faster, shorter, more technical, more intense and, arguably more fun, from a
Think you’ve got
what it takes to line up in a crit and take on the challenge? Here are some
pointers to take into battle with you before you head to the start line…
For the first 20
minutes of a crit race, you’re going to see full on fast and furious behaviour
in the saddle! There’s going to be a feast of attacks and multiple breakaway
attempts. It’s not always the smartest move to get drawn into these dog fights
in the first 20 mins though. As the race has another 40 mins left, if you’re
spent before the real race has started then you’ve wasted your time.
keeping in the back of your mind that, in most cases, the race doesn’t really
hot up until the last half. So, while the other riders are scrapping like
vultures wanting the first bite on a carcass, you can sit back, save your
energy and pick your time to put the hammer down and blow them all away!
Know How to Attack
Picking up from
the last point, attacking is a beautiful art form, but as every artist will
tell you, you must carry out your work like you mean it. Leave the softly,
softly approach of attacking to the road races, because if you fancy testing
the breakaway with one of these, they’ll hunt you down and spit you out the
back in no time. We know the pace is fast, that’s the nature of crits, so when
you attack, you need to attack even faster.
If you’re sat
25-35 places back, forget about attacking too. Once you’ve worked your way to
the front, you’ll be cooked. Don't go attacking if you’re riding up top either;
you want to be exploding out from somewhere in the top ten positions. Ideally,
someone else will make a move too, and you can work in tandem to kill everyone
You need to have
cornering nailed as you will be hitting them a lot during a crit. The key is to
hold your line and follow the wheel in front. You might want to hang slightly
outside of the wheel you’re following, because you don’t want to take a tap and
eat tarmac! Stay on that wheel in front though, as this can save you lots of well-needed
energy that is often taken up by accelerating out of corners and trying to
get back on that wheel. If a race racks up over 100 corners, then just imagine
the energy you could save/lose by cornering right/wrong.
For the beginners,
you should know that if you try to overtake through the corners on the inside,
then you are going to pay in more ways than one. Trying to overtake on the
inside is dangerous, will make you the villain in the bunch and could also see
you get hurt. Forget what you see on F1, this is crit racing and going on the
inside is suicide.
Top Tip: Get down low, apply the weight to the front wheel for peak traction,
and allow your bike to glide through the corner in the slipstream.
Conserve Your Energy
conservation is paramount. Get to those last couple of miles feeling primed and
ripe for ripping it up and you’re far more likely to get the result you want. Make
moves up through the bunch or use the slight lulls to make attacks.
This is a point
for those who’ve got a few races under their belt, but can also be used when
you first start out. If you’re mulling over whether to bridge up to a break, have
a glance at who is occupying the break. If these guys aren’t well known for
making the break effective, and there’s not much time between the pack and the
breakaway, you may want to hold off. Also, think about how deep into the race
you are, whether any of the other riders look up for it, or if they’re looking
a bit ragged and you know you’re feeling strong and are raring to make a move
and hold on to it.
A big aspect of
reading a crit race is knowing who you’re racing against, so if you're new to
the scene, it might be worth asking around and doing some fact finding before
you line up.
A fast flowing
crit is like a shoal of fish swimming upstream, but with more aggression. It’s good
to stay in the top third of the bunch and that’s because if you’re not making
regular forward moves, you are moving
Think of it this
way; you want to be at the front but not on the front or you’ll be dead and
buried come the end of the race. If it’s a hot dog crit you’re in, aim to keep
amongst the top 20 riders. Hot dogs are tight tracks and so the further back
you are on a tight circuit, the more pronounced it’ll be, leaving you less
space to attack/make your way upstream, little fishy.
Don't get boxed
in and aim to ride on the edges of the group, that way you can move up nice and
easy when the time is right. You can also slip in behind a wheel as riders move
up the pack if you’re positioned on the outside edge of the bunch –bonus!
Be a Sprint Sensation!
You’ve seen road race sprints in the final
straight, but when it comes to crit sprints it’s the final corner, not the
finish line that is the focal point. Most crits have a corner around 200-300m
from the finish line, and if you’re not hitting that corner in a healthy position,
there’s not top spot for you today, my friend, because you have a slim to none chance
of winning the sprint.
In basic terms, the closer the corner is to the
finish, the closer you have to get yourself to the front; it could be top five,
or it could be top 12.
Take these crit racing essentials away, pair them
rims, use them to the best of your ability, and see what you come away with at
your next race… hopefully, it’s a top place finish!