09/05/2017 15:25:07

Words by Simon Nurse

The accessible route to road racing – hints and tips for excelling at crits.

Llandow

There are many routes to road racing, but none are perhaps more accessible than the criterium (crit). Short, held on closed loops and often local to large urban conurbations, crits represent an excellent opportunity to pit your skills, fitness and tactics against other racers of a similar level. With our own series of crits on the horizon – Cardiff JIF Llandow Crits #1 and #2 in May – here’s the Cyclopaedia shop guide to crit racing.

Categories

First time racers should register with British Cycling, which allows you to race as a Cat 4. The category system allows riders to progress toward the higher categories by earning points. This is how it works. First time racers start as a Category 4 racer. Points are accumulated for results, with 10 points representing a win and 1 point representing 10th place (while Cat 4 races largely contain more inexperienced riders, the race will start be hard, fast, proper racing!). Accumulating 12 points in a season will allow you to progress to Cat 3. Accumulate 40 points as a Cat 3 and Cat 2 status awaits. Keep accumulating points and find out where you can take it….

The course

Crits take place on closed loop courses, typically of around 1.5 – 2 km in length. The best courses offer speed, variety and technicality in equal measure with fast corners, rises and chicanes. The great advantage of the crit is that there are no distractions from other forms of traffic and we can get on with the job of racing.

Warming up, food and drink

If you line up cold, you’re unlikely to perform well. Make sure you know the timetable for racing and take advantage of warm up time on the course. Check the corners and chicanes. Find out where the wind will help or hinder you. Know where the climbs and descents are (if any). If you have a set of rollers, 15-20 mins of light warm up, finishing with a few 15 second efforts, will leave you race ready. As you’ll only be racing for around 40 minutes, you’ll only need one or two gels (max) for an instant energy kick, with backup provided from a small bottle.

The race

Crits are an exercise in tactics and using your particular cycling strengths to best advantage, so it’s difficult to give too much detailed advice as all races unfold differently. We can however, make some generalisations.

The race will be fast and furious. The best way to approach it is by being canny and aware. Attacks will happen on a consistent basis and may come from anywhere; especially in the Cat 4 race where more riders are learning the ropes. The race is unlikely to be won in the first half, so don’t fret about chasing down very early attacks. Equally, if you find yourself at the back of the pack, don’t attempt any heroic, surprising (!) and energy demanding bids for glory – work your way through and try and place yourself optimally i.e somewhere near the front, but not doing all the work for everyone behind you. DO contribute. Nobody likes a racer that sits on a wheel all day before sprinting to victory, fresh and happy, arms aloft.

Corners - safety first

Hold your line on corners and follow the wheel in front, this will keep you in touch and save those energy sapping little sprints to try and get back on. It’s also worth remembering not to be overly cheeky - as inviting as that half a gap on the inside of a corner might be, don’t be tempted to take it, it’ll be asking for trouble.

Enjoy it.

Crits are fast and hard, but boy will you feel like your racing. Remember this is not a sportive. There are prizes on offer and if you’re fit and tactically aware, there’s no reason why you can’t be bagging yourself some lovely BC points or even a podium place. The category system is designed to ensure that everyone gets a fair crack at racing among other riders of their peer group. Go and enjoy!

From the shop

To get started in crit racing you’ll need a reasonably fast and stiff race orientated road bike (if you have a cross bike with slicks, don’t forget that the current rules exclude disc brakes from road racing). We feel that at £1199, the Giant TCR Advance 3 is great value for money with its excellent carbon frameset and dependable Shimano Tiagra componentry. If your budget extends a little further, then the Ultegra equipped Giant propel advance 1 is a superb race bike for £1825. Finally, If you’ve really been saving your pennies then the Orbea Orca M10 offers some true continental class in a light and pacy Dura Ace package. The M10 retails for £3999.

Don’t forget……Cyclopaedia can offer a full bike fit package to ensure that your machine is tailored optimally for you. Give us a call to book an appointment on 02920 377 772.

Photo credit: Carwyn Williams (Cardiff JIF), rider Andy Hoskins (Cardiff JIF)