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January 6, 2009
The beloved hot dog criterium. Who loves these? Only the spectators and the masochistic cyclist – that’s who. Bloody hell… The hot dog circuit is great for spectators because the racers are seen speeding down one lane of a boulevard and then back again. Nearly the whole race is in view and there are usually plenty of crashes for your entertainment pleasure. Unfortunately this entertainment makes for an extremely difficult event for the riders. If you’ve yet to race a crit like this, you’re in for a shock! The picture above shows the course of the Bay Crit Stage #5, but it doesn’t portray just how tight those corners actually are.
A few things I can say about racing these types of circuits:
1. Get in a good warmup on the trainer beforehand. I’ve posted my usual warm-up here .
2. This is how it works: You’ll be flying down the straight at 50-60km/hr and then slowing down to 15km/hr on the corners. BEFORE you slow down completely you should shift into an easier gear. I usually shift down (easier) 2-3 gears when coming into the corner. This gear change sets you up for accelerating out of the corner.
3. Cornering – I’ve already written about it below in Bay Crit Tip #2 . The corners can be a great place to make up positions, but you need to use them wisely. You spend 90% of your energy coming out of the corners. The higher the speed through the corners, the less energy you’ll use to accelerate out of them.
4. When exiting the corner, it’s much more energy efficient to come out of it sprinting with a relatively fast cadence. Shift up into a harder gears gradually while in the sprint out of the corner while accelerating up to speed. If you initially use a large gear too early when exiting the corner, you will accelerate slowly and will burn up all of your fast twitch muscles early on in the race (not to mention lose positions). Save the legs, not the gears !
5. The hot dog circuit is the most important type of crit to be positioned in the front 20 . If you aren’t in the front, you’ll be slowing down much more than the other riders and will need to get up to greater speeds to catch back up. Again and again…
6. If you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backwards . Your position in the bunch is not static. Riders will constantly be overtaking you in the corners and on the straight-aways. If you don’t have the mindset to ride the same way in, you’ll find yourself at the back of the bunch in a hurry. My goal is to overtake 5 or so riders per lap.
7. If you’re using carbon wheels, GET CARBON BRAKE PADS ! I see so many crashes happen on these types of circuits where there is a lot of braking and consequently, wheels locking. Regular brake pads have extremely poor modulation on carbon wheels. At times they’re barely braking and yet the next moment they completely lock up the wheel.
Hope this helps a bit. Good luck!