Criterium racing: the Do’s and Dont’s

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For all you Aussies, crit season is here! Earlier this week, Verita Stewart shared her beginner’s guide to prepping for a criterium, now we are following up with a few tips and tricks from the experts at ALP Cycles.

Criterium (crit) racing is a lot more than going around in a circle for 45 or 60 minutes only to have it end in a sprint. Tactics, skills, team work and fitness all come into play when racing a crit.

The Do’s and Don’t of Criterium racing:

Do decide on a race plan. In fact set up a Plan B and C while you’re at it.

Do pre-ride the course and revisit or alter your tactics based on the terrain and weather.

Do consider the terrain.

– If you are racing on a hilly crit course, of example, there are places where you need suffer and push hard –uphills and toward the finish — and there are places where you can recover — downhills and flats.
– Consider your gearing (especially those running 1x drivetrains). Depending on the course, you may need to switch into your small ring to save your legs and carry speed.

Do know your competition. A really important race tactic is to read other people and other teams in the race. Watch and listen to what your opponents are doing and anticipate their next move. Who are they working for? Are they trying to get a break or just trying to wear you out?

Do keep your hands in the drops. With corners, sprints, accelerations and potential descents, it’s safest to be in the drops. Being in the drops offer the most control of your bike, quick reaction time and prevents potential entangling of bars. For climbing it’s OK to be on the hoods.

Do pick your lines carefully. When racing a crit, your line through the corners and around the course matters. You want to choose the shortest line possible while protecting your inside through corners, and taking the straightest line to the finish.  Corners is where good bike handlers save energy while others burn it trying to catch up sprinting out of them.  Brake before the corner -not during- and use both brakes. Never just the front brake. The inside pedal should be up, outside pedal down. It’s very important to put pressure on the outside leg. going into turn, keep head and shoulders over outside foot.

Don’t panic. The first few laps of the race are going to be fast. Really fast. There will likely be attacks and maybe even an early breakaway. Just hang in. Don’t waste your matches early. The pace will settle down a little and the true racing will begin in the second half of the race. If you don’t have teammates, find a steady wheel and try to stay in the top third of the peloton.

– Don’t linger in the back. Positioning in a crit is very important. The better you are at keeping a position near the front of the race, the more energy you will have at the end of the race for when the going gets tough. Being at the front of the race makes it easier to carry speed through corners, follow attacks and accelerations and, ultimately, sprint for the win or a preme.

Don’t cut corners. Do not try to overtake a rider through the inside of a corner. Always hold your line and attack out of the corner.

– Don’t attack from the front or the back.  Crits should be fast and filled with attacks. It’s a spectator sport afterall and no one wants to just ride circles in a pack. When you do attack, do so full gas. Crits are fast and you need to be even faster. Also, don’t attack from the back of the pack. You’ll be tired before you even hit the front of the peloton. Don’t attack from the very front either, as you’ll offer a free ride for those sitting on your wheel and you’ll be the only one getting worn out.

– Don’t head straight home. Crits are hard on your system, be sure to spin out your legs and have a recovery drink and snack after your race.


Got questions for Alison or the rest of the ALP Cycles team? Post your question in the comments below or send it to us on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #askalp.


ALP Cycles Coaching alpcycleslogo - edited is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.

Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Road racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.

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