Tips for a Successful Criterium
You don’t have to be the strongest rider in the pack to race well in a criterium and come away with a positive experience instead of a frustrating one.
the top third of the pack or even closer to the front if you can. If the race is a big group and you can’t tell how far back you are, try to count the number of riders in front of you. If you can’t do it quickly or you can’t count that high, then you’re too far back. Once you get to front part of the group you have to work to stay there. Riders are always moving around through the pack so if you get complacent you could find yourself at the back in a hurry and have to fight your way back up again. To keep that from happening, you always need to be moving up and filling any holes in front of you so you can maintain your position and stay out of the wind.
Keep your momentum
The primary reason you want to stay in the front of the pack is simply because it’s easier. While the riders in the front are accelerating out of a corner, the riders in the back are still braking into it, so the ones at the back have to work twice as hard to accelerate and chase the leaders out of each corner. Riders in the front don’t have to brake through the corners as much, which means they maintain a lot of their momentum and don’t have to accelerate as hard to get back to top speed. Over the course of a race, this saves a huge amount of energy. If you have to brake and sprint to get through every corner, you’ll fatigue very quickly and either get dropped or have nothing left for the sprint.
Now that you’ve successfully made it to the final 10 laps of the race, it’s important to start thinking about the last lap and final sprint. In most bike races there are actually two sprints: one for positioning and one for the finish line. You need to be ready to sprint twice if you want to win. Also take note as to how close the finish line is to the final corner, as the real race might be to the final corner if the space from the final corner to the finish line leaves no room for a real sprint. In these races, odds are that whoever gets to the final corner first will win. Most riders need 200 meters or so to pass someone in an all-out sprint so don’t wait too long to make your move. Sit on someone’s wheel as long as you can and take note as to which way the wind is coming from and pass on the leeward (away from the wind) side so you can take advantage of the draft as long as possible. When you decide to go, make it a 100% effort and go like hell to the end.
Oh, just one more thing. After you use these tips to put yourself in the perfect position to win your next criterium, even if you are 100% sure you’re going to win, don’t