If you are like many other people, you have hunkered down most of the winter. Hopefully you did your gym workouts and your base miles through the winter. But now that the time has changed and Spring is here, you are itching to get out and either A) do a training crit or B) enter your first crit race.
Congratulations! This is a big step, whether you are an experienced racer, or a novice rider, jumping into a big ride – the first crit of the year is always an exciting and nerve racking experience. You will be around many other lycra clad cyclists all riding on tires that are about the width of your thumb – now let’s add TURNS!
Here are some tips to help you and your fellow riders remain upright for the whole ride.
– Hold your line. Everyone tells you to go Outside, Inside, Outside of the turn. This is true, if you are off the front, or off the back of the pack, but not when you are IN the Pack! You see the pack will generally take that line, but you must keep in mind how the other riders around you are also going through the turn, and what lines they are taking.
Imagine you are riding in the car with a race car driver, he will take the optimal line through the turn, and the whole time the driver and the passenger are equal distance from each other. The same thing goes for the pack, you go with the pack as a whole keeping the same distance between each rider equal through the turn.
– Be predictable – no fast twitching movements.
Other than the actual corners, The bike should always being moving forward. Then if needed you may move forward and slightly left or slightly right… not swinging left or right. Although the rider behind you is responsible for their actions, you can help keep them safe, just as you rely on the rider ahead of you.
Unfortunately, I saw a crash happen that the front rider caused because he swung to the left. The rider behind him had too much momentum and they just happened to be overlapping wheels at that moment, and the 2nd rider went down. Maybe the 2nd rider should not have been overlapping wheels, but the 1st rider should have been more predictable and steady with his movements.
There should be a minimal input into the handlebars. Your steering will come more from your body.
1) Head – the human head weighs 8 pounds (just ask Jerry McGuire) – this is why it is so easy to veer when you turn your head. Just tilt your head slightly in the direction you want to go.
2) Hips – this will involve the whole trunk of the body. You can use your hips and thighs to move the saddle.
3) Knees – the most common way of adjusting your center of gravity. moving a knee out from the top tube will move your center of gravity slightly usually causing the bike to follow.
– Watch where you are going and Look where you want to go.
Generally if you stare at something you don’t want to hit, you will hit it (Jerry McGuire effect). Look where you want to go.
The very first Historic Roswell crit race we organized, I worked on setting up the last turn, which was a tighter than 90 degree turn. Just after we finished they sent off the beginner’s category. I watched as the first racers navigated out of the turn. Just as I had thought that everyone had gone by, a lone rider came into the turn looking at the wall of hay bales, and never looked away. His bike took him directly where he was looking, into those hay bales!
Once the front wheel stopped, the rear wheel kicked-up – causing the man did a face plant into the hay. Strangely he then came right back down on his feet! Bewildered, he then attempted to get clipped back-in. Luckily the referee was right there and gave him a free lap to check to make sure everything was ok. Luckily he was just fine, but learn from his lesson
– Relax – the more tense that you are the more energy that is not going to the pedals, and the sooner you will feel fatigued. The more you start to relax the more you will be able to bend like a reed in the wind. A more relaxed body will allow you to meander around people and obstacles.
– Once you are getting fatigued, and your power output is drained, it is OK, to slowly move off the back, cool down, then stop for the day. Most accidents with beginners happen when they are pushing their bodies so hard that they loose focus, and make a mistake. This can be avoided if you recognize that you are pushing too far into fatigue. When training using power, once an athlete can not hold a set wattage for each interval they stop the workout because they know they will no longer get any benefit from the workout.
So, at the next training criterium you go too, work on these tips to be safer and enjoy the ride even more!