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  1. #1
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    First Crit Observations

    Thursday night my buddy convinced me to try the local 4/5 crit. I have seen the course and watched the 123 race before. This was my very first time racing a crit. I use the term "racing" loosely because it was eye opening. A few things I observed:
    The age,weight, bike used by a cyclist on a flat crit means very little. There were all sorts there and 90% could really hammer.

    Almost everyone there rides a matching kit. It looked as is everyone was on a team. I did see clearly defined teams but it looked like nobody rides a plain jersey and black bibs.

    The turns can be really dicey the first few laps. Picking a good line and holding it makes a difference. Slowing up a touch then trying to catch back up really wastes a ton of energy.

    Most of the people there were super cool and encouraging. It was a great experience. I wish I had been pushed sooner to try it.

    Full disclosure I was dropped around 20 mins in. I didn't finish last or sprint at the finish. My 8 year old son got to watch so it was nice to hear "you did good daddy, the big group wasn't that far ahead of you."

  2. #2
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    That's super cool you showed up and pinned a number on! Good observations...If you stick with it I think you'll find road racers like to tell you what you do wrong rather than just be helpful. Particularly in crits so I'm just saying this so that if you experience it it doesn't discourage you. Look and surround yourself with positive people. Have fun. Ride hard and pass it on!

  3. #3
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    All your observations have merit.

    The age,weight, bike used by a cyclist on a flat crit means very little. There were all sorts there and 90% could really hammer.


    How true. In fact, it doesn't matter much on hilly courses, either. And as an amateur racer, you don't want an expensive, lightweight bike because you WILL crash sooner or later and it's easier to repair a $1200 Specialized Elite than some $8k superbike.

    Almost everyone there rides a matching kit. It looked as is everyone was on a team. I did see clearly defined teams but it looked like nobody rides a plain jersey and black bibs.


    At the amateur level say, Cat. 3, 4, and 5, teamates will TALK tactics but fitness will vary so much between riders that any team effort is an illusion. Plus, why should you work for a "teamate's" success if you're not going to get a kickback of prize money? Yes Dorothy; team tactics at the lower levels of racing is an illusion.

    The turns can be really dicey the first few laps. Picking a good line and holding it makes a difference. Slowing up a touch then trying to catch back up really wastes a ton of energy.

    Full disclosure I was dropped around 20 mins in. I didn't finish last or sprint at the finish.


    Don't feel bad; I was dropped in the first TEN races I entered. But I stuck with it, and eventually rode Cat. 3 for ten years.

  4. #4
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    good job man. Just don't crash. You've got a kid right? That means you have a job too? Crashing is such a killjoy. I've seen nasty crashes that make guys quit racing all together, in one instance quit cycling too (rider crashed in a high speed corner due to a slight bump, sustained a mangled face requiring multiple painful facial surgeries, and his face is still not the same today 2 years after surgeries). When push turns to shove, just let it go, knowing that you've probably just survived to go back to you son and job in one piece.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by aclinjury View Post
    good job man. Just don't crash. You've got a kid right? That means you have a job too? Crashing is such a killjoy. I've seen nasty crashes that make guys quit racing all together, in one instance quit cycling too (rider crashed in a high speed corner due to a slight bump, sustained a mangled face requiring multiple painful facial surgeries, and his face is still not the same today 2 years after surgeries). When push turns to shove, just let it go, knowing that you've probably just survived to go back to you son and job in one piece.
    This is the stuff that has always given me mixed feelings about crit racing as an amateur. Time trials seem substantially safer and the speed is significantly slower and risk of injury seems to be lower in cyclocross, but crit racing seems to have this heightened risk of being involved in a serious crash and experiencing a serious injury. I plan to give it a go at least once, but I kind of have my eyes set on Merckx style time trials and/or gravel racing as the better fit for me at this stage of my life (43). It definitely looks like it could be a lot of fun under the right circumstances though.
    Every climb has its end, for verily with difficulty there is relief...

  6. #6
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    Thanks guys. I won't lie the crash aspect was on my mind. It was explained that it can happen and in a Cat4/5 you may encounter less experienced cyclists and bike handling skills that are questionable. I think having done some large fast group rides had made me a tad less nervous with high speeds and guys everywhere.

    One thing I did forget to mention that may help the next newbie to try a crit. When I was signing in my buddy handed me my saddle bag he had removed from my bike and said have your son hold it. I looked around and noticed nobody else had them. About 2 mins before the start when we were all lined up an official told another guy to remove his. The guy said what if I get a flat. A group of guys yelled you walk and laughed. I don't know if that was the norm but seemed like a thing there.

    Coincidentally, there is a time trial not far in a few weeks I may try since I am feeling inspired. Though that just seems like a real grind. I imagine without anyone to chase or a wheel to grab it's going to be brutal.

  7. #7
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    For what it's worth - I've seen worst crashes on weekend group rides than I have in any race I've been in.

    Stay sharp, ride defensively, protect you front wheel and enjoy the ride.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by daddyjakes View Post
    One thing I did forget to mention that may help the next newbie to try a crit. When I was signing in my buddy handed me my saddle bag he had removed from my bike and said have your son hold it. I looked around and noticed nobody else had them. About 2 mins before the start when we were all lined up an official told another guy to remove his. The guy said what if I get a flat. A group of guys yelled you walk and laughed. I don't know if that was the norm but seemed like a thing there.

    Coincidentally, there is a time trial not far in a few weeks I may try since I am feeling inspired. Though that just seems like a real grind. I imagine without anyone to chase or a wheel to grab it's going to be brutal.
    I've NEVER seen anyone lose a saddle bag. I actually rode a criterium with a saddle bag AND a frame pump. Boy; the people that kept whining about it-the same people who carry cellphones on their rides in case they have a mechanical...

    Yet you'll see racers either drop their waterbottles, or toss them before the sprint, and they land on the road. Go figure.

    As for time trials; that pain and inability to hide in a pack or have a rabbit to chase, is why TT's are called "The Race of Truth".
    Last edited by Peter P.; 08-08-2017 at 03:08 AM.

  9. #9
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    Good lord...I've seen guys crash riding in a parking lot that does more damage than crashing in a race. Talking about crashing is pointless. Sort of like saying "don't get cancer". ok thanks.

    Racing is a ****ing blast! **** happens and sometimes you go boom. It's not that bad. Suck it up and press on if it happens. Not a big deal imo.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    Good lord...I've seen guys crash riding in a parking lot that does more damage than crashing in a race. Talking about crashing is pointless. Sort of like saying "don't get cancer". ok thanks.

    Racing is a ****ing blast! **** happens and sometimes you go boom. It's not that bad. Suck it up and press on if it happens. Not a big deal imo.
    Dude, I think what some of are saying is that sometimes it is that bad and sometimes it is a really big deal and you don't just get to press on. There are some significant risks that come along with crit racing that are at a level beyond those associated with ordinary riding. I think everyone has to assess for themselves whether they are willing to take those risks on just like they have to decide whether they will eat fried foods, fight fires, or cliff dive, etc. It's a personal choice that has pros and cons even if it is a blast. This happened in a pro-1-2 crit.

    Boss says crash that killed experienced cyclist in Tour of Kansas City event was ‘freak accident’ | FOX 4 Kansas City WDAF-TV | News, Weather, Sports
    Every climb has its end, for verily with difficulty there is relief...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rashadabd View Post
    Dude, I think what some of are saying is that sometimes it is that bad and sometimes it is a really big deal and you don't just get to press on. There are some significant risks that come along with crit racing that are at a level beyond those associated with ordinary riding. I think everyone has to assess for themselves whether they are willing to take those risks on just like they have to decide whether they will eat fried foods, fight fires, or cliff dive, etc. It's a personal choice that has pros and cons even if it is a blast. This happened in a pro-1-2 crit.

    Boss says crash that killed experienced cyclist in Tour of Kansas City event was ‘freak accident’ | FOX 4 Kansas City WDAF-TV | News, Weather, Sports
    Sometimes car accidents are bad too and lots of people die. You still drive a car right?

    There are risks with cycling, period. A local guy died on a group ride a few weeks ago. He hit a pothole, went over the bars, landed on his head. Rode home. A few days later he went into a coma and ultimately died.

    Yes - everyone is able to assess their own risk comfort, and should. Frankly, if you are that worried about Crit racing, don't do it. Sketchy/nervous rides are the reason there are crashes.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by arai_speed View Post
    Sometimes car accidents are bad too and lots of people die. You still drive a car right?

    There are risks with cycling, period. A local guy died on a group ride a few weeks ago. He hit a pothole, went over the bars, landed on his head. Rode home. A few days later he went into a coma and ultimately died.

    Yes - everyone is able to assess their own risk comfort, and should. Frankly, if you are that worried about Crit racing, don't do it. Sketchy/nervous rides are the reason there are crashes.
    That's kind of always the response and I think it's pretty silly. The risks are clearly heightened and real and it's completely reasonable for people to acknowledge that and provide people with accurate information and space to think it through. That's all I am saying. Everyone gets to decide what's best for them. No need to pretend there aren't increased risks involved or suggest that anyone debating the pros and cons shouldn't be riding or driving, etc. at all. It's just goofy.
    Every climb has its end, for verily with difficulty there is relief...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rashadabd View Post
    That's kind of always the response and I think it's pretty silly. The risks are clearly heightened and real and it's completely reasonable for people to acknowledge that and provide people with accurate information and space to think it through. That's all I am saying. Everyone gets to decide what's best for them. No need to pretend there aren't increased risks involved or suggest that anyone debating the pros and cons shouldn't be riding or driving, etc. at all. It's just goofy.
    It's probably the same response because it's the truth. I'm not trying to hide the risks of racing. But if want me to list them out here they are.

    1) Riding fast in close proximity to others
    2) Taking corners fast in close proximity to others
    3) Sprinting for the line in close proximity to others

    Could a guy chop your wheel? Yes. Can a guy run into your back wheel? Yes. Can you hit your pedal while taking a corner and take yourself out? Yes.

    Now , would you say those things listed above are unique to crit racing?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by arai_speed View Post
    It's probably the same response because it's the truth. I'm not trying to hide the risks of racing. But if want me to list them out here they are.

    1) Riding fast in close proximity to others
    2) Taking corners fast in close proximity to others
    3) Sprinting for the line in close proximity to others

    Could a guy chop your wheel? Yes. Can a guy run into your back wheel? Yes. Can you hit your pedal while taking a corner and take yourself out? Yes.

    Now , would you say those things listed above are unique to crit racing?
    You are actually making my point if you just slow down and think about it rather than being argumentative for arguments sake. No, those things aren't unique to crit racing, but the risks go up when you throw a pack of folks pushing themselves full tilt into those corners with a win on the line don't they? It's not the same as a group ride or even gran fondo. Those are the facts and that is all I am saying. Different risks are just the reality, which is why you guys keep constantly advising people not to race nice bikes isn't it? You can't have it both ways and it is what it is. There's nothing wrong with loving to race crits, it looks fun. People just need to be able weigh the reality that comes with it. That's it. Carry on.
    Last edited by Rashadabd; 08-08-2017 at 04:12 AM.
    Every climb has its end, for verily with difficulty there is relief...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rashadabd View Post
    You are actually making my point if you just slow down and think about it rather than being argumentative for arguments sake. No, those things aren't unique to crit racing, but the risks go up when you throw a pack of folks pushing themselves full tilt into those corners with a win on the line don't they? It's not the same as a group ride or even gran fondo. Those are the facts and that is all I am saying. Different risks are just the reality, which is why you guys keep constantly advising people not to race nice bikes isn't it? You can't have it both ways and it is what it is. There's nothing wrong with loving to race crits, it looks fun. People just need to be able weigh the reality that comes with it. That's it. Carry on.
    Reality. Really. At least racing a bike doesn't involve getting crushed by a texting/drunk/mean driver. The reality is that it's not that big of a deal. It wouldn't surprise me if statistically racing was safer than riding out of your driveway. But guys like you want to make it a big deal and I have no idea why? And the whole don't race a carbon/nice bike thing is just silly. No one cares. Ride/race what you can afford. Steel and aluminum dent and bend too so good luck buffing that out. Been there done that.

    Group rides on open roads with vastly different experience, age, goals of riders has way more potential for an incident or accident than any race.

  16. #16
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    So we agree. Racing has risks. Great.

    For the record, I race my nice bike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    **** happens and sometimes you go boom. It's not that bad. Suck it up and press on if it happens. Not a big deal imo.
    That is a VERY generalized statement. Is a downhill crash at 40+ the same as a red light tipover? I've raced MANY bikes of all different kinds; pedal, motor, dirt, road...you name it. The crashes that have left me with permanent issues have been the pedal bike crashes. I have nerve damage in my elbow from crashing my road bike years ago. The complete lack of gear you have riding bicycles leaves you open for a larger risk. That risk is then increased when put into a race situation. I'm not saying don't race or racing is bad, but it's silly to not acknowledge the increased risk that comes with it. I personally don't think twice about racing, but I won't be ignorant to the associated risk that comes along with racing anything (not just bikes).
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tech420 View Post
    ...Is a downhill crash at 40+ the same as a red light tipover? ...
    So there are crits that have 40+ mile descents?

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    Quote Originally Posted by arai_speed View Post
    So there are crits that have 40+ mile descents?
    I imagine many crits with a downhill hit speeds of 40mph. Hell all it takes is a slight rolling hill to hit 40mph.

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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tech420 View Post
    I imagine many crits with a downhill hit speeds of 40mph. Hell all it takes is a slight rolling hill to hit 40mph.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G891A using Tapatalk
    You imagine correctly. The crits in my area are mostly flat but a quick search shows a few. One called Rock Hill in SC and how could I forget, Laguna Seca, just to name a couple.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tech420 View Post
    That is a VERY generalized statement. Is a downhill crash at 40+ the same as a red light tipover? I've raced MANY bikes of all different kinds; pedal, motor, dirt, road...you name it. The crashes that have left me with permanent issues have been the pedal bike crashes. I have nerve damage in my elbow from crashing my road bike years ago. The complete lack of gear you have riding bicycles leaves you open for a larger risk. That risk is then increased when put into a race situation. I'm not saying don't race or racing is bad, but it's silly to not acknowledge the increased risk that comes with it. I personally don't think twice about racing, but I won't be ignorant to the associated risk that comes along with racing anything (not just bikes).
    I certainly don't want to give the impression there is not an increased risk while racing a bike, however I disagree. People seem to not give any thought to group rides or even riding around on roads solo. Which one has more associated risk? No clue. Just have my experience to draw from. I usually enter 30-40 races a year. The vast majority are sanctioned. All 11 broken ribs, clavicle, punctured lungs, 1 hit and run by a car, concussions came from group rides, unsanctioned events or riding solo. While I have crashed in races luckily just came out with some road rash.

    I honestly feel that grouping riders more closely by ability and to a lessor degree age reduces risk. Now take that group and put them on a closed course and the safety just went up again.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodys737 View Post
    I certainly don't want to give the impression there is not an increased risk while racing a bike, however I disagree. People seem to not give any thought to group rides or even riding around on roads solo. Which one has more associated risk? No clue.
    I very rarely go on group rides with people that don't race anymore. Most of them are utterly terrifying. They have absolutely no clue about riding a bike in proximity and no concept of people being around them. It's terrifying.

    Give me a 30+ mph crit any day. At least then everyone knows the score and won't fall over if they see a stick on the other side of the road.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tech420 View Post
    That is a VERY generalized statement. Is a downhill crash at 40+ the same as a red light tipover?
    My last three crashes were all at 30+ mph. A bit of road rash and the like, but not too bad as there's so much forward momentum (as long as you're not hitting something with that forward momentum).

    But it's the low speed crashes where you just drop straight down that seem to really bugger people up. I've jacked up a hip really badly one time, a knee and elbow another time, and tacoed a wheel another time, all at less than 5 mph. Skin heals quickly. Bones/ligaments, not so fast.

    You can get hurt at either, of course, but speed doesn't necessarily equal worst.

  24. #24
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    I work in a trauma intensive care unit. If you only knew the number of people seriously injured in motor vehicle collisions each day, you would understand how safe racing your bike is comparatively.

  25. #25
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    I only started racing this year, and even then, in a very limited fashion with less than a handful of Cat 4/5 mass starts under my belt. This is after having taken up bicycling again 5 years ago after having a 20+ year hiatus. I believe being older, with more skin in the game comparatively (family with many needs, career, etc) has made me a smarter, more cautious (yet confident) rider. I was also taught a lot about group riding by the local cycling association early on, which has also contributed to that mind/skillset.

    With that being said, my limited experience mirrors that of many of those stated here regarding newbie racing; it's hectic, humbling, and more dangerous than the higher levels. All the crits I've been in have averaged 25+ MPH, with me being dropped each time (but less each time too, lol). First one saw a guy who was bused off courtesy of FDNY with a suspected hip fracture (it wasn't, I'm a trauma RN). Worse for me (sorta), was the young kid who got dropped later than me, and was subsequently caught by me. We had absolutely no chance of catching the field, but whether due to immaturity, inexperience or both, he thought it would be a good idea to start sucking the wheel of the clyde. Dumb. Stupid. And when I let off my cadence a hair for a nice-sized crack in the pavement, the predictable touch of wheels put him on the ground. Of course, I stopped as 1) it was my instinct and 1a) I knew there was no one around whom this would jeopardize.

    TLDR; newbies, self included, racing together make for a sketchy experience (but I think the bug has bit anyway, lol).

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