Criterium Racing – Tips and Skills

Criterium Racing – Tips and Skills

Positioning in a crit is very important…

by Alison Powers, ALP Cycles Coaching

This past Wednesday evening was our June ALP ride and the  topic was criterium racing. Criterium (crit) racing is a lot more than going around in a circle for 45 min and sprinting at the end. Tactics, skills, team work, and fitness all come into play when racing a crit.

ALP CritThe things we talked about and practiced were:

– Tactics- decide on a race plan (tactic) pre ride, and execute it in the race. However, be open and prepared to switch to a Plan B if Plan A doesn’t or won’t work.

– If you are racing on a hilly crit course, 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 corners- if you have proficient cornering and descending skills).

– Depending on the course, you may need to switch into your small ring to save your legs and carry speed. We talked about where to shift, what gears to use, big ring/small ring?

There will be times in the race or on the course where you need to stand up and get out of the saddle (to accelerate or to climb). There are also times when you need to have your hands in drops (corners, sprints, accelerations), and there are times when it is ok to be in the hoods.

crit pic– When racing a crit, your line through the corners and around the course matters.You want to choose the shortest line, protect your inside through corners, and take the straightest line to the finish.

– 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. 

– Lastly, 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/accelerations, and sprint for the win.

We practiced these tips and skills in 3 mini races- each person for themselves- no team work. It was hard, it was fun, and we all learned a lot.

After the ride, we served up Osmo recovery drinks and ate snacks while we talked more about tactics and advice for the upcoming Colorado races.


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Alison Powers

Alison Powers only recently retired from cycling, finishing her final season on the UnitedHealthcare Women’s Team. Her career has spanned a wide array of wins, including the 2013 USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championship where she won in memorable fashion by soloing after an early breakaway that obliterated the pro women’s peloton. Other standout results during the 33-year-old’s 2013 season include the win at Redlands Bicycle Classic, second at the Tour of Elk Grove, third at the US National Road Championship and the US National Time Trial Championship, and stage wins at Cascade Classic, Tulsa Tough, Tour of the Gila and Redlands Bicycle Classic. Hailing from Fraser, Colorado, Powers has been racing bikes professionally for eight years and is a true athlete with her career beginning as a teenager in mountain bike racing. In her mid 20s, she added in alpine ski racing before switching over to the road. In addition to being the current Criterium National Champion, Powers has two other national championships (Time Trial, Team Pursuit) and 2 NRC titles (2009, 2013).