Considering Criteriums? Here’s 5 tips!

At the end of last year I had been toiling over what to do in the new year. What goals should I set? What races should I do? Where should I go? What adventures will I have? 

At that point in time I had not nutted out the finer details, but I had picked one main goal. And that goal aligned with the selection criteria that “it must scare you”… My goal for the year was to focus on cycling and participate, or how I like to put it… “ParticiRACE” in bike races. 

Before the year was even out, I lined up at my first race – a criterium race in a quiet industrial estate with my local cycling club. Since then I have done a few more criterium’s and an individual time trial race! Look at me go, scaring myself and trying new things! 

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Being half way through yet another year, and some more races looming, it seems like a good time to check in with goals set last year and to reflect on the things that I have learnt so far… 

Perhaps you are looking to start doing some bike races with your local club? Or maybe you are looking for some bike handling tips? Jump on my wheel and absorb what I have learnt thus far… 

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Keep the inside pedal up on corners! 

Before I pinned a number on for the first time, there were two things that people kept on telling me over and over again. One of these was to keep the inside pedal up on the corners. Why? If you were to keep your inside leg straight and lean into the corner your pedal might just strike the ground… And you can imagine that this would not end in an ideal way! So keep your inside leg up. 

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Be careful peddling around corners! 

This was the second thing that people kept on telling me over and over! It is a similar reason to keeping  your inside pedal up on the corners… It is all about being aware of your bike and where your crank and pedal position is in relevance to the ground when you lean into that corner at speed… When in doubt, bring your inside leg up and allow all of the space between your pedal and the ground. 

Take the line you don’t want to! 

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Going around corners, or even along a straight stretch in a race, you will have to take a line that you might not usually take. There might be someone on your shoulder blocking your passage to the easier and more comfortable line around the bend… Expect the unexpected, expect to feel uncomfortable and learn to thrive off it. 

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Don’t do all the work! 

Sounds weird saying that, right? After years and years of having your parents and teachers chasing you, getting you to do all the work PLUS more. Here I am saying… You know what? Take it easy! Treat yo’ Self! 

Well… I don’t mean it quite like that! What I do mean is to not sit on the front for the whole race… It isn’t going to end well. Someone will be sitting on your wheel, who hasn’t taken a turn on the front, that have rested their legs while you slog it out the front doing all the work… And when it counts, they will raise their heart rate just enough to push past you, barely raising a sweat to victory…. Cycling isn’t a game of who is the fittest, but who is the smartest and has the strength at just the right time… Which is a nice little segue into…. 

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It is actually a race! 

Coming from a background of triathlon and running, criterium racing has been a little bit of a shock to the system. For triathlon and running racing you can set yourself goals. Goals like… I am going to finish an Olympic Distance triathlon in under 3 hours… Or I am going to run 5km’s in 20 minutes… You train, you go and race, and you achieve if you have done the work…If you are not having a good day and nothing is going to plan, you run in and the crowd at the finish line still loves you because you were out there smashing some sort of goals…

For triathlon and running races you can set yourself goals. Goals like “I am going to finish an olympic distance triathlon in under 3 hours”, or “I am going to run 5km’s in 20  minutes”. You figure out a plan or training schedule to get yourself ready for your race. You carry out the plan, train, and then you go to the race. Whether you smash your “under 3 hours” or “20 minute” goal, the crowd in the finish chute may or may not know how well you have done… They might not even know if everything has not gone to plan, and you are just putting one foot in front of the other to finish that race! 

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I will ride fast for chocolate… 

So in bike racing… You have done all of the kilometres, you have done your time on the bike… Thats fantastic! You rock up to your race, and you may or may not get the prime (sprint thing in the middle – as I like to refer to it as), you may or may not win over all, you may or may not get dropped… Unless you are doing an Individual Time Trial, there is no time orientated goal to achieve, it’s about staying with the group, conserving energy and using tactics! If you get dropped from the group (this hasn’t happened to me yet, phew!) I guess you can just roll off and adopt the title “spectator”… Or at least, thats my plan anyway!


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These are all great things to keep in mind when you are standing there nervously before your first race! Remember that above all else, the greatest things about racing are all the friendships that you will make! Have a chat with them before the race, and grab a coffee after and enjoy! 

I am all for taking turns, so if you have any hot tips you want to contribute, please share! 

Happy Riding xx 

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Thanks for the tips. I think about trying racing every now and then. I’m confident in a bunch with people I know all working together, but the thought of wheeling at high speed in a highly strung environment inches from other riders of unknown ability scares the hell out of me! It’s probably why so far I’ve only dabbled in time trialling.

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