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7 things you need to know about bike racing

March 31st, 2009 · 6 Comments

As I’ve been racing lately, I’ve come to realize that I am really a rookie. In my mind and heart, I have experience – but in reality, in these USCF races, I am a newbie. Let me clarify this by saying that I raced in college HARD for two years, then continued into USCF for 1 year. Then, in 1999, I ran my first marathon. I got married in 2000 and have raced less than five criteriums per year since the then. This is the first year, that I’ve decided to put forth serious effort into cycling because in my heart, I’ve always been good at cycling. Note: I do not train like the other girls do! In fact, I train so little that my neck doesn’t understand my need to keep it up and seriously cramped in yesterday’s race and is still sore!

What the heck is a criterium?

It is a timed race. The course is usually around one half mile and we do laps until the judges alert us to having five laps to go. Most courses will be a flat, four corner course. There is usually sprint laps for merchandise prizes.

Some races will look like this:


Very difficult, technical 6 corner criterium with an uphill climb to the finish. The more I did this loop, the more comfortable I became with the corners. I can tell you that I am really laying my bike down in the corners to keep up. However, I believe there was still a pause in certain corners for me- which causes a gap between me and the riders- which means more WORK for me. The technical aspect of this is the keep your inside leg pegged to your top tube. Keep your hands in the drops, counter steer with your opposite hand. (Davis Phinney taught this to me years ago at a women’s bike camp).

The Start


Half of me (in red), teammate Andrea and Wendy on the end. Who is focused in this photo? (We are riding for Team PossAbilities now).

MUST be able to get clipped in FAST.

Fitness does count.

The week prior to the race, I rode my trainer once for 45 minutes (zone 4 intervals) and rode outside once for a total of 30 minutes. I expect my body to go where my brain wants me to go but my lungs are not keeping up.

Hard Effort

Save your hard efforts for the last lap and then give it all you’ve got. No need to “work” or even ride in position one unless you have a teammate up the road or there is a break off the front. I do too much “work” and then blow up at the end. Why? Not sure, but the more I write about it, the more I realize how foolish it is- given my lack of lung capacity at the moment.


The above diagram shows how many turns there are in the race. It’s a tough, technical crit. Best position, third from the front and out of the wind. I’m learning. This one was a 3/4 race which means it was fast and aggressive.

The Finish

As much as I want to say I’m disappointed ( I am), the fact of the matter is that I am still learning and relearning the skills of bike racing. Upon returning home from the race, I told hubby of the finish, and he said, “you rode once!” My teammate Wendy, kicked ass! Great job Wendy. I need to learn from you!

Questions about bike racing? Would love for some more experienced women cyclists to add their two cents to criterium racing…Are you reading this?

This is FUN, right?

If it wasn’t so fun and addicting, I wouldn’t be doing it. Just need to keep reminding myself of that.

The Recap of the Redlands Criterium 3/4 Race

One incredibly generous Cat. 1 woman from Wines of Washington team, Gina, came out at 6 in the morning to help us prepare for the race. She rode with us for a good 25 minutes and showed us how to go around the corners fast. This was an amazing confidence booster for me- except, I could feel my lack of fitness in the warm-up!! Gun goes off at 7AM and we are to race for 40 minutes. We had prime laps almost immediately and there were a lot of them. Wendy is racing in 3rd position and I was bouncing around in the field. I took two hard pulls at the front and that was two too many! Air, I needed more air. Finished in 10th position. And the race was much longer than 40 minutes! More like 45 and– no idea how many miles that was- but I’d bet at least a 20 mile race.

That’s a lot for a mommy who rides outside once per week!

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Tags: Cycling, cycling apparel, accessories · contests

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Joe Hrdlicka // Mar 31, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    This has to be so much more intense than the racing portion of the triathlon event. I can’t imagine! I’d get tangled up with someone, wipe out and cause a pile up.

    Joe Hrdlickas last blog post..Ease Off The Treadmill To The Outdoors

  • 2 RunToFinish // Mar 31, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Everything about bike racing scares me…all those people, I’d totally run in to someone and I hadn’t even considred corners!!

    RunToFinishs last blog post..Newman’s Chocolate, Awesome Almonds, Abs

  • 3 Furman // Mar 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Yes, we’re reading this! The best way to learn about crit racing is by doing the Early Bird Crit series that start in January. These crits all have more experienced racers mentoring the newbies. You can find a listing of these races at:

    You might also want to consider a couple of other factors when preparing to race; a bike fit and skills clinics. Having a good bike fit is absolutlely crucial to effective and efficient bike racing. With a good bike fit, you will be able to produce more watts more effectively and be more comfortable taking those tight corners. Get recommendations and pay good money. It’s worth it. Also, there are a ton of skills clinics offered early in the season. Being confident and comfortable on your bike goes a long way to staying out of the wind and away from crashing. Lori Lee Lowen of Velo Girls runs a women’s specific skills class that you might want to check out.

    Mostly, I encourage you to ride and train with other cyclists. You’ve got to ride to race. Nothing takes the place of it. Plenty of women out there that I could introduce you to as well!

    Good Luck!

  • 4 Kara from MamaSweat // Apr 1, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    You made ME have an adrenaline rush reading that last graph!

    Kara from MamaSweats last blog post..Postpartum Fitness Illusion

  • 5 Fitness & Fun for the Whole Family // Aug 17, 2009 at 5:16 am

    [...] or particularly fast.  It was technical- due to the narrowness of the turns, but, nothing like the Redlands Classic.    In the beginning of the race, I always like to take an early sprint to see how my legs are [...]

  • 6 Lost Your Sport, Find CrossFit // Aug 4, 2011 at 4:13 am

    [...] time, I also loved food!  For two years, I ran.  Then, I transferred to a 4 year school and found bike racing through a friend.  I got addicted to that real quick because I was good at it without a lot of [...]

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