Weeknight Crits: The Right Way to Get Dropped
With the advent of Daylight Savings Time, the weekly crits have started for most of us, offering an excellent mid-week training and racing opportunity. Some of you will get dropped. I’d like to talk about the right way to get dropped.
I started racing the Memorial Park Crit in Houston in 1997, and I got dropped plenty of times. When I moved up to the A race, I got dropped again. There’s no shame in getting dropped; it’s happened to all of us at least once. To me it’s a badge of honor. It means you wrestled your demons and gave this racing thing a try. Or it could mean that you’ve decided to step up to the B Race, or maybe even to the A race. It means that you are the man in the ring that President Roosevelt lauded. No matter how you do in the race, you are lapping all the people sitting home on the sofa, right?
So let’s get past the idea that getting dropped and lapped is somehow shameful. It’s far from glorious, but it is paying your dues, and this too shall pass. Now, let’s talk about the right way to do it, so it shall pass a little faster, shall we?
The rules of crit racing say that a lapped rider may re-integrate with either the break or the field, meaning you can jump back in when the come by. You can’t do any work (take a pull) and you’re not eligible for primes (that’s when the official rings a bell and we all sprint like mad for a $2 energy bar). But you can definitely get back in the group.
The surges, sprints, and corners are what make crit racing so difficult, and so much different than any other type of training or racing. You might be an elite triathlete or king of the Saturday morning shop ride, but if you’re not used to the surges, you will get dropped.
Inevitably, dropped riders will perform a solo time trial around they course, trying not to get lapped (or not lapped again). This drives me crazy! The right thing to do is sit up, catch your breath, and wait for the field to come around. Try to time things so that you’ll get caught not at the hardest or fastest part of the course, and jump back in.
You have paid $15 for the privilege of doing a race to work on your cornering, pack riding, and surging abilities. Why would you ride around by yourself? You can do that any time, for free! Don’t waste the opportunity to get better! If riding around by yourself made you a better crit racer, you wouldn’t have been dropped in the first place.
We get better at the things we practice. If you want to be a good crit racer; try, try again. Keep getting back in that field, and digging deep, until, one week in the not too far distant future, you’ll finish with the field on the same lap.
Now there is a little bit of etiquette here, for both the lappers and the lappees. If you are getting lapped, pay attention to the faster riders coming up behind you, and don’t get in their way. If you are lapping someone, call out and let them know you are coming.
For the riders jumping back in the pack as it comes around, do so where and when it’s safe. Don’t ride at the front of the group, and if you feel yourself getting tired, drift to the back so that you won’t open a gap when you come off the pace. Also, it’s considered polite to withdraw from the field with 5 laps to go, so as not to interfere with finish (this is also safer).
To the riders in the pack, doing the lapping. Remember that you were there once, too. They paid their money and pinned on a number, and have every right to be in the field, even if they are 12 laps down. Encourage them, give them a little room, and maybe even a friendly push to help keep the pace.
Steen Rose is the owner and Head Coach of Athletes On Track and an Elite Coach for Training Bible Coaching. He has been competing in cycling and multisport events for 16 years with 13 state titles and 3 national medals to his name. He has been coaching since 2003 and works with all ages and abilities of athletes locally, nationally, and abroad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org