Dear Tom,
I like reading your articles, and was wondering if I could ask a bit of advice from you?
I am fairly new to cycling, one year, and I’m 31. I did my first race a 26.5 mile “crit” for cat 4 riders today, and whilst I finished, the others riders almost finished 10 minutes ahead of me.
I know that some of them have probably been going for years, I have to admit I was little disapointed at how far away I was, despite a fair amount of training I’ve been doing. I think that I possibly should have gambled and put more effort in getting near the front early on, but I was scared of burning out early.
My question is, when you were starting, how long did it take for you to get to a level where you started getting results, or did you just take to it straight away?
Hope you can give me a little shove in the right direction.
Cheers
Jack

 

Tom Murray Metaltek - Image Chris WhiteHi Jack, 

Great to hear from you and glad you enjoyed reading the articles, planning some more in the near future so watch out for those on cyclingshorts.
 
I started racing when I was 15 and rode for three years on the track before I picked up a road bike, this did give me a natural speed though so in the long run did my 
road riding some good I think, so I did have a young background in the sport. I can relate to you question and points, though my first season riding at an elite level in the crits was in 2007 and it took me the whole season to break into the top  20 in a national crit, thats maybe 20 – 25 events where I got better each time.
 
The key to riding a good crit is positioning: think of a devil / elimination event on the track where the last rider each lap is out, apply that to your crit riding. Before you set off say to yourself the first 15 mins I need to get myself a position in the top 15 riders, how hard you have to go to achieve that or as you say “gamble” is worth the risk to achieve the top 15 position. Once in the top 15 riders you have to work hard to keep that position, every time you drop out of the top 15 you need to get  back there as quick as possible. Don’t ride on the front though, rider 5 – 15 is ideal if you can achieve that.
 
Basically if you are outside of that top 15 you will be working alot harder as you constantly close gaps after each corner or attack while in the top 15 you are getting a smoother easier ride with less changes of speed, yes I know this isn’t as easy as it sounds, sometimes you may blow up from the effort of trying to achieve top 15 but keep trying it will click. Riding like this will also mean you make the front groups if splits occur during the race.
 
In answer to your other question:
How long did it take to get to a good level – 
 
I wasn’t someone who turned up and set the world on fire, I did three years living in Belgium hanging at the back of races occasionally knudging the top 20, just like you I’d get down hearted I’d been training hard and struggling to see how I could improve. After two years I sat down, looked hard at my training, got some advice and help and started to think what I needed to change to improve my results. Two years racing experience helped too, you start to understand how you need to ride the race to improve – eg the devil concept. In 2007 I came back to the UK and was the first U23 in the elite crit series. That gave me the confidence to carry on tweaking my training, I looked at how to improve my power in a sprint finish – using turbo training and efforts behind a motorbike and dropping long road rides and gained more experience from racing alongside crit experts in the Tour Series, it took me until 2012 though to achieve my goal of standing on the national crit podium. So it took some time but small improvements are possible quickly if you know what you want to achieve and think about how you can change, adapt or learn to get a better result. Basically if you always do the same you will always achieve the same result look at how you can improve and have the confidence to try it out.
 
Dont get downhearted, you learn more when you have a bad result than when you win, use it as the fuel to want a good result even more, look at your training, does it fit the sort of event you want to ride well in? Training needs to be specific to the event. Crits are a constant battle to recover before the next effort you need to simulate this in your training via interval sessions.The rest will come from experience, fight hard to get into that top 15 and fight harder to keep that position.
 
Hope that maybe helps to put you mind at rest a little.
 
Let me know how you get on and good luck, remember enjoy it too!
 
Tom Murray
@tomminty
Metaltek – Knights of Old Racing Team

If you have any questions you’d like a member of the Cycling Shorts team to tackle please just drop us a message via our contact page by clicking here.
 

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