What is a good race strategy for a criterium race?

Every criterium is different in terms of course, field, and conditions.  All must be accounted for in your strategy.  Watch earlier races in the day to see how the course affects the field.  If you see the race single-file for long periods of time, the course has a strong effect on the outcome.  Look for tight corners, hills, anything that can help separate you from the field or prevent them from chasing.  Then consider the field, are there big organised teams present? If so, you're not going anywhere without them. Make sure you follow their moves.  If it comes to a sprint it all about positioning.  It is better to burn a "match" getting into position then it is to sit back and be 100% from deep in the pack. 

Play the race backward in your head. To be 1st at the finish, you need to be top 3 in last corner, top 5 in second to last corner, etc. Position is critical.  
Dont blindly follow the riders in front of you, take your own lines through the corners. It's easier to avoid crashes.

Finally, just go faster then everyone else. If someone will beat you by 3 bike lengths in a sprint, then start 4 bike lengths in front of them. 
Crit races can be tricky to race and can become very technical. When turning a corner in a pack, make sure and plan ahead. Try to position yourself so that you can make a smooth turn throughout the corner. Pick a line that allows you to make a “C” shape instead of an “L”. This will make it easier as you will not have to brake going into the turn and then accelerate out of it. In regards to a crit race with a hill, keep in mind who you are racing with and what their strengths are. Are they stronger hill climbers than you? Are you better in the flat? As a suggestion, if you feel you are not the best hill climber, start more forward in the front so that by the top of the hill you are in the back of the pack, but still in the pack. Your legs may be burning but tell keep telling yourself that you can do it and fight through it! Once you catch on the back and are dying, feel free to sit in and catch your breath again. Use this time to recover from your last effort and mentally think about the rest of your race. Consider how much time you have left in the race and where you would like to be positioned one, two, or three laps out. Slowly work your way through the pack and position yourself for the finish. Using mental imagery for race situations such as these is a very effective way to “play out” scenarios. Thinking about where you would like to be and how you are going to get there is a great way to prepare for races mentally. Before a race, close your eyes and think about your what your position will be, your breathing rate, perceived exertion, etc. Playing out different scenes in your head will better prepare you for the upcoming race.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.