Criterium Blues? Take a Chance and Lead it Out

Photo: Jesse Hammond/

By now, you've settled into your groove of racing. Your race results may have gone just as planned, but many of you may be stuck in the doldrums more than the winners circle.

Criteriums can become lackluster events with mid-pack finishes, but a little reshuffling of your finish tactics can change this.

If you are a mid-pack finisher in most sprint finishes, try taking a chance and do what most say not to do: Try leading out the sprint and take a chance!

More: Tips for Your First Crit

You might have even found that this strategy worked in the past to garner a top result if you were the lead-out man for a teammate. Many times in pro events, the lead-out man also places top-10 by simply doing a duty for another. It can be surprising that by just taking the initiative you will get a better result than the usual tactic of sitting in and staying protected.

By getting out front early in the sprint, you force others to come around you. You will have the initial jump, and most of the time you wont get passed until the last few meters.

By starting your sprint farther back, you may not make up any placing at all. By just lengthening your sprint and being the first to go, you may really surprise yourself as to how much better you do place.

More: How Great Bike Sprinters Are Made

Leading out a sprint is also a method to take pressure off of yourself. By pressure I mean a lot of cyclists never really give it their all in the final sprint. They are consistently holding back and worried about getting the optimal draft and practice the usual sit-in-and-rest tactic.

By always looking for a wheel to draft to conserve energy, many criterium riders actually end their sprint with too much in reserve. This becomes a mental barrier that will always keep them from going absolutely 100 percent.

Heck, you may even tell a teammate about your proposed new tactic and ask if they will act as your sprinter. If youve never tried teaming up for the race finish, you may be surprised how well it works.

If your teammate cant come around you in the sprint, at least there is one more wheel that your competitors have to try to overcome.

If you do team up with a teammate, do some serious discussions first and maybe do some fun homework.

More: Criterium King Davis Phinney Shares Wet-Weather Secrets

One good thing to do is watch a tape of a pro field sprint and pay special attention to how teammates work with each other. The pros will get together with as much as 40 miles to go in a big road race.

The point is, dont look for each other in the last lap. That is too late. You need to get together with at least 10 laps to go and stick together. Staying together is the hard part; but with practice it gets much easier.

By just making a commitment to another person you may elevate your results to the next level.

More: 5 Tips to Faster Race Finishes

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