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Sunday, February 20, 2011

This American Bicycle Race

This post is all about "classic American bicycle racing".  Ladies and gentlemen, My World From a Bicycle presents for your viewing pleasure, "the criterium".

This type of bicycle racing is by far the most common form of licensed/sanctioned road bicycle racing here in the States.  It's the easiest venue for race promoters to produce/organize.  Criteriums are born from the necessity of having to operate many different categories of races (juniors (under 18), women, men, ranked categories (professional thru level 5 amateur), and masters (typically 30, 40, 50, year + ), and obtaining permits for race operation and street closure, combined with safety concerns of securing the course from cars entering, and placing crowd barriers and covering fixed objects (such as fire hydrants and electric poles) with straw bails etc.  All racers are licensed and insured through the governing body, USA Cycling.  The rules of the sport can be read here.

I would like to point out that the below series of videos were actually made possible from a sum mountain of technology.  Beginning with digital technology of computers, internet, YouTube, Blogger, HD Hero cameras, SRM wireless watt meters, several computer software programs, carbon fiber, etc.    And get this........ it's free to view, pause, rewind, jump around and skip, share with others (please do), comment on, or........... *gasp* ignore.

It's my thinking that this race is particularly worth viewing (in part or whole) because of several reasons including:  1. The forward and aft camera perspective gives a more complete view and understanding of the race activity.  2. The embedded speed, wattage, and cadence data.  This information really shows how much a criterium is a "gas-on/gas-off" style of racing.  (for the non-informed, this is fast and hard racing), 3. The level of competition is very high.  In fact, unusually so.  This particular race is typically a regional amateur/professional level race, but on this day it was very much a national level race.  In fact, this race had at least 4 current National Champions including David Henderson, Jonathan Jacobs, Eric Young and Daniel Holloway (current USA Professional Criterium Champion - he's wearing the yellow leaders jersey), and other former National Champions and at least one former World Champion (Steve Tilford).  4.  This race is viewable in it's entirety, and to my knowledge, this is the first and only place that this has ever been done (in this viewer friendly format)

This race took place on Saturday Sept 4th, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri and was the 2nd race of a 4 day race series.
click here to link to the race site

Race results can be found here. 

I would like to point out that I have a music player device that you may activate at your liking (located on the right column, 2nd item from the top).  The embedded video's audio can be muted or the volume can be controlled with the tool bar settings under the video.  Additionally the video can be "full sized" by clicking on the expanding arrows on the toolbar and the video quality level can be controlled as well..

This is a lot of video time (the entire race is about 90 minutes) and I know most people won't have time to view the entire series, so I plan on writing  a summation of the key points under each clip with a time point, so that viewers can skip to or choose which section might interest them.

The above video (first of 12 part series) opens with all of the racers at the line and the announcer calling up the top race leaders of the omnium series to the line, including 4th place Chad Cagle from team Park Place Dealerships, 3rd place Brad Huff from team Jelly Belly (professional cyclist), 2nd place Rob Bush from team Kenda Pro Cycling Team, and onmium race leader Daniel Holloway from Bissell Pro Cycling.

1:10 officials race instruction, 2:20 message from City Alderman Donna Barringer and introductions to Jimmy Mcevoy @ 4:10 who sings the National Anthem (well done btw).  The race starts at the 6:00 minute mark. 

(above video 2nd of 12 part series) I quickly advance around the pack @1:12 and bridge up to 3 riders @1:43.  Daniel Holloway (in yellow leader's jersey)  can be briefly seen returning to the field @2:25 (? possibly returning to the field after taking a flyer for a prime?)

I briefly take the race lead @2:41.  Jonathan Jacobs pulls by me (too fast in fact) @3:30 and the peloton recaptures me @4:09.

This clip above (3rd part of 12 part series) opens with me advancing to the front of the chasing peloton (there are 6 riders off the front and out of camera view.  This is noteworthy because the previous video footage doesn't show that riders have gone off the front of the field because of me riding in heavy cycling traffic.  I am aware of a break-away because I can not see the lead pace motorcycle).  I make a full pass @0:52.  Daniel Holloway blows past me @ 1:01 (note how fast he blows past me.  I'm at full throttle).  I claw my way back onto his wheel @ 1:40 and I slide off his wheel to draft off the 3 riders who were drafting off of me (James Stemper #111 Kenda Pro Cycling, Jonathan Jacobs #61 Nuvo Cultural Trail, and Eric Young #131 Nuvo Cultural Trail.

I am completely red-lined (suffering hard) and I try to recover by skipping a few pulls.  My next pull is @3:16.  My chase group of four catch the lead break-away of 6 riders @ 4:09  Colton Barrett #120 Texas Roadhouse, Nicolas Coil #22 Tradewind Energy, James Stemper #111 Kenda Pro Cycling, Alex Wiesler #119 ISCorp Cycling Team, Robert White #106 Kenda Pro Cycling, and Josh Ginningham #122 of ISCorp Cycling Team. 

From 7:40 to 8:00 is a good view of the newly formed winning break-away group.  Note that we are riding single file and absolutely flying.  This is the most ideal way for a group of this size to motor. 
The effects of aerodynamics is HUGE in road racing, time trials, criteriums, and even sprinting.  Drafting can reduce oxygen costs by 25 to 40 percent.  Here's a great illustration of the effects of aerodynamics and drafting:  a world class track team time trial riders can produce the following average wattages in a pace-line.  First rider will produce around 607 watts, 2nd rider 430 watts, 3rd rider 389 watts, and 4th rider 389 watts.  Notice that there is a decreasing advantage drafting in 3rd position over 2nd, but no further advantage after 3rd position. (See my post on aerodynamics for more information on the subject.)

The most interesting occurrence in the above clip (number 4 of 12) is @1:47, when James Stemper (#111) of Kenda Professional Cycling, sees me falling back, out of the rotation so that I can skip my turn pulling (I'm suffering pretty badly at this point from earlier efforts and I'm trying to recover a bit.  I'm not certain that I am going to be able to hang.)

Mr. Stemper informs me that if I try to just sit on and not take my turn pulling, he is going to ride me off the back.

Perhaps because he knows that I'm filming this (I don't know), he is extremely polite about  how he tells me this and I acknowledge him accordingly, and we do a sort of low "five hand" in a sporting gesture of acknowledgment. Based on his smile, I think he finds the whole thing amusing.

Note:  The most ideal method for dealing with a rider who refuses to take a turn pulling is for everyone in the break to take turns drifting off the paceline with the "wheel sucker" on their wheel and then sprinting hard, back onto the group.  If everyone does this repetitively, this will eventually cause the "wheel sucker" to fatigue and not be able to claw their way back onto the group.

I don't believe there is yet an official name for this procedure, so for the sake of discussion, hence forward, let's all agree to call this activity of getting rid of a wheel sucker, Operation Drizzopple! 

So if you hear someone say, commence operation drizzopple on rider so-and-so, you will know exactly what to do.   

In the above video (number 5 of 12) I skip a couple pulls, still trying to recover and begin pulling again (too hard from the looks of it).

Meanwhile @2:26 Holloway is trying to commence operation drizzopple on the Kenda rider James Stemper.  In my reviews I was surprised to see how many times these guys were bumping heads.  Also I now see the irony of Stemper warning me not to wheel suck. 

@ 1:20 Texas Roadhouse rider, Colton Barrett gives a friendly hello wave. 

Above video (number 6 of 12) is fairly routine.  Most notable items are at 3:10 when Holloway jumps hard around Nicolas Coil who allowed a gap in front of him in the rotation (probably due to fatigue).  Also the rider James Stemper is not only just sitting on, but also screwing up the paceline when riders are trying to get on the back of the train after taking a pull.  This is evident at the end of this clip and running into the next below. 

There is some cool moto/cameraman action @ 6:26 (above video, number 7 of 12).

Some riders get gaped off @ minute 7:32 by one rider slipping off the pace and causing a gap.  Two of which are Nicolas Coil and Colton Barrett; they don't make it back onto the lead group.

James Stemper of Kenda Pro Cycling starts pulling. 

Everybody is pulling hard.  Very hard, and fast. 

(Above video is number 9 of 12).  @6:16 I sprint for and win a prime.  I didn't plan on going for it, but I was in the lead position coming out of the final corner because of the natural order of the rotation.  I went as hard as I could go and won the prime prize. I thought it was either $100 or $200, but it turned out to be a free night in a studio suite at The Residence Inn, Marriot, in St. Louis (I haven't used it and most likely never will).

Even though I was dying from the prime effort, I kept my speed up so that they wouldn't surge past me and drop me.

Incidentally, Josh Ginningham (#122) of ISCorp Cycling Team was dropped from the surge during the prime.

(Above video is number 10 of 12).  I skip a couple rotations in this clip because I am way over threshold and I was feeling like I was about to die.

The rotation is quite smooth otherwise and of the group there are two teams with team-mates, Kenda Pro Cycling and Nuvo Cultural Trial.  They almost always stay together in the rotation order, which is advisable.  If an attack or opportunity to attack occurs, they can work together. 

Above is the last video of this series; also the last 5 minutes and 51 seconds of the race for me.  By the completion of this race we've covered 70 kilometers or 43.496 miles in 1 hour and 25 minutes and 35 seconds, averaging 46.884 kph or 29.1 mph.  I averaged 317.5 watts.  With out a doubt my personal best effort in my entire bike racing experience.  I;m super glad that I was able to record this race as I have.

@ minute 2:15 of this video with 1.75 laps to go Jonathan Jacob takes a monster pull with me on his wheel and the rest of the remaining members of the break-away in tow. The riders include myself, followed by Daniel Holloway (Bissell Pro Cycling), Eric Young (Nuvo Cultural Trial), James Stemper (Kenda Pro Cycling), Alex Wieseler (ISCorp Cycling Team), and Robert White (Kenda Pro Cycling)

@ 2:46 I pull out of J.J's draft because of his monster pull.  I didn't want to have to immediately "pull through" with the finish being so soon (especially after his surge).  I wanted to get back in the draft.  As a result, this created a gap that nobody closed and J.J. was gone for the win.

Keep in mind that J.J. had a team-mate, Eric Young, in the break and he's an outstanding sprinter.  Eric certainly wouldn't pursue his own team-mate  I wouldn't pursue for the previous reasons mentioned and additionally J.J. is personal friend.  Other than me winning, I would choose him to win every time (and Brad Huff...... he's super cool).  Daniel Holloway certainly didn't want to give chase and pull Eric and the others with him, only to be beaten in the final sprint.  He probably thought as I, that J.J. wouldn't hold us off for the finish (which of course he did). 

@ 3:25 Holloway makes his bid in response to the Kenda Pro Cycling rider James Stemper's attack (just before the 1st turn).  We quickly make the catch and I produce a classic textbook counter attack @ 4:18 by launching a full effort through the inside of the 2nd corner of the course.

I cross the finish line @ 5:31 with riders quickly closing my gap, but not in time for the finish line. 

To learn more about the camera that I use to film from my bicycle click here.

To learn more about the bike telemetry that I use click here.


  1. Just started following your videos... Found it on youtube when I looked up the Forest Park Crit. I want to get into racing here in St Louis this year. And your videos are phenomenal. The wattage that you were putting out were faster than my sprints. Right now I can hold 215 watts for 20 mins. It looked like that was your recovery pace. Any tips on increasing that power?

  2. Duc Tang: Don't fret too much on comparing your numbers to mine. 1st of all, my wattage is at a top amateur/professional level. Secondly, weight must be taken into consideration. Heavier riders must produce more watts to go as fast as lighter riders (especially when accelerating and climbing hills). Also I suspect that your watt device may not be very accurate (215 watts sounds low for a 20 minute effort even for a light rider, but again you might be quite light.... which is great for bike racing).

    To increase your wattage and race better read my post on the subject.

    I also think it would be a beneficial for you to read my coaching posts. They are cataloged in this post.

    Good luck, and most of all, be safe and enjoy riding your bicycle.

  3. yeah 215 is what I do.... I weigh 145lbs. Since I'm on the trainer, some folks have told me it's usually higher outside. I'm thinking I need to be in the range of 300+ watts for 20 minutes. I'm off to reading your posts.

  4. Yes, it's a bit easier to produce watts on the road vs the trainer. It's hard to say how much, and will vary among individuals. At anyrate, I'm 20 pounds heavier than you. And yes, at 300+ watts you'll be flying.

    BTW drafting is a huge deal. It can be the equivalent bumping your 215 to around 280 (depending on the conditions). My aerodynamics post explains it pretty well.

  5. Thanks for this, Dave. I'm doing my first crit on Sunday. Goal #1: not to crash; Goal #2: to have fun (though as long as #1 is achieved, #2 will be as well).

  6. Good luck Yvette. You'll never forget your first race, and based on your goals, I predict you'll have a good time.

    My biggest advice for new racers is to try not to "half wheel". It's covered in this post, which you may find helpful.

  7. Thanks, Dave!

    The post was very helpful, even though I don't expect to win or have a podium finish this time (but then again, when I picked up my bib # yesterday, there were only three cyclists registered for the Women's Cat 4 race). And I promise not to half-wheel.

    Even though you have officially retired, do you plan on spectating at all this season?

  8. Dave,
    Just finished the 4/5 forest park crit field size 75.
    Every corner we hit, we slowed down big time and then sprinted out big time. I was trying to constantly move up, but kept finding myself at the back, as the people behind me dropped off.

    Ended up crashing a couple of laps into it.
    I was on the inside of a corner and coming out, my handlebars hooked up with another rider's handle bar. We went down + one rider. Ended up getting a mechanical / free lap, after they fixed my bike (chain, brakes, handlebar). Rejoined the back of the pack and stayed with them until the last lap, then it picked up. Finished just off the pack.

    Do you have tips on how to stay towards the front? And are those corners hard for most people? I hate sprinting out of every corner. Gosh, it really wears on me. In your videos, you're going through them so smooth! I tried doing the outside.inside/outside, but there's too many people in the way!


  9. Duc, welcome to bike racing! It's a tough sport. I'm glad that you were ok and got back in the race. Good for you!

    Interestingly, faster races tend to be safer than slow ones. Why? Mainly because as the speed increases racers tend to become single file and are not all bunched up. As you now know, bunching up isn't good. Plus when a rider slides out in a turn (when going fast and single file), often that is the only rider who goes down. The rider is usually swept off the course by their own momentum and the following riders may pass cleanly.

    Here's a couple things to do to stay towards the front. 1. start at the front, 2. pick out riders who tend to stay at the front and try to shadow them, 3. be prepared to race your ass off trying to stay at or near the front and keep focused at ALL times to maintain a safe line (limit half-wheeling of course).

    Most riders will naturally move about within the field in a race due to a series of variables. During slower corners I would suggest the outside line. You are traveling a greater distance, but your speed is higher so you will have less accelerating out of the corner. On fast corners you should try to be the inside rider (remember: riders slide out and will take outside riders with them).

    Lastly, if you find yourself near the back of the pack it may be better to be the last rider so that you can control your speed by floating off the pack before the corner so that you have a more steady speed (instead of hard braking and hard sprinting).

    Keep in mind, the last rider will miss all break-a-ways and is easily gaped off the peloton when leading riders falling off the pace.

  10. Thanks Dave. I'm excited about the next race already. I'm going to do the Tour of St Louis Circuit + Crit. Hopefully the field size will be smaller. It is really difficult to maneuver around 75 other people. I have my power data for the first 11 minutes (till the crash).

    avg speed was 24.2mph.
    avg power was 210
    np power was 251

    The last part of the race I don't have power data for since my powertap computer broke off. Although I just superglued it back to the bike, so it's ready for another run.

    I'll have to start a blog and do videos with the power overlay like you do soon. I'm such a nerd. Probably have to stop crashing so I don't break camera equipment.

  11. Hey, I just stumbled across this. Nice post and good video, although I have to say that is about the most boring criterium course I have ever seen!

  12. blah blah blah


    who care?

  13. by the way your welcome

  14. Just getting into cycling, and this is one of the best, most informative and educational series of videos I've seen. Great stuff, thanks.

  15. Andrew: Thank you very much for your comment. I appreciate it. :-)

  16. Thanks for sharing. i really appreciate it that you shared with us such a informative post..

    Sold on racing

  17. Hello,good to read out the bicycling racing and very much informative post. Here one thing I like to say during slower corners I would suggest the outside line. You are traveling a greater distance, but your speed is higher so you will have less accelerating out of the corner. On fast corners you should try to be the inside rider. Thanks.



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