Moving up in a Criterium Pack

In a Crit, if you are not moving up, you are moving backward because everyone is moving up.  If you can’t see the top 5-10 riders, then you need move up.  This has to be a key focus for the whole race in order to make the crit easier.  If you find yourself near the back of the pack and you want to move up, what do you do so that you are not pack fill?

You basically have three options:

  • Move up inside the pack
  • Move up on the Left and Right
  • Move up around the corners

Moving up inside the Pack

Moving up in the pack is a great way to conserve energy, but requires aggressiveness and the ability to see and create openings.  Moving up in the pack will take a few laps to accomplish significant movement towards the front.  The key to moving up in the pack is using gaps to “ladder” your way up, and using your bike and space to get guys to move where you want them to.  Typically, there will be two ways to move up in the pack:  Straight up through a gap between two riders, or diagonally.  Straight up is rather clear, but you have to be aggressive to fill the space or the two riders could close the gap.  Moving up diagonally is more tricky.  This next example assumes that you are in a pack that is rather tight and everyone is wheel to wheel.  First, you need to get your handlebars ahead of the rider beside you. If your bars are ahead of his, you control where the two of you go. Then, you should accelerate forward and to the side, the rider next to you has to move with you in order to avoid hitting you.   Keep in mind, riders will always let you do more work then less.  Once you decide a space is big enough and you’re going to accelerate forward between the two riders in front of you.  As you move into the space the riders will need to move over to let you in if you crowd them in.  This takes practice and comfort riding really close in a pack.   

Moving up on the Left and Right

When you move up on the side of the pack you can make a lot of spots quickly, but you will use more energy then moving up inside the pack.  Some factor to consider when moving up on the outside:  length of the straight, direction of the wind, position of the pack the road, free ride, and  the speed of the pack.  The longer the straightway the more time you will have make up space.  The longer the straightway the more the accordion effect will be, which allows for you to hold to the outside/inside longer and gaining more spaces.  Many times, as you head towards the corner on the outside, you can use the accordion effect to move up a lot spaces.  Moving up on the inside before a corner can also be an effective when to gain spaces, but will sometimes will require using the gutter during the turn if the guy inside does not let you in :).  If you move in very late, you will piss off people and create a dangerous situation so use this cautiously.  The pack will make it easy to move up into the wind so be careful that you are not spending a lot of time moving up into the wind since you will burn yourself out quickly.  If the pack is over to one side or the other, you will have the space to move up, but if pack is pushed on the gutter it will be harder to move up.  The best way to move up on the sides is to catch a free ride up.  If you are positioned on the outside, you will be able to catch a wheel as a rider pass you.  As you see the rider moving up past you, you need to start to move over as his rear wheel passes your front wheel.  If the rider already has a follower, you will need to decide if you can get wheel or take follower’s wheel.  Usually if there is a gap, you take the wheel.  If the pack slows, you can expect that many riders will be moving up and swarming towards the front.  If you had a nice position, you can easily end up in the middle if you don’t push forward. 

Moving up around the Corners

I like to use corners to move up.  This is basically like moving up inside the pack, but slightly different and requires good cornering skills.  When the pack heads into a corner most riders will slow down and spread out.  Don’t slow down and fill the gaps.  If you get good at this, you will use a lot less energy sprinting out of the corners because you will be holding more speed through the corner.  You will be easily be able to move up a few spots during each corner.   This takes practice and each corner will have a different dynamic so you need to get a feel for this technique. 

Practice Makes Perfect

Group rides and training criteriums are the best places to practice moving around the pack.  In order to stay near the front of a crit, you have to focus on staying up front. One of the best ways to simulate those demands in training is to start at the back of a group and move up to the front as quickly as possible without ever going to the outside of the pack . You should practice moving from the back of training criterium to the front.

The race is up front so stay up front.  If you want to win a sprint or get into the winning breakaway, you have to be up front. 

Ride Fast,

Steve