Tuesday Night Twilight criterium

I raced my first criterium yesterday evening at Bike Monkey’s Tuesday Night Twilight series. I had fun but was over-eager, screwed up my racing strategy, spent too much energy early, and threw away a podium spot.  I coasted over the line in something like 10th place.

  • Duration: 30 mins
  • Speed: 23.1mph avg, 31.1mph max
  • Heartrate: 176bpm avg, 194bpm max
  • Est Avg Power: 247W


A crit is a time-bounded bike race around a short course.  The TNT is raced at the Sonoma County fairgrounds, a 0.9-mile course that we ended up circling 13 times.  The race is time bounded to 30 minutes, so we raced for 21 minutes and then were given the “4 laps left” sign.


It was cool (60F) and very windy, blowing across the front straight in gusts that were something like 18-22mph.  Drafting was hard and didn’t help much.  I think we had 20-25 people racing in the CAT 4/5 combined race.  I’m sick and didn’t feel very good, but had lots of nervous energy that I hoped would carry me through.

The first lap was super mellow.  I was worried about getting clipped in fast enough but shouldn’t have stressed, the pack was barely going 20mph by the first corner.  I tucked into 5th place and chilled out, trying to learn the course and figure out which way the corners went.  We lapped in 2:31.

The pace picked up for the second lap and was fast (25-27mph) from the back straight until mid-way down the front straight when folks sat up and looked around at each other.  I stayed up in the top 10.

Third lap was slower and I found myself out on the front with the eventual second-place finisher.  He wanted me to go with him out on a flyer, but changed his mind as soon as I agreed.  I’m not sure if it was head games or whatever, but after pulling at the front for a bit I thought “this is dumb” and tried to slide back into the pack.  Not easy when everyone just slows down and parks right behind you!  We ended up coasting down to 19mph, which felt like a crawl.

Folks zoomed down the straight and I found myself pushing 27mph again on the gentle uphill.  It wasn’t a preme (a mid-race bonus lap with a small prize for the first to pass the finish line) or anything, just people getting antsy and wanting to push, then immediately backing off.  Dumb move #1, why burn energy for no reason so early in the race?

Fourth lap was uneventful.  Fifth and sixth laps were my fastest laps at 2:11 and 2:12, an average of 25.1mph.  I think one of these laps was our first preme.  Someone went off the front and the pack refused to chase.  Everyone was looking at each other and the guy picked up the prize without even trying.  Down the front straight he kept looking back incredulously, lucky bum.

Seventh lap was a little slower, 23.8mph and 2:18 lap time.  I pushed the pace a bit on the back and back corner and even had a gap, but didn’t think I could get away and let the pack catch up to me.  Dumb move #2, why burn energy for no reason?  If I got a gap off the front maybe I could have picked up the preme.

Eighth lap was the second preme.  This meant the pace on the first half of the lap dropped as everyone milled around looking at each other.  It picked up on the back straight and I pushed hard through the back corner onto the front straight.  I grabbed the wheel of someone shooting past me and revved up to sprint, but after matching his speed I gave up and let him have it.  I came in right behind him at the line.

I’m not sure why I didn’t push harder.  True, we were up at 31mph and pushing some estimated 800W, but I remember thinking something like “eh, this isn’t worth it” and letting go.  Dumb move #3, why burn energy for no reason?  Go all in and win the prize or save energy and let someone else have it from the get go.  This lap wasn’t so fast, only 23mph on average, but the sprint down the back was quick.

I spent half the next lap recovering and two guys got into the front and then individually jumped away.  I didn’t pull the pack after them, hoping someone else would take a turn.  Yeah, people got up front, but they didn’t put any work in and the two guys built up a small and then larger gap.  By the time I was ready to go, they were out of reach and I realized I would be dragging everyone with me if I pushed to catch them.

Laps 10 and 11 were the fourth- and third-last laps.  They both went at 23.3mph (2:21) as the pack watched the two solo-ers slowly pull further and further away.  Again I found myself accidentally pulling on the front as I wanted to do something about the leaders, but no one wanted to work together.

By the second-last lap, I knew things weren’t going well.  The pack pace was dropping and the leaders were out of sight.  I decided to try to catch them, but didn’t want anyone coming with me.  I pushed hard from the start of the back corner and had a gap going onto the front straight.  I went hard, putting my HR up above 190 and my speed above 27mph.  It was hard.

I pulled a big gap and went over the start/finish line in clear third place with a 2-300m gap to the pack.  Up the slight hill into the front straight I kept the pace high, but then inexplicably sat up on the bike and let the pack catch me.  I don’t know why I did this.  Maybe I was tireder than I thought.  Maybe I didn’t think I could stay away.  Dumb move #4: why burn energy if you aren’t going to do anything with the effort?

This was what I regret most.  I’m sure now that if I just kept my legs moving and put in a semi-decent effort I would have had an uncontested third place and maybe could have caught the second-place guy.  The pack took a long time to catch up to me, even when I was soft pedaling below 150W.

Once the pack caught back up it was over.  No one went past me so I stayed out on the front and pulled them through the course until the back corner.  I revved the engine up for one last shot.  I went early, above 450W from the last corner and pushing to 650W by the middle of the front straight, but I was cooked and everyone else had been smarter and had more in reserve.

When folks started shooting past me I sat up and coasted across the start/finish line in something like 10th place.  My last lap was my slowest!  Urgh.

What a dumb racer I am.  Oh well, there’s always next time.

Lap Time Avg Spd Avg Pwr Avg HR
1 2:31 21.8 210 158
2 2:14 24.6 268 172
3 2:25 22.7 211 168
4 2:17 24 244 174
5 2:11 25.1 270 179 Preme?
6 2:12 24.9 291 180
7 2:18 23.8 283 184
8 2:23 23 247 174 Preme
9 2:24 22.9 242 180
10 2:21 23.3 257 183
11 2:21 23.3 247 178
12 2:25 22.7 265 180
13 2:34 21.4 215 185
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