Homme’s Guide to #winning the Campus Crit.
[Originally appeared in 2007 prior to the LGR hosted return of the defunct Campus Crit. Homme was an original founder of BikeThrow. Please enjoy. -BTDCdc]
I’ve never won the Campus Crit so, naturally, I decided to write a post about how to win it (unfortunately family commitments won’t allow me to try this year - so somebody else can take my strategy to victory).
(NOTE: This does not take into account team tactics which would make this post too long and probably would not help many of you).
First off, this isn’t a race where you can sit back and wait for something to unfold and then react. The course it too narrow and the winning move can happen at any point during the race so you need to be vigilant at the front for the duration. Use the course setup to your advantage so as not to exhaust yourself. The backside of the course (East River Road) is more open, and most attacks will happen there. Stay to the front there and use the corners and hairpin section as a place to relax and recover. (NOTE: you can pedal at race speed around the first 3/4 of the hairpin, but stop before you exit the corner - stay off the brakes in the corner)
Make your decision if you are going to follow a move (or make one of your own) on the backside of the course. If you wait until the technical section, it becomes a series of brake/sprint/break/sprint which may stretch out the field, but is harder to get away cleanly. If you’re bridging a gap, you definitely want to get away cleanly. Dragging others up will only incite the field to want to do the same.
Avoid breaks that do not work well together and/or do not share the load. Here is a clue, if there is a lot of yelling and screaming, it’s a bad move. If you are with a group that is rolling nicely, using corners to rotate, taking steady pulls, you have a good chance. The right move will just feel right - it is hard to describe. If it is the “right” move, commit yourself to winning from the break and forget about the field sprint (this means making sure the break stays away). If it is not the “right” move, you’ve got a couple of options. Either way, don’t commit your energy to screaming at your break companions, it will do more harm than good, just roll though and bide your time till the field comes up. When they do, either reintegrate or counter in hopes of getting into a better break.
Wining from a break:
I won’t go into the myriad of ways in which you could “sneak” away solo from the group because a) this is a super subtle tactic that I don’t have the eloquence to describe and b) if you are crafty enough to do that, well, you probably don’t need to be reading this.
To win in a sprint, you first need to make sure nobody gets away from the break. One way to keep the attacks at bay, in the last few laps, is to keep rolling through. If a non-sprinter senses people sitting in, they are more apt to make a move which will sap some of you sprint to cover. You need to be decisive and go with your first instinct when the attacks do come. If you are going to cover it, cover it immediately, don’t hesitate for one second. If you are going to force the others in the break to cover it, make sure they know that you have no intention of covering the move, even fall off the back a bit. This way, if a CF ensues, and everyone decides to watch someone ride away, you can jump the group with some momentum and attempt to bridge solo. If you hesitate and wait for others, then cover as soon as nobody else moves, you will have to give 2-3 times the effort to cover while giving the others a free ride.
With a small group sprint on this course, if you have a good jump, just make sure you get to the hairpin cleanly (you will want to be in the first three coming into the hairpin). First or Second is ideal, but you can come around from third if you jump hard early. One block after the hairpin, the road curves left then right, this will narrow the sprint line, make sure you don’t get pinched here and have to stop pedaling (or you are done). If you don’t have a great jump, you need to get around the hairpin in first, bottom line.
Winning from a field sprint:
If you haven’t seen the front of the field the entire race and you are planning on moving up on the last lap, think again. This is a bad idea that will probably end with your ass on the pavement, along with a few new “friends”. If on the other hand, you’ve proven to yourself that you are strong enough to ride at or near the front, you need to start your sprint planning with five laps to go. The front of the group dynamically changes the last five laps and you need to get a feel for how you are going to position yourself on these laps. Stay calm, don’t fight it, just roll with the flow, reintegrate yourself into the line that moves forward, and stay away from DF’s (you know who you are!). If you are able to hold your position at the front by “riding the wave” and not pushing, shoving, screaming, and hollering, then you are ready for the final two laps.
Last two laps:
Don’t worry about the other sprinters, this is not a finish where you can bet on the “best” sprinter guiding you to the last 100 meters. Stay in the top five and be as calm as can be. This is the time to be more assertive about position. Don’t allow yourself to be swarmed and make sure you are on the side of the field that moves up and not back.
The key to winning the sprint is to move into the top three on the back side of the course, late if possible. When you get to the corners, you want to be in the top three (without having to sprint to do so). The sprint is actually pretty easy, Jump before the hard left-hander that takes you out to the hairpin, make sure nobody passes you before the hairpin, sprint a straight line from the exit of the hairpin to the finish - sprint up the left side before the bend, straight through the mini-bend, the right side after the bend (refer to the green sprint line on the map - notice there is no room to pass you on this stretch).
After you win, donate your check to the Twin Cities Chapter of the American Red Cross on behalf of Little Guy Racing and in honor of those who are affected by the tragic event yesterday.
[For those unaware, the 35W bridge collapse happened 3 days before LGR’s event, see photo below. -BTDCdc]