Teaching Criterium Tactics Using On Board Cameras

In cycling, it's not always the strongest person that wins; it's the smartest. Conserving energy, exploiting your opponents weaknesses, reading the competition in front of you, and using the race course to your advantage are all things that are required to get to win. In bike racing, we call this "Race Smarts," and it comes easier to some than others. But that doesn't have to be the case anymore. With on board cameras becoming more widespread, race tactics doesn’t have to be such a grey area. Now what would normally take years to master can be focused on, and result in winning races.

Here are two examples of athletes that attended local races with an on-board camera (in this situation a VIRB camera) and the feedback we were able to give based on its contents. As you watch these short clips, see if you can spot anything that may help your own racing.

Tour of Nevada: Jeremy Stitt, FTP= 325 watts; Threshold Heart Rate = 177 bpm

Overall Takeaways from this race:
This was overall a solid performance where Jeremy mixed it up and played his cards for the win. To get closer to the win, I recommended a 3 ways to improve: First, find a groove within the course and get to the front quickly. This will help save energy and be in the right moves early. Staging and pre-riding the course will help with this. Second, Make sure you are doing your best to tuck in and save energy when you can. Finally, Commit during your attacks, check behind you for followers, and if you don't let the situation sit up and try again later. Maximizing your efforts, conserving your energy, and playing those around you is crucial. Jeremy got 21st in this crit but since then has improved his criterium tactics and won the Truman Cup July 25th, 2016!

Tuesday Night Training Crit: David Gray, FTP = 307 watts, Threshold Heart Rate = 170 bpm

Overall Takeaways from this race:
The biggest takeaway from this race is to simply always ask questions during a race. Why is that rider doing that? If I attack here would I be wasting energy, what am I to gain? Am I pulling the field around with me? How do I save energy here? These questions will save you a lot of effort and likely put you ahead of your competitors. This was a Tuesday night training crit for Dave who has gone from middle of the pack to getting into breakaways and contesting sprint finishes. Way to go Dave!  

As a coach, teaching an athlete how to read a race can be just as important as building up their motor. Teaching techniques were limited to x & Y since it’s rare for a coach to be able to race alongside their athlete for the entirety of a race. Two years ago, I had a different idea. An athlete of mine who lived 850 miles away would affix his new Go-Pro to his bike during the race. We established a DropBox link for him to share the race files, and during our next consultation, we'd walk through the race move by move. We spotted bad habits, places he was wasting energy, paces he was conserving, and even the moment when he lost the race. Thru the use of an on board camera eventually we could even spot his race winning move(s).

Since then, multiple other FasCat athletes have signed on to On-Board Camera Tactic Analysis. We combine the video with standard metrics (Power, Heart Rate, Speed & Cadence) from their TrainingPeaks account, giving the coach an almost complete understanding of how the race played out the moment the file is uploaded.

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About Isaiah Newkirk

Isaiah has been coaching for 12+ years and a FasCat Coach for 6. He came to us as a graduate of collegiate cycling powerhouse Marian University competing in Track, Road, and Cross. Isaiah raced Professionally on the Road for years, racing all over the world, and doing iconic US races such as Tour of Utah and Tour of Colorado. Since "retiring" he has shifted focus to doing races to the likes of LT100, Unbound, and other endurance events. Isaiah started coaching in 2008 when he was asked to coach a little 500 team in his home town of Bloomington, IN. Since then coaching has become a passion for Isaiah and he is eager to help any rider achieve their goals and potential. Isaiah has coached athletes to National titles, World Titles, and to the professional ranks. Isaiah is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach, TrainingPeaks Level 1, Certified Skills Instructor, and was a speaker at the USA Cycling Coaching Summit 2020. Isaiah is also director and performance manager for Domestic Elite Team : Project Echelon.

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