Hagerstown Challenge Criterium

This is a great neighborhood course with fast front and back stretches and some challenging bits on the ends.

The course starts easy enough with a drag race to the first left hand turn which leads into a bit of a rise. The flyer says a slight uphill, but this starts to feel more than slight after a few laps. Not terrible, but you will be working on this part even sitting in.

This uphill terminates with a quick drop to the only real tough corner on the course. A downhill, off camber, tighter than 90 degree turn that, when taken alone is not all that bad.
The back stretch is straight with a small amount of elevation change so the speed will stay high back there.

The next left is onto another slight uphill which quick turns down into the final turn onto the finishing stretch. These two turns are no brainers as the road is super wide.

So, what to do with a course like this. As always, hanging out in the back is the quickest way to use up your energy, so staying up front is the first goal of anyone who wants to score a good result here. The further back you sit, the more you will be on the brakes in turns one and two which will wear on you as the race rolls on. Turn one leads into the uphill which means if you have to brake a lot, while the front riders are carrying their momentum from the fast straight into the first part of the hill, you will be on the gas from bottom to top. Turn two has it's own challenges for carrying speed. Adding a bunch of riders going progressively slower to the mix just means you will have to jump that much harder to stay in contact on the fast back stretch. If your field is big enough, the riders at the front will be at full speed while the riders at the back are still on the brakes trying to negotiate the turn.

A strong rider or team can take advantage of all this by keeping the pace high early on. This will help to eliminate anyone with a bad position at the start, or at least make them hurt. This course can result in either a break surviving or it can come down to a field sprint. A strong team can decide how they want things to play out.  A strong individual will need to pay attention to what is going on and try to figure out what the big teams have in mind. If you are a break away style rider, you will want to be in any move that has representation from the big teams.

If the race comes down to a sprint, it is important to get into a good position and then defend it. On this course, I would suggest aiming for a spot in the top 5 going into turn three and then staying hard on the gas into turn four to carry your speed into the sprint.

Training Tip: Make sure you do your sprint workout efforts starting from different speeds. The neuromuscular coordination involved in sprinting from 15 mph compared to sprinting from 30 mph can be huge. Include sprints from 15, 20, 25, 30 and faster in your sprint workouts. Also, practice shifting as you sprint. In the old days, riders had to pick their gear for the sprint sometimes 2 turns before the finishing stretch. With STI style shifters, you can shift your bike like you would your car, increasing the gear as your speed goes up. That way you can start your sprint without getting bogged down at first and then shift up as the speed increases, or down if you are sprinting uphill.