Leonardtown Criterium

Another MABRA classic. This race has been around for years, give or take a few. The town is great and the course is challenging.

There are only 3 real turns on this course, and two of them are fairly basic 90 degree turns with wide roads. The third turn (actually the first) is what makes this course the favorite of some and the not-so-favorite for others.

From the start line, the field first has to funnel down from what feels like four lanes to two. As you approach the first turn, the road rises slightly and then dips down into the turn. The apex of the corner is basically the bottom of the dip. The road then rises back up on other side of the apex. There is a line in this turn that you can use that will requires the least amount of braking. But be careful - the road you are turning onto is narrower and cuts back making this a sharper turn as the speed goes up.  The riders at the front will be rolling the whole way; the further back you end up, the slower you will be taking this turn. And if your field is big, you will be standing still while the front runners are sprinting away at top speed.

The back stretch is pretty basic with a dog-leg in the middle. Anyone in the back half of the bigger fields will end up working on this section just to close the gaps that will open in the first turn.  Just as things start to come back together, you will be setting up for the second turn and then the third which puts you back on the finishing stretch.

With all that in mind, everybody who wants to do well in this race, and who is riding in a large field, will want to do what it takes to stay at the front or at least near the front to avoid having the burn all their matches just to close gaps after every trip through the first turn. This means never relaxing or becoming complacent with your position in the field. If you have a good spot, someone else will want to be there and as soon as you relax you will be pushed back down the bunch.

When it comes to the end of the race, a well drilled team can setup a leadout with 2 or 3 laps to go and put the hammer down coming out of the first turn on the last lap. The goal should be to hold the speed up high enough to keep your sprinter from getting boxed in as you head into the second turn. The last leadout man should be ready to pull all the way to the last corner and then get out of the way. The distance from the last corner to the finish is only about 200 meters (if that) so the sprint will start just before or just after the last turn.

Preparing for this race should include anaerobic repeats and plenty of bike handling drills to build confidence. Since part of the challenge will be to stay out of trouble from the gun, a good hard warm-up is important, making sure to include several intervals at and above your threshold. Time your warm-up so that you can head to the line within 10 - 15 minutes. That means you will want to pre-ride the course before you do your warm-up so that you are not on the back stretch when the field gets called to the line. Pre-riding the course before your warm-up also lets you mentally prepare and review any obstacles that might be on the course and to think about what it will take to win this race.

I have seen this race come down to a field sprint and I have seen break aways go early and late. Do what works best for you and expect to change your plans at any time.