Stupid/Lazy/Dangerous Leadout Tactics

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I just saw the video below. It is of the Tampa NCC Criterium. I explained my issues with the way the “Pro” teams ride criteriums nowadays. Sometimes during a stage race, it is the whole race, but when it is a one day race, they tend to only do it the last 10 laps or so at most. If you skip forward to 7:30 minutes into the video, you’ll see the start of the stupidness and resulting crash. This tactic needs to be addressed by the USAC. It is going to hard to make a rule that addresses it in all circumstances, but it is total bullshit. I’ve experienced it many time now.

What the United Healthcare team is doing isn’t unique to them. All the teams, that have the ability, do it. They go to the front of the field at a designated time and start setting tempo. They set an intentional slow tempo and ride the inside of the course. Notice the way that when you get to the 7:30 mark, they are riding up the inside of the start finish stretch. Right before the get to the first corner, they swing across the front of the field that has fanned out because of the slow speed. The UHC guys chop the field and it causes chaos behind them, resulting in the riders behind crashing. I know some of you are going to say that they didn’t crash the field. Not directly, but when the field is fanning out and braking before each and every corner, then crashes result. And it keeps going like this lap after lap, corner after corner. They ride slow tempo at the front and cause the following riders into a complete interval session of braking and sprinting before and after each corner. This isn’t a super great example, but it good enough to understand the practice.

Finally, the last lap they wind it up like a real leadout and string the field out. By that time the field is toasted or have crashed. Notice in the final sprint that no one is riding on the inside fence. Hilton wins in the right lane of the finish stretch, the natural line of the race.

I’ve been complaining to officials about this stupidness for years. It is illegal for one thing. Chopping the field on purpose, multiple times a lap is against the rules. Doing it just once is illegal. But no one does anything about it. Criteriums now have more crashes than ever before. Lots of guys falling, mainly at once. The reason that no one calls anyone on this is because not many people in authority understand the issue.

I think that the only way to control or better yet, just down right stop this tactic is to limit the number of riders any team can put into a criterium at 6 max. Better yet, 5, but I don’t think that will fly. It would still happen every once in a while, but not nearly as often.

All you guys in Colorado Springs that read this blog maybe consider address this problem soon. It’s been going on for way too long. Long enough that there are many good bike racers that have never raced any other way. It is normal race tactics to them. It is just bad bike racing, nothing else. Lazy bad bike racing. Dangerous bike racing. It needs to stop.

36 thoughts on “Stupid/Lazy/Dangerous Leadout Tactics

  1. Bob

    I guess on the upside… they might hold a pro license but in a real race against actual pros pretty much all of these NCC pro morons get their asses handed to them. 99% of those dudes seem to be professional cat 2 racers more than anything else.

    I’m doubtful the crit tactics will change unless an official who knows racing starts calling them out on those moves and handing out suspensions for a few races.

  2. Geo

    Crits have always been sketchy- but in the few years it seems to have attracted a different type of rider. It is one of the reasons why the sport has stagnated- it is becoming too dangerous.

  3. Brian P

    Hey Tilly –

    When you come down to Austin (and you are healed up enough), come race the Driveway again. Everything that is RIGHT about crit racing. Sold out fields and super racing every Thursday night. Plus announcers, free beer, kids laps, the BEST!


  4. andy

    I think the core of the issue is that, at this point, a lot of high level officials have either never been racers, or are so far removed from their racing days that they might as well not have been.

    We fight similar battles locally, just because our officials don’t have a sense for what goes on in a race, and they don’t know what to look for (or just aren’t looking at all). Pretty frustrating when they’re the largest expense that promoters of local-level races incur.

    (and yes, I say this as someone who’s held an officials’ license and officiated, albeit not for about the last four years)

  5. Gummee!

    So… what’s the answer?

    Hold the outside line till the corner and chop off anyone trying to sneak up the inside then?

    They’re at least consistent about it. Its not like its going to be a surprise after the first few times.



  6. Touriste-Routier

    I am not trying to blame the victims here, but isn’t part of the problem (hence laziness) of some of the other teams to try to take control of the front and set a higher tempo? It seems to me if another team wasn’t riding in the wheels (often easier said than done), and was fighting for control, that this wouldn’t happen. Perhaps this is a symptom of races where there is 1 obviously dominant team, so perhaps capping team size could help.

  7. Haha

    Reason I don’t bother doing pro crits. Have a job on Monday. I guess the pro Crit racers don’t. Watch the women’s Crit. Much better. Delray Beach. Crowell held the field off to win solo. Fantastic and absorbing racing. Let the boys fall off.

  8. Chad

    Steve as I see it the problem is uhc’s power. There is a reason the uci generally limits div-2 teams participation in events like these. If it was an all domestic field there might be 2-3 trains running against each other driving the pace up. (Because they think its possible) As it is we’re all waiting for uhc to drop the hammer and split it up. Usac needs to prevent them for racing against amateurs as before and take the big shark out of the little pond.

  9. chris

    This is the best advertising United Healthcare could possibly create to underscore how important it is for every rider in the peloton to have insurance.

    “Accidents happen, folks. We’re here to help.”

  10. kblob

    Racer and bike race fan here.

    But not a fan of criteriums. If I want to see NASCAR, I’ll watch NASCAR.

  11. tilford97 Post author

    I don’t know of a rule that could properly address this. Like I stated above, limiting field sizes to 5 would do the trick. Dave Pelletier, who promoted the Mayor’s Cup criterium series did a very good job at keeping the speed at the front of a criterium fast by putting 2 primes lines, one on the front of the course and another on the back, with money being thrown at the riders constantly. It made for very aggressive, offensive, bike racing. You were rewarded for going fast, taking chances off the front of the field. The series was scored by how much total money you made overall, primes and finishes.

    The inside out, wrong side of the road leadouts are common place now. I don’t see that changing. But when you have to sit through this for 90 minutes during a stage race, then it gets intolerable and asinine. Having 8 guys from the same team set slow tempo isn’t a way to draw spectators to an exciting event, which all national caliber criteriums should be.

    USAC is an organization to govern and promote bicycle racing the in the United States. They have pretty much dropped the ball on this one, letting it become the norm in criterium racing.

  12. channel_zero

    I’m not sure why you think USA Cycling is at all interested in improving these events. What are the goals of USA Cycling? Certainly not to have interesting domestic racing worth watching. They are not interested in increasing participation either.

    USA Cycling’s motivations are to monetize the sport and ship riders off to the elite International show. When the promoter pays for the privilege of being an NRC event, and USAC collects the tax on the higher prize money budget, and collects money from UHC for the privilege of being a UCI team, it’s mission accomplished for USA Cycling.

    I agree, if they limited the size of the teams in the race, it would be much better. But, that sets up a system where there’s a UHC-Trek of Omaha, UHC-Trek of Miami (or whatever) all working together to accomplish the same thing. That would need to be addressed.

    In this sense, Women’s racing is far more interesting to watch simply because it’s been largely abandoned by the UCI.

  13. Ryan

    Check the flag at full mast, maybe they are just trying to pinch the field off from the draft.

  14. Tim

    I did notice that there was a stiff wind blowing from the riders right as they came towards the finish / corner (@7:30). You can see the flag off in the distance on the left. This would be one explanation for why they were in the gutter on the left side of the road. I’d be there too.

  15. Adam Myerson

    Just as an FYI, last year USA Crits and NCC began limiting roster size to 6, for exactly this reason. It’s become a big part of why a team like mine (SmartStop) can be competitive with UHC. Still, we’re doing it with a lot fewer dollars, and are only this season finally strong enough to go over the top, which we were trying to do here. The crash took out half our leadout train, and held up our rider who lapped.

  16. AT

    A crit is by definition a lazy way of racing. A real bike race should last for min 4 hrs and fatigue should play a role. I think Americans need to stop racing these silly races and focus on getting better at actual bike racing. To put a crit in a stage race is just a cheap way to get an extra stage and is a sign of a true amateur race.

  17. Jack Sparks III

    more americans need to forget these crits and get back to the cobbles and roubaix style riding that makes a man a beast, not a crit “hold your line” type ninny

  18. Mike Rodose

    Waaah. Bicycle racing is dangerous. If you want to move up on the inside and try to “cheat and square” the corner…then you might get the door closed. And cause a crash.

    No problem here…move on.

  19. Jacob

    Adam, I’m glad you replied to this, because (a) other than Tilford, I think you probably have as much insight into pro racing in the US as any active rider, and (b) there were several MK riders on the ground in this clip.

    I remember watching the UHC train in Athens 2 years ago; a 14-man break (with 2 of their guys) almost lapped the field, then for some reason they decided to bring it back. They put 8 guys on the front and shut it down in about 5 laps. It made the race feel like a farce, and (despite Luca Damiani pulling out an incredible win), took away from the competitiveness of the race. There were other strong teams there – Kenda, MK, Elbowz, etc. – but they were outgunned 2:1 by UHC.

    So, this is an interesting perspective, and I hope it leads to better / more competitive races in the future.

  20. Michael Doupe

    USAC Rule: 1N7: “No rider may make an abrupt motion so as to interfere with the forward progress of another rider, either intentionally or by accident.” The front leadout rider’s move from inside gutter to outside gutter back to apex could certainly be interpreted as a violation of this rule. Look at the way he comes across the wheel of the Trebon-looking dude at 7:35 – 7:38.

  21. Adam Myerson

    Remember that year Luca won, 4 guys did actually lap the field, and one of them was Boy van Poppel. They attacked out of the break, and once they lapped, UHC chased the rest of the break down to make sure no one else lapped. Then they lost.

    3 of our guys went down in that Tampa crash, and if you look on the right side of the screen, you can see our guys trying to pass once UHC sits up. One guy makes it. 3 go down. The 5th guy is our guy who lapped, and he had to come to a complete stop.

    From our standpoint, it’s just bike racing. It’s the nature of crits. There’s definitely etiquette, and you can’t divebomb for no reason with 50 laps to go. With 5 laps to go? Welcome to the NCC, I guess. We do really like the 6-man roster, though.

  22. Mike Rodose

    Ridiculous. Put the rule book down and stop doing slow-motion replay of a non-event.

    The strongest were setting the pace and the line. Challenge it…but do it without cheating to the inside… that, but have the speed and skills to pull it off.

    Maybe, ultimately…that’s the point here.

  23. Mike Rodose

    Dear Jack Squat III

    Your fear of American Crit racing is obviously due to some severe and constant beatings. Most likely in Criteriums, by fast, powerful, skilled racers. Speed can be scary, Jack. It’s OK.

    Please let us know how your next Tri goes. They reward for participation…maybe a trophy at Registration. Maybe you can win the MS 150. No fast turns in that race…

  24. tilford97 Post author

    Michael Doupe- I know about that rule. I’ve tried to convince the officials at many racers that these inside out tactics are breaking that rule. I’ve used an example if the lead team decided to ride serpentine down the start finish line to hinder riders behind passing them, would that be okay? They say no. I say they are doing just that, just once each stretch of the course, right before each and every corner. It happens multiple times each lap, it is a so stupid and dangerous. It is very effective, but very wrong .

    Criterium racing is an important part of the sport and can be a very exciting aspect of the sport. It brings new spectators to the sport that hopefully will transfer into long time fans.

  25. Mark

    Crits are crits. You can and should expect a curtain level of craziness. Crazy tactics, crazy pacelines, crazy mystery shit for no valid reason. That’s what they are. And thats just the local crit practice when there’s absolutely nothing on the line. Now throw in a check for the winner and it’s just racheted up. You can expect a circuit race to be a multi-lap road race, but you can’t expect a crit to be a road race with a whole lotta short laps. UHC know exactly how to win these. That’s what their job is. Make the race super hard and very awkward for everybody following their train.

  26. Mike Rodose


    I am a Tilford “fan- boy”. But telling the USAC Beluga Officials to enforce that rule will be an absolute disaster.

    Many blogsters have recognized the non-racing nature of officials. Asking the Belugas to enforce this nuance of Crit racing…..No!! Police State…

  27. josh

    This is a reply directed to the douche named AT…A real bike race should last 4 hrs???? WTF?? Who are you? UCI Bob? Hell, the classics last 6+ hrs. How do you get 4? Try taking your 4 hr theory to the guys making a living racing cx. Or the dudes and girls who race BMX. A bike race isn’t defined by the time you friggin tool. It’s lining up on a start line with somebody holding a whistle who might happen to have a stop watch, bit their is a defined start and finish. Be it by time or location. Our bike racing here in the states doesn’t have to be defined by Euro racing. The perfect example is cyclocross and its growth in our country. Cycling in the U.S. is participant driven Sir tool. However our racing in the states is limited by sponser rollers and its limited support forvw big-time pro scene. So to think that Crit racing isn’t real bike racing cuz you or anyone says so….then entera velodrome and go tell that to the guys with legs bigger then Pro linebackers legs. Cuz you sir, are wrong on top of being a tool.

  28. josh

    Not every race can be Battenkill or Roubaix or Flanders. The location or the mileage doesn’t make it epic alone. It might help. But plenty of crit or cross race locations are made ‘epic’ because of the weather or the antagonists mixing it up that particular day. The debate here is not wether some of you hold the opinion that crit racing isn’t ‘real’, its wether the current racing in these crits is legal or safe. The Cobbled Classics last a couple of months in the late winter and early spring….so when these are over for the year, does every other race not count? Can you only race on shifty weather and cobbled streets for it to mean anything. If a pern feels that’s the case, then I would wager to say that that douche has never pinned on a race number and actually competed in any type of 2 wheeled man powered racing. I would also assume that, that same person actually has no idea what the f@#$ they ate talking about.

    That’s all I got.
    I’m out.

  29. Anthony Geller

    Mike Rodose, thanks for reminding me why I gave up officiating. I’d much rather spend my time riding or racing then subject myself to the attitude and abuse I got from far too many riders. (and yes, local races have been cancelled for lack of officials.)

  30. Bill K

    American racing is Criteriums…..period.

    That said, If a team tried that, in one of my pudknocker masters races, I’d have a huge impulse to pull a “Gaggioli” on them, after the race.
    Half that team should have been DQ’d, and then suspended for 3-4 weeks.

  31. AT

    That should have been a ROAD race, not bike race.

    Let’s take an example, you’re racing for UHC. Unless you’re part of the team that goes over to Europe and does some of the HC categori or above, the biggest race of the year is either TdC or the nationals. If you keep on doing 90 minutes crits, you’re going to get eaten alive at those events. You need to 200km races like an addict needs his fix – no substitution.

    And I don’t mind racing a crit for speed training every once in a while, but the tendency to include a crit in a stage race is just foolish.

  32. Adam St. Germain

    I tried to reply directly to Myerson, but the link isn’t working.

    I’m wondering if you (Adam) think there will be more “creative” situations in the future of a combination of pro teams with amateur riders there to help?
    To be specific (and of course it’s limited circumstance) with Nathaniel Ward, does this allow you seven riders, even though the rules call for 6? Since Nathaniel isn’t a pro, can still enter the race as a 1, and it’s clear where his loyalties lie?

    For the record, if what I described was the intent, I think it’s a very smart work around of the rules.

  33. Adam Myerson

    That is and will be against the rules, and was not at all our intent. It doesn’t matter if they’re pro or amateur, they’re all registered to the same team and wearing the same kit, and so count against the total roster. No clever work around intended, nor would that, in my opinion, adhere to the spirit of the rule, which we support.

    The 3 amateur riders we have associated with the team are people who work for the team but happen to also still race at a high level, race locally for us, and will occasionally fill roster spots when needed.

  34. Dan

    I was racing a local Cat 3 crit last season, on narrow residential streets. Moving up in the pack was very difficult without moving out of the draft and sticking your bike between the gravel shoulder and the rider’s handlebars on your left or right. Or, the other option was to divebomb in a corner – a move that I have been told is perfectly acceptable long as you can do it smoothly. I did that, about mid-race, because I had to move up, but I followed it up later on a straight by threading the needle between the line of riders and the gravel shoulder to get me into the top 10 wheels. When I divebombed, one rider wasn’t too happy and gave me shit, but he’s known as a whiner. No one else seemed to have a problem with it, because I did it cleanly, and seamlessly intergrated back into the main draft. In a race, if you see the front swing way out before every corner, and you need to move up, I think “cheating up the inside” should be a valid move if you can do it safely, right? I mean, we’re racing bikes, right? Usually, I will use a straight to move up alongside the pack, but sometimes the speed is too much for that, and I find it harder to move out of line (and maybe not as safe) during a fast straight away. I could do that in Cat 5 and 4 races, but doing that in the 3’s is much harder. Divebombing may be essential if one can do it safely – by safely, I mean square up the corner and cut the apex off so you don’t cut off the main line of riders, and then smootly flow back into the main pack after the corner. I realize that squaring up the corner and cutting the apex requires you to lean it hard and have good handling skills, and not slide out and cause a huge crash. I have been crashed out by a rider taking the inside on a corner and sliding out into me…but that’s racing and the risk you take in crits.


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