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To flesh out the question with more (hopefully useful) information:

The average speed of this particular local flat criterium race is 47 kph (achievable with a cadence of 90rpm in 46-11) and a peak speed of 58.3 kph (achievable with a cadence of 115 rpm in 46-11).

In this instance it would be my first crit race, my expectations would be to not get dropped. I have raced cyclo cross before and consider myself to have a poor sprint. If I was to attempt to win a race like this I think I would have to be on my own.

whilst it seems achievable I assume I am missing something key here and there is a good reason why 53-39 on the front appears to be the most common gearing in racing.

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  • 46T is cyclocross gearing. But if 46-11 is your top road gear there is no disadvantage.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 22:13
  • 1
    115 is not a fast cadence.
    – Emyr
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 10:14

1 Answer 1

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Normally, I think most racers have a tendency to be over-geared, but in your case you may find yourself under-geared. That said, if it is your first crit, just race what you have, the experience is the most important thing. I am also a bit suspect of the win off the front by a first-timer strategy. If you have the opportunity to win, take it, but don't be disappointed if the race turns out to be much different than you are currently envisioning.

Anyway, some reasons why you may be under-geared:

Efficiency

When using a chain drive, Big-Small gearing combinations are not as efficient as Big-Big. You could be putting your drive train losses as high as 5% running such a small gear on the rear cassette. I suspect you will also be racing a cyclocross bike (which will be a disadvantage), the efficiency loss will be another disadvantage.

Surges

The pacing of a crit is not as constant as a time trial or cyclocross race. Often there are very fast surges, and your peak speed can be quite fast if you choose to close the gap between groups. I am not sure where you got the peak speed of 58.3 kph (a friend I assume). Speeds can change from year to year and by rider strategy. Peak speeds of 60-70 kph are not entirely uncommon, especially if the course has a downhill section or there is a strong tailwind on the day.

A Note on Strategy

Riding off the front on your own in a crit is a pretty tall task. Doing it at an average speed of 48 kph is pretty monumental. That would put you into the realm of a top-end professional.

My honest advice is to skip this strategy altogether. Rather focus on your position with in the peloton, keep moving up, and stay near the front, but don't ride at the front or off the front. Your goal should be not to do anymore work than is absolutely required to keep a good position. Don't chase down breaks or initiate breaks. Wait... as painful as that sounds.

Count your laps, know when you're 10 laps out, then start moving to the front. Sit in until you are two corners out, then get ready to go, follow anyone moving up. Don't do anything more until you are 400 m out. Then give everything you got and see where you finish, you might surprise yourself. 90% of sprinting is positioning, timing and reading the race.

Standard Gearing

Standard gearing is 53/39 on the front, simply because the speeds are much faster in a group than on your own. That said, even in Cat 1/2 I only ever rarely used a 53x11, even in crits where the speeds can often average 55+ kph on faster courses. A compact gearing (50/34) will likely be fine.

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  • All good advice, but especially about experience. In Cat 4 you can have a mix of abilities, so watch and learn. You'll see mistakes, and good race craft. Listen to the what people are saying after the race. Maybe someone will give some advice, but what they say to each other can be interesting too. Take it all with a pinch of salt. (A buddy recently won his Cat 2 race. The other guys asked him how it happened - he said by accident! Of course it was no accident, but he wasn't giving away his winning tactic).
    – andy256
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 2:37
  • I did not make my question clear enough apologies, I was attempting (and failing) to point out I dont think I could win unless I miraculously found myself on my own, as you point out and I agree this is highly unlikely. I am sure my cda would be far the biggest limiting factor my cx bike to be able to do this. Just one last question if your racing with a power meter could you use the training stress score accumulate during a race to influence strategy decisions positively?
    – user95786
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 9:34
  • @user95786 - Doubtful. Don't limit yourself by preconceived notions of performance. You want to break through those. The only real-time numbers I ever found useful was a lap count (GPS computers can be set to auto lap by location). Sometimes heart rate, so I could focus on keeping it as low as possible. Beyond that, it is better to react as required to the situation at hand. Give everything until they tell you to stop or you win ;-)
    – Rider_X
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 18:44

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