Less critical of the crit

Billy White told me it would happen. It has taken awhile, but what he predicted has come true. I’m actually starting to warm up to criterium racing.

It is a good thing too. Criterium racing is the primary way American cyclist compete against each other. When the summer months arrive, all across the country you will find racers going round and round on short courses. That time has come!

2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red

My crit weapon of choice: 2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red & Boyd wheels

The big daddy to kick off criteriums here in the Southeast is the Athens Twilight. No, it has nothing to do with vampires. The sucking going on will be competitors trying to gain an advantage – or merely survive – by riding the wheel of the racer in front of them.

Athens Twilight is now in its 30th year. The race has consistently brought over 30,000 spectators to watch the racers compete under the city lights. It is an atmosphere the fans and riders enjoy.

However, there is another criterium series kicking off. The 2010 St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Race Series kicks off tonight at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, SC. The series returns to the track after a year away with racing at the old Greenville Braves Stadium. The performance test track was a favorite venue and you can expect fast racing — depending on the winds.

Check out the event page over at POACycling.com to learn more about the race. Especially if you are a cyclist just beginning to race, consider cutting your teeth out at BMW. Rather than really sharp turns, the Summer Series crits feature more sweeping turns that allow you to get more comfortable with the speeds often associated with crits.

What exactly was it I didn’t like about this style of racing? Part of it was simply that I’ve always thought that road racing was the purest form of bicycle racing. Varying terrain, distance, and team strategy over the course seemed more like the types of racing you see in the Tour de France.

However, more than that, I was scared. Crits typically are under a mile in length and involve at least four turns. Depending on the course, these turns can be rather abrupt. So, you have 40 guys going 25 mph into a 90 degree turn and it can be a recipe for disaster! My first ever race was a crit and I went down alone in one of these turns and dislocated my finger.

The crit is also hard. In road racing, you can more easily sit in and cover the distance waiting for the final move of the day. In criterium racing, you have to know how to handle your bike but you also have to know how to accelerate. Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Pedal… Pedal… Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Over and over you go.

However, I have come to enjoy the race as I have come to understand it better. Admittedly, it is also more fun as my bike handling skills have improved and my training has helped me learn to manage the acceleration. One of the things that makes it enjoyable is that there is continual action. There is very little of just sitting in and getting pulled along. You must be fully engaged for the entire distance.

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Peformance Center

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Performance Center

Tonight I should have double the fun. My coach has me doubling up racing the Category 4 race as well as the Masters 35+. I’ll finish the first race and then line up immediately for the second race. I’m glad he has confidence! Hopefully it will be contagious.

Come on and give a crit a try. You might find you like it… after awhile.