In the race, but not on the bike

It hit me Tuesday that on that day it was a month since my racing accident. It has been a month with very little time associated with the bike. I’ve had several times on the trainer, but I can definitely tell I’ve lost some muscle and stamina. However, that isn’t all I’ve lost.

Racing your bike means more than just going fast on two wheels. There are relationships and connections with people and with events. When you are unable to participate, your connections to these people and activities grow weaker. I really feel like someone on the outside looking in.

I haven’t shown up for any of the races. Who wants to see someone in a neck brace and hand cast when they are getting ready to put their bodies on the line in a high-speed crit? Someone did joke that during the recent Domestique race I should have gotten a chair and set it up by the spot where I crashed and wave at the guys as they went by.

Be sure to race tonight for the Low Cadence primes!

So, then I got to thinking… how could I participate and be there even if I was not there physically? Enter that element of the criterium that everyone loves… the prime (pronounced “preem”).

In the criterium there are mini-races within the overall race. As the racers go around the course, the announcer will call for various races to the line. So, as the field completes a lap he will call out, “Cash prime on the next lap! Cash prime on the next lap!” Then those who are interested in getting that prize will put out an effort to finish first for that lap. Depending on the primes, it is possible you could collect a total value of prizes that exceeds the overall winner’s payout.

Of course, there is strategy involved. First, there is the announcer. He will often use the primes to get a race organized and moving. Let’s say that the race is starting to get a little boring because one rider has built a big gap on the field. The spectators would like to see that closed up — or at least see some other riders bridge up to him.

The announcer will call for a “field prime” for something really good… cash is always nice. A field prime means that the guy off in the break is not participating in the “race within a race.” Only those chasing him in the field can win it. Of course, that means they start picking up speed to race each other. Their acceleration to win the prime brings them closer to the break and sometimes initiates a catch by the entire field or those who hold the speed once the prime is awarded.

There is also some strategy with the racers. A most common one is to use the prime as a mask for starting an attack. Let’s say there is a field prime. The group is all together and no break is up the road. Suddenly three riders spurt for the line that happens to be set up just before a corner. Now is the time.

The field reacts in different ways. Some sit up because they don’t feel like exerting the effort to sprint for a prime that they know they won’t win. Others will go for it but not be able to stay in contact. The field is what we would call “strung out.”

The third rider has no intention of going for the prime. His goal is to start an attack. He is riding the wheel of the two riders in front of him. They are exerting to race each other to the line to win the prize. He is tucking in behind them conserving energy while forming a gap on the field.

When they cross the line, the winner of the prime slows to celebrate. The second place finisher pauses to rue what could have been. The third rider accelerates into the corner and works to build a gap. The whole dynamics of the race just changed.

So, primes are an important and exciting part of racing. Besides, when you pay your entry fee, spend time training, and spend money on your equipment; it is nice to get a little return for your investment. I know what it is like and that is why I’ve been happy to provide some primes for local races during the time I’ve been laid up.

Want to see it all in action? Show up tonight to race or spectate at the 2010 St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Race Series. Also known as the POA Summer Series at the BMW performance test track. It is a great place to spectate because you can basically see the entire course and get a better feel for the flow of the race.

Sometime, show up at a race with an extra $20. Go up to the announcer and tell him you have some cash for a prime. It is quite the rush to hear him call it and then see the racer digging for the line to win your Jackson. Really want to see them turn themselves inside out? Introduce them to a Benjamin!

As for tonight, keep your ear open for the Low Cadence primes! There will be a $20 cash prime in all four races. Of course, there will also be Low Cadence Coffee primes in those races as well.

I won’t be there, but the good news for me is I will be there for the July POA Summer Series Race! Don’t know if I’ll have the fitness to get out there, but I’ll be there without neck or hand brace. I can’t wait! Until then… enjoy the primes!

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About Jonathan Pait

Jonathan started riding mountain bikes in the early 1990s. After discovering the ride can start at the end of his driveway, he moved to the road in 2006. Little did he know that first pedal stroke would lead him on an adventure that has become much larger than the bicycle.