Thursday, June 3, 2010

Crit Racing

Well, today was a big day for me - my first criterium bike race. And I got humbled. For the uninitiated:

criterium (noun): a very stupid race that appeals to cyclists for no known reason, where a pack of 75 or so riders goes in circles around a short course that takes about 90 seconds per lap at speeds at or approaching 30 mph, all the while everyone is redlining their HR and pretty much delusional, bumping into each other and causing crashes that commonly result in breaking $4000 bikes for prizes ranging from a box of Clif bars to a $300 check for the "big boys" winner.

I raced in the "little boys" division, and our winner got a bike pump.

These races, I discovered today, are not so much a measure of fitness (although you have to at least be fit enough to hang with the main group, or you get pulled off the course), but of racing tactics and recklessness/bullishness. You have to have a fighter's attitude to stay even close to the front, and you have to be willing to risk your health with pretty much every turn. This kind of racing doesn't play to my strengths as a rider, which makes the style all the more impressive to me. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the racers that do well, and I hope to improve as I ride more crit races in the future. What - you didn't expect me to just use "it's not my thing" as a copout, did you?

So, in summation, my lessons learned today:

- there are a LOT of better riders than me out there, and plenty of them live in the Seattle area
- drafting is smarter than trying to "outmuscle" teams of riders up a hill
- I have no idea what I'm doing when I'm riding in 4th place in a crit race, and in the few seconds I took thinking about this while up front today, I was passed by about 30 people. That's the kind of pace I'm talking about
- finishing a crit race is a victory for two reasons: a lot of people get pulled from the race after falling off the back of the main group, and just as many people end up meeting pavement and not finishing. It's a little ridiculous how good the odds are of getting involved in a crash
- cycling is way cooler than most sports
- watching a women's crit race is more enticing than reading SI's Swimsuit Issue anyday

And I'll leave it at that.

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