Anyway eveything I know about road riding would fit on a postage stamp. So last week I did my wikipedia research on criteriums and here it is for you other postage stampers:
- Short course road race held on closed off city streets (in this case West Chester)
- One hour duration (which amounted to about 50 laps)
- Prizes (called "primes" - in this case cash each time a racer won designated laps)
- High speed, hair rasing turns, lots of contact, and some spectacular wrecks
IMHO this is one awesome spectator sport. The first few laps of each race were hair raising, with probably 75 professional riders careening and bumping down the straights and diving into corners in tight packs mere inches from the specators standing behind fences and haybales.
The riders were averaging 35mph which made the laps about 90 seconds each. A "support" car (pimped out Subaru) would lead the pack with lights flashing and horn blaring, and a referee on a motorcycle trailed the pack. Announcers kept us appraised on the race overall and official clocks timed the overall race and the lead rider (so it was easy track the chase groups). Bike shops set up on the closed streets to raffle bikes and give away bike schwag, the sidewalks were crammed with spectators cheering and ringing cowbells, and the always excellent West Chester street scene was in full swing with restaurants and bars overflowing onto the sidewalks.
We parked ourselves outside the Iron Hill Brewery (very convenient) looking straight at the "pit" where a continuous stream of mid-race mechanicals were serviced by a SRAM crew (check out the left middle picture in the collage above - the racer is in the pit on one of those crazy isotruss bike frames). The first 10 laps of each race were intense and it was risky standing by the rail - lean in more than an inch or two and you were likely to be clipped by a rider. Being so close you really got a great sense of how each rider was doing (strong vs suffering vs resigned) and with so many laps you quickly identified with a handful of individuals to follow throughout the race.
It was an awesome evening even for a devout mountain biker, I highly recommend it. Put this on your calendar for next year.
P.S. Here are some more Pictures taken by someone with more camera and much more talent that I...