Criterium, a short and intense road bike race, takes place over a few city blocks with challenging curves and short climbs. Riders compete for a certain amount of time plus laps, with the pace picking up in the closing laps. The race tests the rider’s ability to handle their bike in tight and dangerous situations, making it physically intense. Criterium races are perfect for spectator viewing and have become popular worldwide.
Bike racing takes many forms depending on the type of bike and the intensity of the race. Perhaps one of the most intense and spectator-friendly forms of road bike racing is the criterium, or crit as it is called in cycling circles. The criterium takes place over a short course, typically over a few city blocks that have been closed to automobile traffic. Courses are typically three miles or shorter, or less than 5 kilometers or shorter, and during the criterium, riders make several laps around the course at high speed. The route often includes challenging curves and short climbs.
The criterium is a much shorter version of a multi-stage road race, typically lasting forty-five minutes to an hour. While the structure can vary from race to race, a criterium usually has riders ride the course for a certain amount of time plus a certain number of laps, such as forty-five minutes plus five laps. The pace of the criterium race picks up in the closing laps as the riders position themselves for the final sprint.
In order to keep the rest of the race at a competitive pace, riders will compete for early laps, where the winner of that particular lap will win a small prize or accolade. The first lap in a criterium is to ensure that the riders don’t sit down and spin slowly to save themselves for the final laps, and it also serves to sort out the different types of riders in the peloton: some riders will race solely to win the main laps, while others they will compete for the overall victory. Other riders may perform a “helper” function, aiding a teammate in his quest for victory.
A criterium race tests the rider’s ability as a bicycle driver. It is imperative that a racer be able to handle his bike in tight and often dangerous situations with other racers in close proximity on all sides. Cornering ability is vital in a criterium race, as is the fight for strategic placement in the peloton throughout the race. Criterium riders must also be at the peak of fitness and possess the ability to attack and chase when other riders attack. This dynamic makes for a physically intense race. Because the criterium race is held on such a short and compact course, they are perfect for spectator viewing and have become extremely popular in the United States and around the world.