CRITERIUM RACING 101

criterium, or crit, is a bike race consisting of several laps around a closed circuit, the length of each lap or circuit ranging from about 1km to 1.5km.

Race length can be determined by a number of laps or total time, in which case the number of remaining laps is calculated as the race progresses. Generally the event’s duration (commonly one hour) is shorter than that of a traditional road race — which can last many hours, sometimes over the course of several days or even weeks, as in a Grand Tour. However, the average speed and intensity are appreciably higher. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line without having been “lapped”.

Events often have prizes (called primes, pronounced “preems”, and are usually cash) for winning specific intermediate laps (for instance, every 10th lap). A bell is usually rung to announce to the riders that whoever wins the next lap, wins the prime.

Success in road criteriums requires a mix of good technical skills — in particular, the ability to corner smoothly while holding the line on the road, as well as rapidly and sharply — and riding safely with a large group on a short circuit and exceptional “sprint” ability to attack other riders and repeatedly accelerate hard from corners.

Criteriums do not require a large amount of space, and are good for live spectators as they allow them to see the riders pass by many times.

View this high speed, high intensity race from a corner to see over 100 riders lean their bikes into a sharp turn while riding shoulder-to-shoulder, or watch at the start/finish line to see the ultra-fast sprint specialists go for cash primes. Many other locations on the course will put you within a few feet of the riders at full speed – just remember keep your hands behind the barriers!