Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The biggest race of the year

The biggest race of the year* is coming up this weekend. Have you made plans to attend? Even if you're not racing, you should still get out and watch.

*Biggest race of the year applies to the communities of Midvale, Lehi, Bountiful, and Holladay.

Of course I'm not talking about that race in France where some 60 kilogram Spanish guy will have his way with all comers, and the only drama will be the race for second place or the number of times Paul Sherwin wrongly picks Juan Antonio Flecha to win a stage. I'm talking about good old American crit racing. Laps around a city block. Fast, spectator friendly, cheer for people you actually know kind of racing.

The organizers have done a great job selecting courses, so racers and spectators alike should be in for a treat. If you've never raced or watched a crit, it may just look like a bunch of guys riding in circles., which is essentially what it is, but it's a little more nuanced than that.

Chances are that someone who doesn't like his chances in a big bunch sprint will try to establish a break. Teams that do like their chances in a bunch sprint may put someone in the break, either because their guy is a better sprinter or just so they don't have to chase. If one or more teams don't like the composition of the break (they don't have a guy in it or they do have a guy in it but don't like their chances against someone else in the break), they may chase it down and force the cycle to start over again. It's difficult for a small break to stay away if the main bunch is working together to chase it down, but it's rare for the main bunch to work together. Many riders will either let it go because they have a teammate up or because they know if they work to chase it, they'll burn what matches they have and get an even worse result than if they just sit in and save something for the end.

If it is all together at the end, the last few laps will be the fastest of the race. It's rare for a break to get away at the end, but that doesn't mean people won't try. The field will be strung out single file, and the sprinters will be looking to get to the front, ideally with some help from teammates to provide a leadout. Well-organized leadout trains like you see in the pros are almost nonexistent in amateur racing. The more likely scenario will be sprinters following the guys they know will try to make an early move and trying to get on their wheels for a leadout.

Whether spectating or racing, you should have plenty of chances this weekend, with racing from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Midvale and Lehi on Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, and racing from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. in Bountiful and Holladay on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Will you be there?

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