Last night was the local annual Criterium bike race. It started at 16:30hrs, after warm-ups, and had everything from Citizen class racers, to the Pro level. These guys and gals take this thing SERIOUSLY!
Despite having ridden bike much of my life, and classifying myself as an avid cyclist, this marks only the second bike race I have ever watched in person. Oh, I TV-watch the TdF, and the Spring Classics when I can find them on Versus (or whatever they call themselves now.) But I'd never been to a race before last year.
The course is about a 1 mile loop, and the racers make around 10 passes, so I think it is a 10mi course total. As it takes place in the heart of town, the streets are paved, but not necessarily track-smooth either. Add to it, the constant 90deg turns, especially around town square and the courthouse, with its brick cross walks, and sheer speed on skinny tires, and you have a recipe for disastrous crashes. Last year we saw some scary ones, that involved thousands of dollars of wrecked bikes, and worse, broken bones and serious road-rash. Fortunately this year, we witnessed no crashes, though we did see plenty of road-rash on some of the racers.
The best viewing was on the final corner before the sprint to the finish line. We were fortunate to snag a table on the inside corner, and had a great view, with almost zero risk of catching a flying bike or rider in the face...bikes and riders fly a long ways if they crash at 30+mph!
For most of the race last night, weather was good, if humid, however as the women's race neared its close, the lightning began to fire up (as darkness settled down on the course) and we bailed. None of us relished standing around in the incoming storms , and I'm wondering if they even cancelled the last P/1/2 race with all the rain we received not long after getting home. It certainly was not a safe course to ride at those speeds in the wet...
If you get the chance to go watch a road race (Crits are more action oriented..) I highly recommend you check it out. It was a lot of fun. Who knows, it might inspire you to greater cycling endeavors!
So, congratulations to all the racers regardless of your order of finish! I hope you had as much fun riding, as I did watching you race.