Before I start, I’d like to apologize for the lag between posts that happened. The Giro and the Tour of California really wore me out and I needed a break from writing. So, hopefully now I’m back! If there’s anything YOU’D like me to write about, let me know in the comments!
So. This weekend I went to my first race! It was the Air Force Cycling Classic and it consisted of two races on two days. Each day had a different course and on each course there was a women’s pro race, a men’s pro race, and an amateur race. Both races were criterium (crit) style, which means it’s a circular course, usually about a mile/kilometer in length, with lots of tight corners and fast turns. The race consists of either a certain number of laps or a certain length of time. During the race, on certain laps they’ll offer primes, usually money, for the first person to cross the line. The two races were held in two different locations. The Clarendon race was a circuit of 1km, with the pro men riding 100 laps. The Crystal City race was a little longer and they raced for 90 minutes, which I think equated to about 25 laps. It totalled 100km in length as well. The women and the amateurs raced over the same courses but for shorter lengths of time.
I got there before the race started and while I was just wandering around, I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of cyclists/racers around! It was so cool to be in an environment where cyclists, walking around in their cycling gear, were the majority. Also, I have never been around so much bike technology before! I’m not a gear head at all, but I can recognize a fancy bike when I see it. And I saw a LOT today. It was really neat to walk by where the teams had set up their “camps.” I felt like I was walking past my version of celebrities when I walked by the teams I had seen racing in the Tour of California and the Philly race: United Healthcare, Kelly Benefits Strategies, Exergy, Pure Black, Team Type 1, etc.
I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the race developments, not being familiar with crit racing and not having a commentator narrating the race. It turns out that crit racing tactics are very similar to road racing tactics, just with developments and changes happening a lot faster. And it also turns out that crits also have commentators that hang out at the finish line, narrating the race. There are breaks and chase groups and attacks and lead out trains. So I was pleased to find out that it was pretty easy to follow what was happening. Even if the situation was changing every lap.
I liked the Clarendon circuit a bit better, as it was more of a genuine circuit, which meant if you were in the center, you had easy access to all the different parts of the course. Not to mention it went right through areas with lots of restaurants and shops, so there were lots of people everywhere you went. The Crystal City circuit was less of a circuit and more of an out and back. It was harder to get to all the different parts of the course and there were larger sections of course that were devoid of people. And because the course was circular, the only way to hear what the commentators were saying was to standing right by the start/finish line.
Things I noticed:
- Everyone talks about how fast the racing is- they’re not lying! Whipping around corners, it’s amazing they don’t tip right over or crash into the barriers. And when they’re ripping down a straight or accelerating out of a corner, the speed literally blows your hair back! At Crystal City, there was a motorcycle cop who’s radar gun clocked the peloton at 30mph!
- To me, it seemed as though the women’s and amateur races were just as fast as the pro races. Okay, maybe not quite as fast, but seemed pretty close to me.
- I was impressed with the crowds! The Clarendon race was a bit more crowded, as it was in a better location, but both it was cool to see how many people showed up to support the racers! It was also cool to see know that I wasn’t the lone bike race supporter out here. I’ve felt a bit lonely out here sometimes, with my cycling addiction, so I loved see others enjoying racing like I do. I talked to a photographer the first day who said he’s just discovering cycling and was interested in going to more races, so we exchanged emails and I hooked him up with a bunch of cycling resources!