• Crit Trix – Menlo & Easter Criteriums

    by  • April 19, 2011 • opinionate, trainin and tactics • 9 Comments

    This summer David LaPorte, the organizer of the Nature Valley Grand Prix, gave me an interview for a project i was working on.  He spent about 15 minutes telling me that while the road races in the NVGP were great and popular with the riders he wanted to make it very clear that the crits (Stillwater in particular) is what brings the crowds, the sponsors, and is the most American form of racing in existence.  Take that for what you will but i thought it was cool.

    As i was bashing on SoCal a resident of Visalia (or the closest thing i can think of to hell) commented that NorCal folks paled in comparison to the SoCal Crit monkeys.  Of course Rand went down that very weekend and won a crit so it looked good for us, but I have to say for the most part, he’s right.  NorCal does not work hard enough on it’s crits.  We have some of the best crit riders in the country, Holloway, Reaney, McCook, Brooke Miller, and even Rand but these guys are the exception not the rule.  If they show up it’s game over.  In general the prestige is saved up for races like Mt. Hamilton, or Merco, not slug fests like Davis, or the recent Santa Cruz Crit.  Unlike other parts of the country like NYC/NJ/Philly or LAX where crit racing is how riders move through the system a strong Cat 2 can progress easily in NorCal without learning how to turn a tight six corner crit.

    This weekend  is the famous Copperopolis, the Roubaix of NorCal, but there are two crits which i feel replicate classic east coast style courses.  The Menlo Park Grand Prix and Easter Cri are flat and have plentiful sharp corners, and are the type of course that need to be ridden more often by the rank and file of NorCal riders.

    Menlo Park Grand Prix

    The MPGP is right down the street from me so it’s kind of my home race but I have always like the course, despite the truck that always seems to be parked in the last corner.  The first iteration of the course had two long, long, straight aways and four solid corners.  It reminded me of Sommerville (without the drunk Jersey crowd) and after promoter Lori Lee Lown added a few corners the course became a flat technical course that could end in a bunch sprint or break if riders brought their A Game fitness.  It is also great for women riders as LLL stacks the event with a great combination of races for women riders.  It’s a great course for Peninsula riders to get a real feeling of what a decent course is like.

    Easter Crit (Fremont)

    This is a bastard child of an early bird running two hair pin turns and two 90 degree turns.  This is the kind of race that I would do in Toronto which would be a few hairpins and about 50 people just slugging it out in an office park.  It’s not a pretty race but it’s the kind of crit which does two things. 1. it makes you fast since you are sprinting out of every corner. Intervals for 45-90 minutes 2. If you survive you have a really good shot at winning.

    Why Are Crits important?

    I think almost 60% of races on the calendar are crits (at least that was the figure a few years ago.) If you have any aspirations of being a real bike racer (like a pro, nearly pro, or master pro) they way you are going to make money is on the crit circuit.  Your big domestic salary will not cover your lavish lifestyle.  There may not be any money in NorCal races but what little there is usually is doled out at the crits.  In other parts of the US crit money can be substantial.  If you are one of those riders that “don’t like” crits or don’t think they are real racing..well, give up now, cause you already lost.

    I have a follow up piece on a race strategy, closely related to rand style aggressive crit racing, that incorporates an Image Score concept inspired by Brooke Miller. I will try to publish that before the weekend.   I might even go back and re-read and edit this post in the AM – but don’t count on it.




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    Former NorCal resident now residing in Madison,Wisconsin. I race cross, but I'm named after a velodrome. Support your local bike shop, NorCal race promoters, and go learn to race on a track. Hellyer Velodrome - http://www.ridethetrack.com


    9 Responses to Crit Trix – Menlo & Easter Criteriums

    1. TimB
      April 20, 2011 at

      Timely notice Hellyer.

      Both the “Menlo Park Grand Prix, powered by Mike’s Bikes” and the “Easter Sunday Classic” in Fremont have space available in every category right now (Wednesday Morning). Yup, even in the Cat 4s and 5s, and other popular races.

      Race Schedule pages:
      Menlo Park Grand Prix, powered by Mike’s Bikes
      Registration closes tonight, Wednesday the 20th at 9PM PDT (listed as 10PM MDT on the USAC reg site)

      Easter Sunday Classichttp://ncnca.org/ncncaevent/easter-sunday-classic
      Registration closes Friday night the 22nd at 9PM PDT (listed as 10PM MDT on the USAC reg site)

      As always Menlo Park features strong women’s fields, with good registration in the W 1/2/3s, W3s, W4s and Masters W4s. No worries boys, there’s a full suite of Men’s races also.

    2. TimB
      April 20, 2011 at

      Silly me, that Easter Sunday Classic URL is:

    3. LJ
      April 20, 2011 at

      “It reminded me of Sommerville (without the drunk Jersey crowd)”

      so your saying it isn’t as good as Sommerville, right?

      Former Somerville Cyclist w/a wife who went to Somerville High….

    4. April 20, 2011 at

      Sommerville is the pinacle of crit riding in the US. Downers Grove and Sommerville…thats the big time. Except it is in New Jersey which everybody knows is a bigger shithole than LAX.

    5. michael
      April 20, 2011 at

      good post, i think the market is over-saturated with too many shmedium level races, it would be really cool to see promoters hook up, ex. try valley velo pg&e crit, and pitt crit and turn two events into one big time high dollar/hyped up event. same goes for road races and races or separate non conflicting, ex. rather than having two folsom crits, the gold state omnium, and the folsom omnium, why not combine all of the resources and create an uber event . i dunno just a thought

    6. Anonymous Ex-Pro
      April 20, 2011 at

      High brow gaming theory in criterium racing? I just had a cerebral orgasm. I love MPGP, favorite criterium course in NorCal. I have a feeling we will continue to see higher payouts at some Norcal crits that are also promoted at a high level.

    7. April 20, 2011 at

      Don’t forget uber-crit Athens (original?) Twilight, April 30 this year.

      For us for now, on May 7 you could race two crit courses (Tri Valley in Livermore & Pitt crit) for twice the shots at prizes. We are considering a bonus prize for any who can podium at both events, any backers?

    8. April 20, 2011 at

      I have never seen Athens but if it as cool as the SF Twilight Crit was then it has to be super awesome. Stoked for San Rafael and Pitt Crit!

    9. TimB
      April 21, 2011 at

      Just to remind everyone thinking of Menlo Park or Easter races, there’s time still to pre-register for the Easter Classic and there’s room in all fields both days for day-of registration.

      The weather still looking decent – mid 60s temps and overcast (with a slight chance of rain). Some come prepared with layers and you’ll be fine.

      I kind of agree with Michael – the schedule is getting a bit crowded and promoters are seeing thinner fields. Combining efforts to generate more well attended races with good production values would seem to be a good idea.

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