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.
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.
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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