With the temperatures rolling into the mid 50’s and dry weather conditions, cyclists from both Collegiate and non-Collegiate categories came up to Boulder to race their bicycles in the traditional criterium course at Research Park hosted by University of Colorado.
The course is what most racers feel a crit route should be; short, flat, quick turns, and most importantly, fast. Although, a course laden with pot holes, pavement cracks, deep gutters, and various other safety hazards is not an optimal condition when deep in the drops of your handlebars hitting 30+mph, and catching several feet of air anytime your carbon tubulars meet the groove in the pavement.
These hazards were by no means dismissed on Saturday at the CU criterium. The first category to inhabit the course was the Collegiate Men C category. The race began quick, per usual, with a breakaway by a CSU rider, causing a fifteen second gap among the pack and the leader. As the number of laps began dropping, Men C riders began working harder, sprinting as hard as their legs would allow to catch up with the leader. With six laps to go, the pack became one again and anticipation of another individual or team breakaway grew. With two laps to go, racers riding shoulder to shoulder, the near inevitable wheel rub took place. And, just like that bicycles and riders were found on the pavement, floating in the air, and with the last sprint in site; nearly a dozen riders were on the ground, and eight people managed to finish leaving a win by a School of Mines Rider.
Such events make for an exciting and nerve-wracking first event. How about for a second event? The Women’s B took field and the pack stayed cohesive through almost the entire thirty minutes. With a few breakaway attempts and both individual and team efforts, the race was going fast and smoothly. Three laps left, approaching the last sharp turn, I heard the nasty noise of pedal clipping a mere three or four inches to my right. And while my bicycle and I jumped a half an inch back, there were girls and bikes on the ground, girls and bikes in the bushes, girls and bikes on the grass, in the gutter, on the pavement…
The girls left in the pack managed to stay together, sprinting the last lap despite heart beats skipping and legs feeling like jell-o. The first to cross the finish line was a University of Colorado rider, followed by CSU, CU, and Metro.
Men’s B up next and with the pattern going; you guessed it. Riders down. Seemingly inevitable at this point. Though, I missed most of the Men’s B race, I was informed there were several edgy points of the race with attacks, breakaways, catching of leaders, and…crashing. Six men down, five laps down, three sprints to the finish by CSU, Fort Lewis, and Mesa State, and the rest of the riders finishing in a pack.
The Women’s A and Men’s A were the only categories to finish with all riders upright. Some may perceive this to be because they’re in the top category of riders they have experienced handling skills for courses like this. On the other hand it could be the course had already taken down over twenty five people and its work was done for the day. ? I’m unaware of any non-collegiate crashes, but the races were definitely fast. Being that it’s Boulder, there is a plethora of sponsored and professional racers. Even Boulder’s own Mara Abbott (former Team Columbia-HTC rider ’08-’09) showed up for the Women’s Open race.
So, yes, the University of Colorado crit course is what a bike race is and by some standards, should be. But despite some entertainment and adrenaline rush aspects from crashes, this might be a message to CU to modify their course, or at least harass the city of Boulder to repave that road. Really, I mean, it’s Boulder. They have money and they like bicycles. So, to everyone who raced on Saturday hopefully only your tires felt the ground, and otherwise we all hope you’re okay, and start bugging Boulder for a safer, but still fast, criterium course.