(Photo by Guernsey Sports Commission and used under license)
A couple of weeks ago I thought it would be a good idea to sign up to do the town criterium race to be held next week, along with a half marathon, as part of Seafront Sunday. As I’d never raced a crit before, the chances of making a fool of myself in front of thousands of people were probably pretty high (the making a fool of myself part as opposed to thousands of people turning out to watch a Guernsey Velo Club division 3 race – I’m not that delusional!), so I jumped at the chance to try my hand at this type of racing in the relative privacy of my fellow riders.
For those that don’t know, crit races are comprised of multiple laps of short circuits and are usually for a set time plus one or two laps just for fun. They tend of have a bit of a reputation for reckless riding and crashes, so my main objectives were a) to avoid falling off, and b) to avoid knocking anyone else off. Anything beyond that I would consider a bonus!
First up last weekend was a twisty route around the Waitrose car park at Admiral Park. Chatting to the other chaps in my division, most had never done a crit race before either and were all having exactly the same thoughts about next Sunday, so at least I knew I was in good company. Even a gentle warm up getting to know the circuit had a few hairy moments, as 180 degree corners and drain covers a plenty caused a few surprising movements – both sideways and bowel related. It was a very technical course (there’s a good video here), which I knew didn’t suit my riding style, so I was quite pleased just to finish the race. I had no idea where I’d placed as everyone had splintered into ones and twos all round the course, but it turns out that given a third of the field failed to finish (5 crashes, 2 withdrawals), I ended up third in my division which I was fairly chuffed with.
Having worked out that crits are simply 30 minutes of pain (well, repeated hard sprints followed by sharp corners really), I went along to Thursday’s race at Delancy Park feeling like an old pro. Not really. A much faster and more open course with fewer corners, it was much easier to work out what was going on and it felt a bit more like a road race as we chased down an early break away to leave nearly everyone in a large group, legs twitching, ready for a sprint finish. It all kicked off sooner than I expected so I got jumped going over the line to start the last lap and it was all I could do to hold the leader’s wheel. I had to settle for second place in the end, but not a bad result.
I’m not quite sure how these short fast races will help me get from Land’s End to John O’Groats (unless we get stuck on the M60 ring road after some scally plays around with the route direction arrows), but I know that my technical skills still need work so hopefully the fast cornering coupled with the need to hold my line will improve these. In the meantime, I’ll just make sure I follow a) and b) above next Sunday!