Crit on the Campus, Stirling
22 March 2015
The Crit on the Campus, run by Stirling Bike Club, is a really great event. It’s literally open to everyone, male and female, from tiny juniors to newbie 4th Cats to elite riders. Stirling Bike Club have the run of the university campus, which gives them a brilliant and technical circuit and the all-important espresso van and bacon buttie kiosk.
A criterium or crit is a short-course race, lots of laps of a short, technical circuit. You spend a fast and furious 40 minutes or so taking corners a bit faster than you thought you ever could, then sprinting back up to full speed on any straightish bits. For extra fun at Stirling you get to sprint over some speed bumps. In a 4th Cat crit, finer tactical details go out the window as most breakaways are rapidly chased down. It’s all about starting as far up the grid as you can, then holding your place as the hammer goes down and people get shelled out the back.
My favourite bit of road graffiti on the course at Stirling was ‘Eyeballs Oot!’ It was daubed on a stretch where you power along at 30+mph then scrub off some speed to tackle a tight chicane with a manhole cover right on the racing line. [Note: road graffiti was perused while walking the start/finish section as reading time was a bit limited during the actual contest]
It was definitely ‘Eyeballs Oot’ for the whole race. Either eyeballs oot through pedalling right on the limit to hold position and pick up places, or eyeballs oot to pick the best line, only putting the inside pedal up at the last second. I’ve done longer races with higher average speeds but the technical course made this a very intense course.
The commissaires decided to try a rolling start after a neutral lap – but a canny few worked out that one man’s neutral is another’s opportunity and forced a split before the main ‘off’. So I naively started the race having missed the break-that-wasn’t-a-break.
I spent the early part of the race working hard to try and bridge up to the front group amongst smaller groups of other riders. The tight nature of the course meant that it was hard to form a coherent group, and soon riders were blowing up. I spent the last third of the race scooping up a few more places by a combination of nifty cornering, sitting in for a few seconds, and breathing like a grampus.
I think there are only three bad outcomes to a crit: crashed, last or DNF (in that order). Purists might describe being lapped as a bad outcome but with 40-odd% of the field lapped it's unfair to call it 'bad' – though I avoided that outcome too. A big part of the fun is hearing the coarse shouting from your supporters as you whizz round on your 20th lap. If you’re lucky the shouting is loud enough to drown out the whimpering from your legs. For the statisticians amongst you, I was 26th and unlapped this year in a splitty race, against 22nd last year in a bunchy, crashy race. Must try harder!
Do a crit - you won’t regret it!
Words by John Fitzgerald, photos courtesy of Leo Friel