I have to say, I’ve never taken much interest in cycling… but something about Criterium Racing is rather exciting.
It’s described as the “action packed” style of cycle racing and I discovered why today at the inaugural Awesome Grand Prix held at Jonathan Rogers Park in Mount Pleasant.
Held on a short circuit, about 1km in length, elite cyclists were zooming by about every 90 seconds or so at speeds of up to 60km/h. That’s pretty fast. Cyclists certainly broke a sweat giving it their all for Provincial glory, competing in 27C heat.
And while they sweated in their lycra, I watched on fascinated by the energy, athleticism and enthusiasm riders have for the sport.
The crowd cheered on as favourites zoomed by on the circuit.
I spoke with Carolyn Russell, who won the Women’s Masters B, 40 to 50, after her race, to find out what drives a cyclist to win.
She was thrilled with the result of the race.
“It was a beautiful day. It was a small field but I decided to set a really fast pace at the start and just see what would happen and two of us broke away immediately,” she said.
“I just continued to push pace and continued to drive hard and I was able to create a break away and I’m really, really pleased the way it worked out.”
Russell has been cycling for about 15 years and says there’s more to it than people think.
“It is so much more interesting and fun – it’s not a time trial, it is strategy, it is thinking. It’s on and off. It is intense,” she said on Saturday.
“I love everything about cycling. It’s a complex sport. It’s not just put your head down and pedal or who can pedal the fastest.
“It’s who’s the smartest, who’s the most creative, who gets it done.
“It is abut tricking other people into working… and then you win.”
The avid cyclist says the event was something to be proud of.
“This is a great event. The crowds that were here today, it is so fun riding in front of people; with the announcers, the music, the food trucks, the vibe,” she said.
“It’s really something special. It’s special to have high class racing right in our backyard. We need to be really proud.
“It is awesome.”
Before he raced, I had a chat to cyclist Ryan Aitcheson – the USA Criterium Points Champion in 2016 and who came 1st place in Snake Alley last year.
He said he liked criterium racing because of the speed and agility required.
“Taking corners at 50km/h and sprinting as hard as you can above 60km/h. It is quite a thrill,” he said.
“A big crowd really gets the racers motivated to go faster. It is a new course that is 1km long with some tight corners. “With it being Provincial Championships also, it should bring a bit more of the competitiveness out of all the racers.”
But the event wasn’t all about cycling; it was also a chance to enjoy some food and a beer in the sunshine with friends.
Vancouver resident Briana Ingram enjoyed an ice cream while she cheered on her friend.
“I came to watch my friend race and he just won!” she said. “It has been a really good day.
“The beer garden and the food trucks are nice and the event is right in the middle of the city which is awesome.”
This year’s race served as the Provincial Criterium Championship for 2018 and 2019. Vancouver is Awesome partnered with Bicicletta to bring us the new, family-friendly event.
For more information and for race winners head to the Awesome Grand Prix website.