NCC: Cigar City Criterium

My first taste of national level criterium racing in the USA would also be my first twilight criterium. This meant we would start at 6.30pm in the fading light and race through the sunset into the darkness for 90 minutes. We would have the street lights to help show the way, on most parts of the course.

The team was kind enough to give me the rider call up. I would be lining up on the second row of a ten deep grid, quite an advantage when you’re going to be blasting through 4 corners a lap which each last just over a minute…

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take advantage of this, as I dropped my chain on the back pave section of the first lap and found myself dangling near the rear end of the 120 rider field.

I managed to make my way back to the front, eventually, only to be off the back following a big crash 30 minutes into our race. It took a big effort and a bucket full of suffering until we made our way back into the now reduced front group of 60 riders. I could write pages about these experiences but I think they would bore you. The long and the short: Crit racing is pretty crazy in the USA, I managed to miss the following crashes (another 6 or so) and make my way to the finish in the peloton.

482374_10151541361810041_1571011687_n 576605_10151543970080041_1979439637_n 577822_10151543957375041_1094255666_nSponsor Ride pre Orange Blossom Special

All images credit: Erik Kellar

From Stan’s it was just Ryan and I left at the finish, David unfortunately got held up in a crash 3 laps to go, so painstakingly close. Brian, Jake and our guest rider on the day: Michael, were all unluckily casualties of the earlier crash, which caused huge splits in the group which ultimately didn’t re-join.

Personally I enjoyed the race. It was super hard but I know now what sort of training I need to do to refine myself into a better crit rider. Crits after all seem to be the staple diet of the East Coast racer.

Racing a twilight crit (the first of many!) was a phenomenal experience. The courses are usually set down town in and amongst the restaurants and bars. Racing through sunset and into the evening was fantastic and without a doubt generated additional spectators. The organisers had a DJ playing at the Start/Finish area and had given out cow bells to the many supporters. They had most certainly managed to create an awesome vibe and I was stoked to be a part of it. It certainly is a lot more fun than racing in the dark at 6am back home where the odd cow or sheep watch us as we come by. The organisers are taking racing to the people and our event promoters back home should take note.

Tomorrow it’s off to Miami where we will be hanging out for a couple of days before we make our way up to Delray Beach where we will be racing our next NCC race. I look forward to it.

To get more of a feel for the Twilight Criterium Racing click here for some images.

Race Highlights:

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Doug and Marilyn helping me out with a bike setup at The Bike Route.IMG_20130314_105528

Bike riding is tough, cafe stop to refuel.
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“Free Air” at The Bike Route
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Chilling pre race in style at the Hilton Hotel.

Thanks for hooking us up Mr Reyes.IMG_20130316_172507

Hand cycling race before ours.

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