What Makes a Great Criterium Racer?

To finish a criterium, a racers needs to have a high fitness level that is specialized around repeated high intensity, but to be great a criterium racer you need have a fighter mentality.  You must take be willing to take risks that such that you will do whatever is necessary to win.  The drive to win the race needs to take over the desire for your personal safety.  The last few laps of a criterium are an adrenaline rush!  The fight or flight reflex will kick in at the end of a race.  Great criterium racers fight. 

Two things always happen in criteriums.  First, racers try to get a breakaway started so that they can improve their chances for the finish.  If you get away with 5 guys, then you are going to at least get 5th.  Second, the race will end in a sprint whether you are in the breakaway or not!  The making of a great criterium racer is having the ability to get into position for the final corner.  Getting into position requires a heads up ability to realize the situation in the race and start your positioning with 4-5 laps to go. 

The last few laps are always completely hectic because everyone is trying to move up.  Racers will be taking risks and lines that were not taken the first 99% of the race.  Guys will bump you off of a wheel, ride in the gutter to move up, elbow you around a corner, the slightest opening will be taken, etc…  The speed will be faster and racers are taking risks, which can set off your fight or flight reaction.  The last few laps for me always set off an adrenaline rush because of the excitement for the finish and the highend awareness. 

Being able to sprint is important, but being able to have the guts and nerve to fight for position is what makes a great criterium racer.  I have seen plenty of racers who can sprint, but when the pressure is on during the last few laps then get scared.  Their flight instincts kick in, and they start thinking about crashing.  You need to be mentally prepared for the intensity during the last few laps so that you fight.  The great criterium racers fight for the finish!

Ride Hard,

Steve