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This takes us back to 1980, where the Colombians who were inexperienced crit riders were facing a stacked field of America’s best. They were fed to the lions. Since then, crits have become more popular outside of the United States, however Americans still seem to thrive at them.

Today, there is no shortage of criteriums available to anybody interested in racing. Most cities usually have a “training crit” on weeknights and “serious” crits on the weekend. A lot of weekend criteriums shut down a few blocks of a city or town and last several hours, allowing different categories of racers to compete. With different categories available, a novice bike racer will not be racing the best racers there. Different categories usually separate men from women, and experienced racers from novices. A well-attended event will have age group races as well, allowing older racers and juniors to compete against people of similar ages.

The equipment needed to race is that which is usual for a normal road ride. A road bike in sound mechanical order with high pressure, narrow tires (25mm at the widest) is the main requirement. No “aero bars” or “tri bars” are allowed in any sort of mass start events. A bicycle can be ruled as “unsafe” and a racer barred from racing by the officials for various reasons, such as a chain skipping due to miss-shifting, or rims that are severely out of true. This does not mean that a new racer needs to buy a new fancy ProTour issued bicycle. A cyclocross bike or touring bike stripped of accessories and with narrow tires is fine for an entry-level racer.

Most bike races are sanctioned through a governing body, several of which exist in America. The sanctioning bodies provide insurance, rankings, champions, licenses and other logistics. These are things that make the race legitimate, but also cost a bit of money. A new racer should be prepared to invest some money for the experience, and a bit of time training (riding) to be competitive. For those lucky enough to have a “training crit” series in their city, they should consider watching a few races before jumping into one. Either way, a new racer should consider doing some criterium specific drills in order to be ready to race. There are essential skills a rider must have in order to successfully complete a crit. As racing becomes regular, these skills get internalized and become automatic.