A Crit full of TNT

Wile E. Coyote or Daffy Duck, makes no difference. Any cartoon character knows that if there’s a big keg of gunpowder or TNT — you just light the fuse. And wait.

Click at your own risk: https://goo.gl/images/fJKjIO

Pro cyclists line up, the starter’s horn sounds, and the fuse is lit. It’s only a matter of time.

Cyclists racing repeated laps around a fixed course (usually closed-off streets), are racing a crit. Lots of crit races are stand-alone events, but most US stage races also include one stage that’s a crit. Race fans like them. You see everybody every time they come around, and they come around fast. If you snag a vantage point near the finish line you’ll get to see a high-speed sprint with the possibility of dramatic endings like photo-close finishes or a crash in the last turn. Crit courses have barricades erected, and sign-posts get stacked with hay bales.

There’s a clock, a lap counter, and a line on the pavement. A bike race is won when the tip of the lead wheel crosses the finish line. So it’s not the racer himself, head or chest or  hands, but the front of the tire. Giving the handlebars a sudden lunge at just the right moment can be the difference between first and second place. In a pro race it can mean several thousand dollars.

Bike races are actually team events, so the lead rider at the finish line is trying to win for both him (or her) self, and also for the team. Winners share out prize money with teammies who helped. The pic above shows three teammates helping each other by staying close and reducing wind drag. Riders in the front work  harder,  those behind save energy. It’s a matter of wind resistance. Speeds average 26 – 28 mph. There are some strategies employed and a lot comes down to who’s stronger at the end, but part comes down to positioning. That’s a prime reason for crashes: jockeying for position on the final lap or two. The final 100 meters of sprint will reach 40 mph.

If your son is one of the racers you cheer him in, hoping for the best, worrying a bit,  wondering what’s next. You wonder when the dynamite explodes.

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