GIRO DI BURNABY: More than strength drives a Criterium
To the casual observer standing behind the barriers along Hastings Street, the Giro di Burnaby looks like a pack of sinewy cyclists with unnaturally thick thighs trying to power their way to the front of the colourful pack.
May the fastest man win.
But there’s a lot more going on than sheer strength.
The Giro di Burnaby is a criterium race.
Unlike a road race where the peloton speeds from one town to another over the course of a long day in the saddle, rarely passing the same point twice, a criterium is held on a small, closed circuit that riders will lap dozens of times in about 90 minutes. It makes for plenty of thrills and chills and occasional spills as the racers jockey for position, exchange the lead and lean into tight, fast turns.
To get to the front and stay there, though, takes a lot of team work and strategy.
Most cyclists entered in the Giro will be part of a team. Working together they can save energy by dictating the pace of the peloton or drafting off each other, much like race cars in NASCAR.
“If you have an idea about the strategy, you have a better idea about is going on during the racing,” says Rainy Kent, the Giro’s organizer.
That strategy can include a team putting a rider in a breakaway that is trying to pull away from the main peloton so rival teams have to tire themselves out as they chase it down.
Teams trying to catch a breakaway ride in a line, each cyclist creating a slipstream for the teammate behind them, saving them valuable strength so the group can pedal faster for longer.
Riders without teammates will often latch on to teams, or form alliances amongst themselves to gain the benefits of working as a team.
“It’s a team sport,” says Kent.
“You learn to appreciate how these teams work together.”
The race is also enlivened as the racers sprint to the finish line at the end of some laps to win special cash prizes, or “primes,” sponsored by Heights’ merchants.
“It gives them exposure,” says Kent of the business involvement. “It’s a fabulous way to say thank you.”
And as dusk descends, listen for the bell.
That’s the signal to the racers that they’re on the last lap and it’s make it or break it time.
The Giro returns to the Heights on Thursday, July 12. The women's race starts at 6 p.m. and the men's starts at 7:15 p.m.
For more information, visit www.girodiburnaby.com.