Some basics on big-time bicycle racing

Jul. 20, 2013 @ 08:25 PM

Let’s call this Bicycle Racing Spandex for Dummies.

The fourth annual High Point Cycling Classic this week will feature the USA Cycling Professional Criterium National Championships, the first time the city has hosted the event. High Point competed with more than 30 cities across the country to host the championships this year and next year. As many as 200 cyclists from around the United States are expected to participate in Saturday’s races on a course downtown.
Here are some basics on watching and appreciating bicycle racing.
Q. What is a criterium?
A. The competition taking place on Saturday is different from the long, arduous races such as in the Tour De France. A criterium, known commonly to cyclists as a crit, is a high-speed bike race held on a short course, usually a closed-off city street loop. In High Point, the start and finish line will be the Mendenhall Transportation Terminal between Showplace and the International Home Furnishings Center.
The length of each race is determined by using a combination of time, laps and the category, or level, of the racers. Race times generally range from 30 to 60 minutes. At the halfway point, race officials calculate the average speed of the race, and then convert to a countdown of laps. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line without having been lapped by competitors.

Q. How fast can the racers go?
A. Top speeds for the most accomplished riders can reach 45 mph.

Q. Why do the bicycle racers wear spandex?
A. Spandex provides a moisture wicking that keeps racers as dry as possible as they sweat. Also, the material provides an aerodynamic effect that helps racers reach and maintain top speeds. And spandex provides the most comfort for riders during what can become grueling races, especially in hot, humid weather conditions.

Q. What do they mean by “prime laps” within a race?
A. To edge up the excitement during a race, officials will call out a prime lap, also known as a “preem.” Prime laps allow racers to win cash or other prizes by winning that lap within the overall race.

Q. Who are some of the top national riders racing in the championships Saturday?
A. The top riders scheduled to race include Luke Keough, Jake Keough, Ken Hanson, Eric Young, Shane Kline, Isaac Howe and Ty Magner.

Q. How do I get involved?
A. Race organizers still are seeking volunteers to help with events. Go to www.hpcyclingclassic.com website and click on the volunteer tab across the top of the page.