In­side the Grand Prix

The Covington News - - Front Page - Mau­rice Carter

Start­ing Fri­day, the Ge­or­gia Cy­cling Gran Prix comes to town with four bi­cy­cle races in three days around New­ton County. The fastest ac­tion and best view­ing will be Satur­day from 2 p.m. 8 p.m. at the Down­town Cov­ing­ton Cri­terium on the north side of the square. To help you en­joy the ac­tion, here are terms and con­cepts you might find use­ful.

THE EVENT: A cri­terium (or “crit”) is a cir­cuit race on a short, closed course of usu­ally less than one mile. Rac­ers cir­cle in laps for a set pe­riod of time un­til race of­fi­cials ring a bell to sig­nal the fi­nal lap. The win­ner is the rider who crosses the fin­ish line first on the “bell lap.” Races vary in du­ra­tion (20 to 90 min­utes), de­pend­ing on clas­si­fi­ca­tion level.

IT’S FAST: In the high­est clas­si­fi­ca­tion (Men’s Pro 1/2) rac­ers eas­ily hit speeds of 30-35 mph in straight sec­tions of the course.

THEY CRASH: Go­ing so fast with sharp turns, how do they keep from crash­ing? Some­times they don’t. Corners make for in­ter­est­ing view­ing.

GROUP­INGS: The crit fea­tures eight dif­fer­ent races, with rid­ers com­pet­ing based on age, gen­der, and abil­ity level. Ju­niors com­pete with boys and girls to­gether, by age group (10-14 and 15-18.) Men and women com­pete sep­a­rately, clas­si­fied by abil­ity

level. Pro is the high­est clas­si­fi­ca­tion, fol­lowed by lev­els 1 through 5. Men also have a Mas­ters divi­sion for ages 40 and older.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

Don’t be fooled into think­ing the rider lead­ing the most laps is go­ing to win. The cy­clist up front is do­ing all of the work for the other rac­ers be­hind. Draft­ing shields those rid­ers from the wind, mean­ing they put forth about 30 per­cent less ef­fort to reach the same speed as the leader. Win­ners usu­ally come from within the pack dur­ing the fi­nal laps.

A TEAM SPORT:

So, why do all the work for some­one else to win? Though prizes go to in­di­vid­ual rid­ers, bike rac­ing is ac­tu­ally a team sport. A team will of­ten put rid­ers up front to in­crease the pace and make the race hard for the other teams, be­fore launch­ing their best rider to vic­tory in the fi­nal lap. Oc­ca­sion­ally, though, a solo rider will “at­tack” from the pack and try to steal vic­tory by sur­prise. As they say: “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over!”

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