The first event on Saturday was a 14km criterium. Some would say that 2 laps of a 7km course wouldn't present the kind of technical challenge expected of a true criterium race. Obviously, these critics haven't tried squeezing through the narrow entrance onto the bike path section of this course while trying not to get skewered by the 1m long booms extending from the head tubes of these speedy machines.

The start of the criterium race
Photo by Henk Meerman

I didn't come to this race with any sort of performance expectations, and that's a good thing, because after a crowded scramble down the opening stretch and a sharp turn onto the bike path section, I found myself sitting in the bottom quarter of the field. My initial thought was that once I got some room, I'd be working my way up through the field. I proceeded to do just that. However, I soon realized that although I was passing people, I wasn't exactly dropping them like flies.

There was clearly more to this sport than mindless pushing on the pedals and pulling on the handlebars. As I turned and rode into the wind with a fair gap between myself and the next racer ahead, I heard the sound of several rowingbikes rushing up behind me. Five riders had formed a pace line and sped past me so fast I had to push it just to get on the back.

The satisfying realization that came from the criterium is that racing can be fun no matter where you're at in the field. By the end of the first event, I'd established myself as a solid back of the packer. In the rest of the events, I'd be looking to defend this status or possibly improve upon it.

Rowingbike sprinting
Photo by Henk Meerman

Following the criterium was the sprint event. Competitors were individually timed over a 333 metre long straight course. The fastest eight sprinters would compete in head to head heats on Sunday. Although we were all given more than one try, many people elected to sprint only once saving their energy for the next event. Following the sprint, there was a one hour race. Competitors started together, but the rules prohibited drafting. Therefore, as soon as possible, the field was expected to spread out and racers were to do their best to stay out of the slipstream of the person in front of them.

Ymte Sijbrandij proved to be the dominant rider in this event. Ymte was the only one to cover six laps of the technical 7km course within the one hour time limit. Ymte was therefore permitted to complete a seventh lap. Meanwhile, I was happy to complete five laps in under an hour. I continued to push through my sixth lap catching a few more people just before crossing the line.