A criterium, or crit, is a bike race consisting of several laps around a closed circuit, the length of each lap or circuit ranging from about 1 km to 2 km.
Race length can be determined by a number of laps or total time, in which case the number of remaining laps is calculated as the race progresses. Generally the event’s duration (commonly one hour) is shorter than that of a traditional road race — which can last many hours, sometimes over the course of several days or even weeks, as in a Grand Tour. However, the average speed and intensity are appreciably higher. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line without having been “lapped”.
Events often have prizes (called primes, pronounced “preems”, and are usually cash) for winning specific intermediate laps (for instance, every 10th lap). This keeps the racers attention and the action stimulating. A bell is usually rung to announce to the riders that whoever wins the next lap, wins the prime.
Success in road criteriums requires a mix of good technical skills — in particular, the ability to corner smoothly while holding the line on the road, as well as rapidly and sharply — and riding safely with a large group on a short circuit and exceptional “sprint” ability to attack other riders and repeatedly accelerate hard from corners.
The race schedule at The Bannock Crit is divided into numerous races, based on either age grouping or achieved license category. There are races for both men and women. In some cases, a race has combined categories or age groups on the course at the same time; though the finish place and prizes are awarded for each distinct group. Some racers will race in more than one race over the day’s schedule.
A criterium race involves individual and team tactics. You’ll find that it’s typically not the racer out in front most of the race actually winning. As a spectator, you’ll see racers attack the lead, testing the rest of the riders. You’ll also notice racers “sitting back” to conserve their energy for a later sprint.
Criteriums are good for live spectators as they allow them to see the riders pass by many times. They are the most common type of bicycle racing in the continental United States.