I just saw the video below. It is of the Tampa NCC Criterium. I explained my issues with the way the “Pro” teams ride criteriums nowadays. Sometimes during a stage race, it is the whole race, but when it is a one day race, they tend to only do it the last 10 laps or so at most. If you skip forward to 7:30 minutes into the video, you’ll see the start of the stupidness and resulting crash. This tactic needs to be addressed by the USAC. It is going to hard to make a rule that addresses it in all circumstances, but it is total bullshit. I’ve experienced it many time now.
What the United Healthcare team is doing isn’t unique to them. All the teams, that have the ability, do it. They go to the front of the field at a designated time and start setting tempo. They set an intentional slow tempo and ride the inside of the course. Notice the way that when you get to the 7:30 mark, they are riding up the inside of the start finish stretch. Right before the get to the first corner, they swing across the front of the field that has fanned out because of the slow speed. The UHC guys chop the field and it causes chaos behind them, resulting in the riders behind crashing. I know some of you are going to say that they didn’t crash the field. Not directly, but when the field is fanning out and braking before each and every corner, then crashes result. And it keeps going like this lap after lap, corner after corner. They ride slow tempo at the front and cause the following riders into a complete interval session of braking and sprinting before and after each corner. This isn’t a super great example, but it good enough to understand the practice.
Finally, the last lap they wind it up like a real leadout and string the field out. By that time the field is toasted or have crashed. Notice in the final sprint that no one is riding on the inside fence. Hilton wins in the right lane of the finish stretch, the natural line of the race.
I’ve been complaining to officials about this stupidness for years. It is illegal for one thing. Chopping the field on purpose, multiple times a lap is against the rules. Doing it just once is illegal. But no one does anything about it. Criteriums now have more crashes than ever before. Lots of guys falling, mainly at once. The reason that no one calls anyone on this is because not many people in authority understand the issue.
I think that the only way to control or better yet, just down right stop this tactic is to limit the number of riders any team can put into a criterium at 6 max. Better yet, 5, but I don’t think that will fly. It would still happen every once in a while, but not nearly as often.
All you guys in Colorado Springs that read this blog maybe consider address this problem soon. It’s been going on for way too long. Long enough that there are many good bike racers that have never raced any other way. It is normal race tactics to them. It is just bad bike racing, nothing else. Lazy bad bike racing. Dangerous bike racing. It needs to stop.