Cigar Smoke during Crits

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Over the last couple years I’ve been amused by myself being annoyed by cigar smoke while racing criteriums. During both of the night time races last weekend in Tulsa, there was at least one place on each course where I got a huge whiff of cigar smoke and it really bothered me.

I intellectually can’t imagine that any amount of cigar smoke in the open air could affect my athletic performance the least bit, but it sure feels like it does. On Friday night, the cigar smoke was right before the final corner the last half of the race. I directed way too my mental capacity towards cursing the guy/guys/gals? that were smoking them.

This is one downside of cycling attracting a bigger spectator base than just the other people racing, and their families. There were a fair amount of people at the Friday night and Saturday night races that were smoking. And drinking.

I’ve always thought that there needs to be a way to “encourage” drinking while spectating bike races. It is just a fact that no sports in the US are popular for spectating unless there is alcohol being consumed. Football, baseball, auto racing, etc. all are alcohol friendly. Even cross racing in Europe has an enormous beer related base. Not to mention soccer. But cycling on the open roads in downtown areas, present an unique problem for local authorities. Some races do an okay job of addressing the issue, but that’s not the case everywhere.

But, back to smoke. I’ve had a history of having pretty bad races when someone is grilling right on the course. Charcoal smoke actually does do something to me when I’m competing. My lungs get all clogged up and I don’t perform well at all if there is a good amount of smoke blowing across the course lap after lap. At the Great Downer’s race in Superweek and then again at University City in St. Louis, during Labor Day, I’ve historically had problems with lots of people grilling during the races. I try to ride on the opposite side of the course, even if I’m not drafting, to avoid breathing in the smoke.

I must be more sensitive to this than most people. I don’t remember anyone ever telling me they had a hard time dealing with the smoke at a criterium. I guess if it is my biggest issue in a race, then I’m having a pretty good day. But it is still mildly humorous, to me mostly, thinking that with all the things going through my mind, so fast and furious, criterium racing at night, I let a little cigar smoke take up so much mental energy.

At least this guy isn't riding around in the field.

Maybe it is the women that had raced earlier relaxing and watching the race?

14 thoughts on “Cigar Smoke during Crits

  1. Wildcat

    Agree about the drinking. I do NOT go to a bike race without a cooler of cold ones (spectating or racing). As for the smoking, for some reason cigar smoke does not bother me. But grab your nickers if I smell cigarette smoke. I can track down cigarette smoke like a bloodhound and I will do just about anything to get away from it. Even the slightest smell of it rubs me the wrong way. However, enjoying a nice CAO or Cohiba? Please do share! Totally mental. We are all head cases to a certain degree. I blame Obama! Just kidding… I’m still laughing at the comments from yesterday’s post.

  2. Jeff LaBauve

    The indoor velodromes in Europe were the worst for this. Cigarette, Cigar, and even engine exhaust if there was a Derny race that night. Different experience all together. Quite a spectacle.

  3. SB

    I did a small town downtown crit one time where the course ran past one of those old cafes and each lap I caught a nose full of the smell of a deep fryer where the oil had not been changed in years… OMG nasty, I about hurled every lap.

  4. Jeff

    Could be more the memories those smells trigger than the smells themselves. I won’t tell the story about how the smell of Jagermeister bothered me very much for many years, but you can imagine…

  5. Scott

    Ran indoor track in college in the 60’s, and there would often be a cigar smoker strategically placed on a corner as I went round & round running the 2 mile. Yecchh!

  6. Neil Kopitsky

    My Dad smoked at one of my races . . . . ONCE. We were racing on the track and someone started screaming at some guy smoking a cigar in turn 4. Much to my horror, the next lap I realized it was my dad. Later, we had a little chat about cigar smoke and bike racing. I wish we had had a little talk about smoking and cancer. It was esophageal cancer that killed him last month.

    Steve, on a more pleasant note, did you get a whiff of the hops coming from the Brewery on the east part of the Benton Park Crit course in St. Louis (Gateway Cup) a couple of years ago? It was delicious every lap.

  7. Jason

    I thought about this the other day on a road ride. A big truck passed me, gassing me with diesel exhaust while at the same time the guy was smoking a cigar. The cigar smoke annoyed me way more than the diesel exhaust. I also smelled the cigar smoke much longer as a continued up the road. I came to the realization that I would rather have the guy smoke me out with his diesel acceleration, on purpose no doubt, over that of the cigar smoke.

  8. Formerly Jim

    I bailed on an alleycat Sunday — turns out the noon start time means:

    show up anytime afterwards
    crack pbrs at about 12:45, when someone goes and gets food & cigarettes.
    chain feed the bad stuff
    race about 2 hrs. later — consists of throwing up and match sprints

    So that’s what an alleycat is…

  9. Mike Rodose

    You won’t hear me complain when spectators attend races and get happy. The best races are tied to festivals…with smoke, booze, food and an electric atmosphere.

    Charge those race/festival spectators a small Cooler Fee and racers might make serious coin. And the smoke would bother us much less…it would actually smell like money!!!

  10. Ted Lewandowski

    Eddy Merckx and many other racers used to smoke cigarettes to get used to the 6 day races that were filled with a lot of fans smoking (indoors- and no doubt drinking) – true fact.

  11. David Eye

    When I was working in Italy in ’93, I frequented a bike shop in Forli that was ran by a former pro rider (teammate of Saronni I was told). Near the front door and bay window were couches and chairs and several ashtrays, where every morning a group of older men would sit and smoke and discuss topics such as F1, soccer, politics and of course bike racing. Getting in to get service or something always required walking through a big cloud of smoke. Might be different today, but I doubt it.

  12. shaun w

    >>I’ve had a history of having pretty bad races when someone is grilling right on the course. Charcoal smoke actually does do something to me when I’m competing.>>

    Ha, me too!

  13. Joey

    It’s ironic that I’m smoking a nice Cuban cigar the night before a crit. I love the smell of cigars and pipes. I HATE the smell of cigarettes. Weird.
    Could be you’re allergic to cigar smoke. I’ve heard of it happening. Haven’t researched it to see if it’s true but I suppose it’s plausible.


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