As someone who started into cycling with road riding, I take some offence when comments are made regarding the cycling quality of triathletes. Comments about triathletes being a danger to others on group rides, not knowing how to turn corners, or being poor climbers are definitely over-reaching. However, I do think that triathletes have a lot to learn by just going a watching a good old regular bike race (in particular a crit race if you want maximum entertainment).
For the past several years I’ve been going down to watch the Springbank Road Races put on by the London Centennial Wheelers. The first thing that struck me while watching is the ferocious speed and tight quarters. For the oldest, slowest category, Masters 3, the average speed last year was 39.6 km/h for 36 km!! Sure you gain a lot of speed riding in a group, but we’re still talking speeds that would put you at the pointiest end of a triathlon.
For me, watching a bike race really opens your eyes to what competition on a bicycle can look like and sound like. Where triathlons involve silent, solo efforts where the challenge is not to zone out and stare at your stem, bike races involve elbow-to-elbow contact, lots of chatter, flying water bottles, and the occasional explosive crash. It’s a different environment, and the frequent short laps of most bike races means a lot more time seeing the athletes than you would in a triathlon.
This past September I took the opportunity of travelling with my son to watch the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Montreal. We had a chance to get up close to the pro riders of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, get lots of great cycling swag, and see some of the most intense riding you can imagine. How many others sports allow you to get right up close to the action for absolutely free?
This year, make it a commitment to go and watch a bike race. Bring along a cow bell, a picnic, and a camera, and spend the day on your own, with friends, or with family. If you are in Ontario, you can find a calendar of races at: Ontario Cycling Association.