A critierium, or crit for short, is a single day bike race held on a short course on closed-off city center streets. The course is typically less than one mile or 5k and the total race length is determined by either the number of laps or total time. Criteriums usually last one to two hours and are extremely fast — 30 mph and up — as the cyclists jockey for position and sprint for lap “primes” (cash or merchandise prizes, pronounced “preems”). The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line without having been “lapped”.
Unlike longer road races, things can change quickly in a criterium as some riders will wait until the last minute to try and spring ahead and gain the lead or some will sprint right from the start and then battle to keep the lead the whole time. Success in road criteriums requires a good mix of confidence, technical skills — in particular, the ability to corner smoothly while “holding your line” on the road, as well as rapidly and sharply — riding safely with a large group on a short circuit and exceptional short-term speed ability to attack other riders and repeatedly accelerate from corners.
The short closed course, generally with both right- and left-hand corners, makes this type of racing easy to watch for spectators and more accessible for the media.
In short: the NASCAR of cycling events.
Learn more by watching this video. And sign up to race or volunteer today.