1“You can’t always win…The last few weeks have been really exhausting.” Jan Ullrich, on appearing in races and exhibitions all over since the Tour
After the Tour, a psyched public enjoys its newest cycling heroes in exhibition races throughout Europe. The height of speed season offers so many racing options, a pro could pull two-a-days within a small driving radius. These races take the form of criteriums, small circuits around towns suited to spectators for watching favorite riders lap after lap for a few hours. Generally, these events are held during a fête that celebrates the town’s origins. Even small cities see huge crowds that pack spectators in deep rows ringing bells and tooting horns and screaming in many languages behind barriers.
In this way, these races differ from their American cousins whose courses are more compact yet less crowded with fans. Another difference is in the strategies employed in these events which are sometimes decided pre-race by committee to ensure that the hero always wins and the crowd convinced this year’s yellow jersey wearer is truly worthy of it. Race fans are aware of this policy and seem to accept it readily. Meanwhile, riders’ tactics are programmed for this exhibition but still the racing is full-on, and sure enough, toward race end, the featured champion manages to slip to the front to properly outpower all peers.
While the truth is that a serious criterium would probably not be won by a GC leader nor a Grand Tour by a criterium specialist, the events are still exciting and offer a living display of pro cycling as breathable art. They can be exhausting for riders however. Towns known as much for master painters and superlative sculpture play host to this ritual that kicks off a season of carnival for pro cycling – a little post Tour fun for the fans, crowd-pleasers by fatigued racers, or a fine tune-up for fresh legs that sat out the Tour as preparation for some of the month’s spectacles.
Prayer for Criterium Season
“…it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.” 21 Peter 1:6
We are glad to see our pros up close and personal. We pray for them in times of fatigue, vulnerability, and expectation. We ask blessing on criterium season.
Ponder What am I really seeing when I watch a race? Affirm I display golden qualities to inspire others. Watch that the expectations of others don’t force negative compromises in your character or capacities.
1“Race Report: Telekom GP Karlsruhe/GP Breitling, Cat 1.2 Germany,” September 14, 1997 http://www.cyclingnews.com
2The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson