photo by Paul Kumm

Local Racing in Full Swing

by BFC Board Member Will Hickey


Our city is amazing for riding bikes in any capacity, but when it comes to local racing Fort Collins is in a league of its own. From April through October there a grassroots races every week right here in town. Grassroots races are as much community building events as they are competitions. Brand new racers are welcome, there’s no need to buy a racing license, and the experienced riders are always happy to answer questions.

The racing world is full of jargon which can make it feel elitist and unapproachable. Here’s a quick primer explaining the two series that are currently in progress.

Thursday in June are the Taft Hill Time Trial. “Time Trials” are races against the clock over a fixed course. Riders leave the start every 30 seconds in a predetermined order and ride the out-and-back course as fast as they can. The race promoter records each racer’s start and finish times and some quick math in Excel shows who covered the course the fastest. Riders often catch each other during the race but drafting is prohibited.

The time trial is the ultimate test of fitness for experienced racers, but it’s also the easiest race for curious beginners. There’s no complicated rules or strategy; just a start line, a finish line, and as much (or as little) pain as you care to inflict on yourself in between.

Tuesdays evenings in June and July are the City Streets Criteriums. Criteriums (crits, for short) are mass-start races on short closed courses. Riders of similar fitness and experience ride together around a half-mile paved circuit. Unlike time trials, crits allow drafting. Riding close behind another racer dramatically reduces wind resistance allowing racers to go faster with less effort. As a result riders of varying fitness levels often stay together in small groups, and the racing becomes tactical rather than just about fitness.

This format is more complex for beginners, but makes the races less predictable and much more exciting for spectators. Watching local racers battle it out on a course lined with dump trucks and snowplows is the most fun you can have at the Fort Collins City Streets Department, guaranteed!

That’s all for now, but there are more series coming later in the year (including mountain biking and cyclocross for riders who prefer dirt trails). Check out the race calendar on Your Group Ride for a full look at what’s in store.