A week of women’s bike racing.

This Saturday marks the start of the Women’s Cycling World cup stop in Montreal.

The race on Saturday, which takes place on Mount Royal, along Camilien Houde, attracts thousands of spectators along the route. The race consists of 11 brutal laps of 10km. Each lap requires that the women climb Camilien Houde where it often hits a 13% grade.

The pack consists of professional female racers from all over the world.

If you go to watch, the race is essentially one of attrition. The leaders will generally stay near the front and lap after lap the pack will reduce in size as riders get dropped.

Then with 3 or so laps, attacks often occur. Those will be the riders who don’t fancy themselves in a uphill sprint. If the pack stays together by the end, expect the sprint to start just after the lookout.

On Wednesday at the corner of Dante and St-Laurent in Little Italy, these same women will race a 50km criterium. Criteriums or crits as they are normally called are much more spectator friendly.

They consist of a 1km loop around little italy. The women will often hit speeds of 50km/h and higher.

There are some important things to know about crit racing as a spectator.

It is largely a team sport whereby team tactics play a role in the outcome. When watching a crit, look to see which teams are at the front. These are riders looking to control the pace for their team leaders. When a breakaway occurs, look to see which teams are doing most of the work chasing down the breaks. There are usually a handful of riders who jobs it is to make sure their leader is well placed. Also look to see who is the most active in the pack. These will be riders forcing the pace, trying to cause a split in the pack or simply wear down the other riders in hopes that one of their teammates is able to take advantage and attack and break away.

Lots goes on in a crit. The women all have radios and ear pieces. On the route various team coaches tell each rider on their team what they should be doing via these radios. Of the 10 or so riders on a team, only one or two will be designated to win. The others are there in support of that leader.

Also, when watching a crit, if the girls are going single file, it means the pace is very hard. If they are bunched up, it means the pace has slowed.

So I suggest if the weather is nice, to head down to Little Italy this Wednesday, grab some dinner, sip an espresso and watch some truly fantastic bike racing.

This Saturday at Mount Royal starting at noon and again this Wednesday Dante/St-Laurent 19:15

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