The Windsor Park Criterium is a wide open flat criterium in Oak Bay put on by OBB. Coincidentally, it’s the course for my first ever bike race. The turnout was good (45 in the As) because no other races conflict on the calendar.
In a flat, non-selective race there is still in fact an order to things. The accelerations and pace order the riders based on fitness, experience and handling ability. Stronger riders exchange pulls and attacks at the front while those unable to spend much time in the wind, draft. Some riders with lower tt ability can stay at the front based on their handling ability while some tt powerhouses drift mid-pack due to weaker accelerations or lower handling proficiency.
I personally separate the field into thirds and try my best to stay near the front. Assuming the race finishes in a sprint. it’s best to be in the front few wheels on the final corner as it may be impossible to overtake a closely matched sprinter. Vying for position anywhere much farther back rarely yields much benefit.
So the questions is, why attack or go off the front if breaks are bound to fail? If you are not a dominant sprinter, then a break is a mini-field sprint. Even for non-sprinters, a break with 3 riders guarantees a podium position in what can be loosely considered a field sprint.
How does a break succeed? A break is more likely to succeed if the most represented teams have at least one rider in the break and they feel that their rider has an option to win. This example is most obvious in the 2014 Bastion Square Provincial Criterium Championships. Initially, there was a break with two teams represented for 20-laps. (H&R + Trek.) Then, once the break was caught a new one was formed with the three dominant teams and the group lapped the field in at most 7 laps. Late breaks have better chance of succeeding because of opponent fatigue and bureaucratic imputus. Race organizers know this and give primes to keep races dynamic and interesting. Riders in big criteriums may choose to throw away their chances at winning the race because of a lucrative crowd prime. FYI, prime means bonus in French. If you don’t trust me, look at your bilingual food packaging.
So the Winsor cirterium was animated early on with a number of break attempts from various riders. From the early the first few laps a group of 6-8 broke away but it was chased down before it would stick. I tried a number of times to stretch the elastic and form a fresh break but to no avail. In the final three laps Gillian Careton offered a lead out for a sprint. It’s remarkable but no surprise that she can maintain such a calm demeanour in the crucial final laps of crit . On the final lap at corner one, Dustin Andrews from Trek Red Truck made a late dash and managed to hold it to the line with Cid Martinez in close pursuit with Issac Leblanc a few lengths behind. For me it was a mix of chasing wheels and trying to bridge to Gillian on the final stretch. Emile Derosnay had fresher legs and drag raced his way to 4th in front of me. Thanks to Gillian as I wouldn’t have felt as confident moving to the front without a last minute game plan.