A criterium, or crit, is a bike race held on a short course (usually less than 5 km), often run on closed-off city center streets.

Collegiate cyclists take a tight downhill corner in the Boston Beanpot Criterium at Tufts University

Race length can be determined by a number of laps or total time, in which case the number of remaining laps is calculated as the race progresses. Generally the event's duration (commonly one hour) is shorter than that of a traditional road race — which can last many hours, sometimes over the course of several days or even weeks, as in a Grand Tour. However, the average speed and intensity are appreciably higher. The winner is the first rider to cross the finish line without having been "lapped."

Events often have prizes (called primes, pronounced "preems", and are usually cash) for winning specific intermediate laps (for instance, every 10th lap). A bell is usually rung to announce to the riders that whoever wins the next lap, wins the prime.

Success in road criteriums requires a mix of good technical skills — in particular, the ability to corner smoothly while "holding your line" on the road, as well as rapidly and sharply — and riding safely with a large group on a short circuit and exceptional "sprint" ability to attack other riders and repeatedly accelerate hard from corners.

Criteriums are relatively easy to organize, do not require a large amount of space, and are good for live spectators as they allow them to see the riders pass by many times. They are the most common type of bicycle racing in the continental United States. They are also gaining popularity as a format for mountain bike events.

Flanders (Belgium) hosts a number of criteriums, as does the Netherlands. The most notable of these are held just after the Tour de France. However, criteriums in Europe are mostly held in the format of a points-race. First, second, and third rider at every 5th lap gets 3, 2, 1 points respectively (with double points at final endsprint). It was a long tradition that after the Tour these criteriums were fixed to have favourable results for local favorites, who may be participating for show after having ridden in a larger race (for example, the Tour de France).

What goes down?...In the early laps, when the pace is not so high, they will let a local favourite go to please the crowd. Meanwhile, the rest of the peloton will grimace in pain as though they are giving it everything to chase the local rider down, eventually succeeding at a (perceived) huge cost of energy. These guys can ride criteriums at over 50 km/h if they want, so the speed doesn't have to be that low to make it look good for the public.[1]



Racing bicycles used for criteriums are typically no different than those used in other mass-start road events. However, some criterium racers will choose bicycles with:

  • a wheelbase shortened as much as possible, for increased turning ability, with the shortest chainstays possible, and a slightly shortened top tube (often causing some toe overlap with the front wheel on certain frame sizes).
  • forks with less rake (not more than 40mm) for increased turning ability (albeit sacrificing some stability).
  • slightly shorter cranks (167.5-170mm), often slightly higher bottom bracket (+10mm) to facilitate pedaling through turns without hitting or scraping the pedals on the ground.
  • Aerodynamic wheels. Crits are high speed events with pro races often averaging up to 50 kilometres per hour (31 mph), making aerodynamics a large factor, even in the pack.


Within the UK, Elite and Cat 1+2 riders generally race together and Cat 3+4+W separately; however individual events will vary.

Within the USA, the Men's Field (Pro + Cat 1 + Cat 2, and sometimes Cat 3) generally race together, Cat 3's often have their own races, and Cat 4/5 Men race together; however, certain states (e.g. Colorado) do not offer Cat 5 due to a limited number of participants. so Cat 4's will have their own races[citation needed]. In addition, there are a variety of Masters categories which can be raced. The Women typically have two separate races, the P/1/2 (3) and the 3/4.

Collegiate racing in the USA is sanctioned by USA Cycling (UCSF) and consists of three categories: A, B, and C. Category A is equivalent to the P-1-2 field, category B is equivalent to the Cat 3-4 field, and category C is equivalent to Cat 4/5. Thus, collegiate criteriums are organized accordingly.

The races will also vary depending upon how many people from separate teams enter, which will impact whether it will be a "free-for-all" or a team-focused event.

Further reading

  • "Smart Cycling: Successful Training and Racing for Riders of All Levels" by Arnie Baker (ISBN 0-684-82243-1)

To view a criterium in its entirety (split screen forward and aft perspective with embedded speed, wattage, and cadence data) see:


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • critérium — [ kriterjɔm ] n. m. • 1643; → critère 1 ♦ Vx Critère. « le seul critérium de la beauté d un portrait » (Maurois). 2 ♦ (1859) Mod. Sport Épreuve sportive servant à classer, éliminer les concurrents. ⇒ compétition, épreuve, sélection. Critérium… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Criterium — Critérium Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom …   Wikipédia en Français

  • criterium — critérium s. n. Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa: Dicţionar ortografic  CRITÉRIUM s.n. Cursă ciclistă cu sistem special de punctaj. [pron. ri um. / < fr. critérium]. Trimis de LauraGellner, 16.02.2005. Sursa: DN  CRITÉRIUM s. n. cursă… …   Dicționar Român

  • critérium — sustantivo masculino 1. Área: deporte Prueba o conjunto de pruebas con carácter no oficial para clasificar a los participantes, o en la que compiten deportistas de elite: Se celebró un critérium la semana pasada en el Estadio Olímpico. En el… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • criterium — CRITERIUM. s. m. Mot emprunté du Latin, et qui n est guère en usage que dans le Dogmatique, pour signifier La marque à laquelle on reconnoît la vérité, et d autres objets intellectuels. L évidence est le criterium de la vérité …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • Criterĭum — (v. gr.), so v.w. Kriterium …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • critérium — Latinismo tomado del francés que se usa, como sustantivo masculino, con los sentidos de ‘torneo de carácter no oficial en el que participan deportistas de alto nivel’ y, en hípica, ‘carrera en la que compiten potros nacidos en el mismo año para… …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • Critérium — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Sur les autres projets Wikimedia : « Critérium », sur le Wiktionnaire (dictionnaire universel) Le terme de critérium est utilisé dans le… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • criterium — (kri tè ri om ) s. m. Terme de philosophie. Marque qui fait discerner, juger. Le criterium de la vérité. •   Dans cette foule de sentiments, quel sera notre criterium pour en bien juger ?, J. J. ROUSS. Sciences, II.    Au plur. Des criteriums.… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • criterium — noun Etymology: French critérium competition, literally, criterion, from Late Latin criterium, from Greek kritērion Date: 1970 a bicycle race of a specified number of laps on a closed course over public roads closed to normal traffic …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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