Illuminated by spotlights, the crowd waits for the peloton to come around again

Crit Season

It’s crit season in America. Coming into the long, hazy heat of summer, all over the wide expanse of this country downtowns are blocked off for criterium races. Downers Grove, The Tulsa Tough, Snake Alley — all are as much a part of the ritual of the season as fireworks on the Fourth, lightning bugs, and lemonade.

Anonymous local heroes and regional pros square-off in front of their families and folks from the neighborhood. Kids wander around with dirt-streaked faces; teens make-out behind the Port-O-Lets. It’s a festival built around an odd sport, a curious carnival of cyclists tilting headlong around corners, the most treacherous of which usually have the largest crowds, all waiting for riders to take a big stack into the hay bales.

This year’s Hyde Park Blast in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 25 offered those familiar sights in spades. A bad cover band provided entertainment and Miller the refreshment. The more enterprising brought a cooler or snuck in a flask. Families on porches distractedly watched and then wandered around to visit with the neighbors. The bike racing was the main attraction, to be sure, but the party was in the yards and corners.

Words and pictures by Robert Zach Thomas