Criterium racing is one of the hardest, fastest and most exciting forms of bike racing – it’s tactical, fan-friendly, and a wonderful spectator sport.
With the news of a major criterium being added to the calendar – the Cycling NSW / Bowral Classic Crit held over the Bowral Classic weekend – we caught up Nicholas Johns, a keen Sydney-based crit racer.
Nick is a strong supporter of the Bowral Classic, a registered rider of the debut criterium on October 16 this year, and complete coffee hound. We caught up with him to ask about all things cycling, coffee and criteriums.
BA: Thanks for your time today and virtual coffee catchup Nick, first up, when did you ride your first criterium?
NJ: No problem at all, I’m always keen for a coffee catch up virtual or face-to-face. My first crit was late 2011 or early 2012, when I was 22 years old.
BA: Criteriums really are the fastest, toughest, most brutal style of riding … why are they so popular?
NJ: I think your comment nailed it right on the head. They take a lot of explosive power and strategic riding to be able to race … let alone finish. They are tactical too, it’s not just a case of being first over the line. A lot of thought, tactics and mind games go into each and every race.
BA: Tell us about grading, it’s often a contentious topic?
NJ: Yes it is. There are always ‘burglars’- those trying to sneak into lower grades so they can get onto the top step – unless you are in top grade and have nowhere to hide. When starting in Crit’s you are generally start in a lower grade. As you progress, with experience and skill, you will work into the harder, stronger grades.
BA: Thinking back to your first crit, how would you describe it?
NJ: Honestly I had no idea what was going on but was advised to keep in the top 4 wheel’s and tried my best. But eagerness and lack of experience saw me caught out, burning my matches way too early.
BA: And your racing nowadays?
NJ: I have personally learnt how not to burn matches too early. I try to play the long game by being more strategic and working smarter. Now I try to utilise power when and where I need it, always saving a little extra for when it’s really required. Also, crits are shorter races they are still more like a marathon than a sprint … you really need to save that all-important last burst of power until the very end.
BA: How do you train and prepare for a crit?
NJ: Mixing rides to include high-intensity workouts is a good start. This helps push my heart rate and Vo2 up and down. Longer endurance rides are also important – but include set intervals so you can practice putting the power down when it’s really needed. This will also help improve recovery
BA: And you’re riding the new Bowral crit in October, a street circuit alongside Sir Donald Bradman Oval. Your thoughts on this new criterium event?
NJ: It really should add some extra excitement and high-action racing to the already existing awesome weekend. I think the new Bowral Crit will be a fan favourite simply because you will be right there on the sidelines, seeing first hand what goes on during a race.
BA: And first-year honours will be on the table …
NJ: Definitely. Being the inaugural winner of Bowral Crit in any of the grades will provide serious bragging rights, along with the cash and be awesome cycling palmares … but no one will be gifted a win, that’s for sure.
BA: Don’t give too many trade secrets away, but what are your Top 3 tips for those keen to get into Crit racing or ride the Bowral crit?
NJ: Train correctly. Identify your strengths and weakness. Work on your bike handling and explosive power. Most of all, get in and race as many Crit’s as you can as this provides the best training and learning experience.
BA: Nick Johns, thanks for your time and we look forward to following your racing and coffee selfies … how can people follow you?
NJ: Look for the black on black Merida running 65 Caden wheels otherwise the easy way is @thecoffee_cycleguy, or follow our race team @apres_velo_racing