Thanks, But No Thanks, Paris

by Chikashi

paris velo festivalI received an email a couple of weeks ago, announcing a closed road criterium in central Paris. Initially, I thought, ‘That could be fun, and a nice way to spend a Sunday morning and close out the season.’

The highlight for me is the chance to ride through the cobbled Place de la Concorde without worrying about being bumped by a motorist. So, I’ve been mulling a weekend trip to the City of Light. Then, the details of the event just sunk in.

Up to 3000 participants on a 65 km route. That’s plenty of people, if they fill all the spots, but that’s not a problem per se. If it were an A-to-B or a simple loop, then I think it’s fine. However, it’s 5 laps of 13 km. I appreciate the commercial imperative of the organisers, but I think that’s an unreasonable number of diverse participants doing laps.

The parcours is not technical and goes through wide roads, but there are a couple of choke points near Pont d’Iéna where it’s easy to imagine a pile-up with a bunch of limbs flying in various directions. With the whole thing being 65 km, I can imagine plenty of participants going full gas for the most part, if not from start to finish.

As for the start, I wonder if it’s going to be a mass start or a staggered one. A mass start for a timed event involving 3000 participants seems like asking for trouble. If it’s going to be staggered, I should think that it will be done by age group because there is no qualification process. The merits (or lack thereof) of age classification aside, I am guessing that by the time the last group rolls off, the faster lot from the first couple of groups will come bombing back to the start area already, given that the lap is only 13 km long. A disaster waiting to happen?

I hope that my concerns are completely unfounded and that everyone will enjoy themselves without getting hurt. A Parisian crit is a lovely concept and a wonderful initiative, but I think I’ll pass on this one.