Historic Riverton Criterium 6/8/2014 - By Dave Casale

The Historic Riverton Criterium is a top notch local race. It takes place on beautiful tree lined streets in South Jersey's Riverton, passing the local police department, library, middle school, a church, and the promoter's own house, all in a quick 1:36 lap. It's local while it still has the feel of a much bigger race; it's homey enough that you don't mind setting up your beach chair on one of the neighbor's front lawns, but you'll likely target it as a priority race during the season. The prize money is very good, the competition can be fierce, yet all the kids running around the neighborhood still manages to keep the event feeling stress free, at least until you clip in.

It's a race that tends to be a real eye opener for fitness, form, and skill. When I did the race in its inaugural year, I was the last finisher in the 1/2/3 race. I got popped with a couple of laps to go, and was super excited to just limp home at the end before Bill Elliston had popped the champagne. I skipped a year to travel south for Clarendon Cup, and had a poor race last year, where I was stuck back in the wasteland of the pack and only made it about 45 minutes in. The trick is being at the front. It's always easier said than done, but it's incredible how much easier the first 10 positions are, compared to position 20 and back. Last year I was stuck in the wasteland, constantly closing gaps, getting stuck behind crashes, bridging back to the tail end of the group every few laps, and dealing with pack fodder until I became pack fodder. Sprinting out of every corner gets old when there is a corner every ~20 seconds. That's a whole lot of sprinting...

If you are in the sweet spot towards the front, you are just cruising, knocking out a steady pedal stroke while never touching your brakes. You're just staying clean and tight, and everyone behind you is dying a slow death. You don't have to attack, and you can just settle in with a nice pace. If you get gutsier than normal, you may think it's easy enough to rev it up a little bit. You'll lay down a big attack, but that could wind up putting you in a really bad place, like that beach chair you set up in the neighbor's front lawn earlier in the day, while everyone else is finishing the race. I've done this before as well. At our Naval Yard race in April, I felt pretty good near the front, so I decided to put in a few searing attacks. But when I came back, a few more people decided to do that as well, and I ended up back at the registration tent, filling out the final paperwork for the day with our kind officials. All it takes is one poor choice and your race can be over. 

This year's race went pretty well (a smaller field than usual did help me out). I was able to get up right to the front early, and stay there for the first 8 or so laps with minimal effort. Once the race did start to break up, I got an easy ride to the front group from the eventual 3rd place rider, a group which ended up being just 18 guys total (we ended up losing about half of the field pretty early in the race). The youngest phenom Noah Granigan snuck away, to be joined quickly by young phenom/professional Robin Carpenter, and they solidified their lead while I was happy to float along in the reduced pack and catch my breath for a bit. Lots of attacking ensued to try to bring them back, but they rode solidly together and had their places secured with about 8 laps to go. Robin would put a few attacks into Noah, and take the win in the final sprint. John Minturn used his patented sneak attack strategy to leave everyone behind while they pondered how to set up for the sprint (I'm 100% that guy pondering) and he held everyone off for an impressive 3rd place. In the end I finished 12th, a fine result, but a little disappointing given the reduced field. I still learn something new every few races, and now is no different. I was happy to get this monkey off of my back, and finally have a decent race here, at a course I really enjoy.