Men C3 1The second annual Chicago Criterium ran today in Grant Park. The first race of the day, the Juniors race, started at 7:00 AM, so I trundled out of bed early and walked over to the park. Despite the smallness of the hour, this had a nice photographic benefit of allowing me to shoot in the warm morning light just after sunrise. Normally a Sunday morning at that hour is deserted downtown. The Starbucks by our house doesn’t get busy until at least a couple hours later. But today the Loop was busy already early in the morning.

Men C3 3Last year, I wrote about my experiences with the race. I reminisced about my experiences as a bicycle racer. What I did not mention was that I came to the Criterium without much of a plan. I just came to check it out and see what it was like. I used the excuse that I was going to take pictures to push me over there. But once I was there, I was somewhat at a loss. So I shot a lot of pictures of people I didn’t know and just soaked it all in. It was enlightening to me to be around bike racing again after so many years away from it.

When I posted the pictures I got a number of messages from people expressing interest in the photos or requesting permission to use them on other websites. So this year, I tucked a few of those names in my back pocket and made it a point to seek them out and say hello. One is the father of two boys ages 10 and 12 who are starting racing. Another is the skilled rider whose win in the Category 4s race last year advanced him to Category 3 where he’s raced successfully this year.

Men C3 7This gave my photography some direction. I sought these people out and tried to make interesting pictures of them in action. In effect I was my own photo desk: I gave myself a photo assignment and carried it out. Not that I have a particularly keen understanding of how that sort of assignment works in the real world, but I pretended. I also tried some other techniques. I tried to do some more panning shots. I tried to get a good shot of a start, and of a finish. I’m quite pleased with the results.

My only regret is that I decided to only bring one lens to the race. And it was the same telephoto lens I had brought last year. So I retread some ground, shooting similar shots from similar positions on the course. I wished I had brought my wide angle lens to try and get a different look of the race. I took notes as to what some of the other photographers were trying in hopes that next time I’ll come up with something new.

I had heard that last year’s Criterium was well-received by the cycling community. The announcers reiterated that fact more than once, that USA Cycling (formerly USCF) rated the Chicago Criterium the top criterium race in the nation last year. The rating was based on organization, the course, the schedule, the availability to transportation and a host of factors that might easily be used to demonstrate that Chicago is capable of hosting an Olympic-level cycling event. Several people I talked to expressed that they thought if Chicago were to win the Olympic bid we would see more interest in racing. And if Chicago lost the Olympic bid, they feared this may be the last year for the Criterium. I guess we’ll find out in October.