A Brief History
Each spring, the bicycle racers of Maine put down their glasses of Allen’s Coffee Brandy, get off the couch and transition from chopping wood to riding bikes to build their fitness. Many years ago, these industrious folks realized that riding together at a high rate of speed would help build this fitness more quickly than riding alone at a schmedium pace. Today the Scarborough Crit Series is home to “all those really fast Maine guys” and by attending, you’ll be clued into what makes them so fast.
Photo: Angelica Dixon, who takes fantastic shots like this almost every week!
The Scarborough Crit Series runs each Sunday morning from April – mid May, usually 6 or 7 race days. It takes place in Scarborough Maine, which is much closer to Boston than any of you might think. Seriously, Google it. The series is run by Downeast Racing and has three race windows each weekend beginning at 8AM with a Master’s race and Women’s Race (separate fields and starts) followed by a Cat 4/5 race at 8:50 and a P/1/2/3 at 10AM. It is a USAC-licensed race, so you will need a license to race, and it does cost ~$25 to race (cash, check or pre-reg via Bikereg). Bikereg is slightly cheaper $22 and change after the fee, but then you’re committed to getting up and going. Commitment free day of is a flat $25.
As Hank tells the field most weeks, “We are small, but we are not rinky-dink!” There’s plenty of primes (cash and merchandise) along with a prize purse or $60 per race ($30/$20/$10). If you can sprint or pedal hard, there’s plenty of opportunity to cover your entry fee, gas and post race donuts (more on that later).
Another item that is very appealing is that results are kept and submitted (very quickly) to USAC and road-results. Plenty of upgrades have been earned here.
Finally, as this is call the Scarborough Crit Series, the top 8 each week score points towards the season series and the winner of each field gets a prize.
Why You Should Go to Scarborough
The secret to what makes a great training crit is not actually a secret, but factors include: laid back atmosphere, safe course, good workout and has something for everyone. Just look at these stats:
1.3 miles of pancake flat, mostly open, goodness with only one actual corner that is REALLY wide. Does this mean it’s easy, boring and nothing happens? Not all, it means you’re cruising around 26mph and going over 30mph when it’s full gas. Shifting winds can decide a race if you’re sleeping at the wheel.
Want to get in a break? Find a guy in a light blue Downeast kit and hammer up the road. Teamwork is a thing here and getting some representation from the strong teams to go with you is a necessity. Hoping for a field sprint? Stay near the front and keep it together. The wide lanes and bends give you ample opportunity to move up and mark moves. Want to sit on and ride tempo? Just sit in the pack and you’ll be in for a nice ride.
The road is a circular industrial park that is open to cars. The yellow line is always in effect, but rarely comes into play. Don’t abuse it and you’ll be fine. The cars that do enter the course do so rarely, and are almost always going the same direction as you (so you won’t actually see them)..
Mechanicals happen from time to time, change a wheel or borrow your friend’s bike and get back in. There’s no stated free lap rule, but use your head when it comes to sprinting if you take a free lap late in the race.
Post race chats and hang-outs are a thing if you want to meet some new people and if you pop over to the Holy Donut, you’ll be sure to run into some familiar faces.
As noted above, we’ve got what is basically a NASCAR track (hmmmm….) for a course. There is a single actual corner, turn 3, and you can see the finish line from a long way out. Do not try and sprint from the final bend, it’s ~450 meters and you will be exceptionally sad.
The road is decently wide the whole time and pavement is acceptable. The back stretch is rough in places and the one actual corner has a large divot in it. Fear not, it’s well marked and almost everyone has been through the corner 100+ times. There’s no curbs or the inside and the sand off the road is well packed. With no defining features, breaks can go anywhere on the course. It is mostly dictated by the wind direction.
Also mentioned above, the yellow line rule is in effect the entire lap, but like a pickup basketball game, you mostly call your own fouls. If you go over the line during a pack swell, no one will yell at you. If you pass 5 people while you’re out there? Expect to get yelled at. Keep doing it, expect to get DQ’d.
Getting There & Getting Home…
I’d love to give you a bunch of ninja routes to ride to the race and home, but unless you live in/around Portland, you’re driving here. That said, it couldn’t be easier. Get off the Maine Turnpike exit 42 and go straight, through two stop lights until you run into the course. It’s that easy. If you’re a google map person, you can set your GPS to “Maine Indoor Karting”, which is between turn 1 and 2.
So I’ve sold you on the race itself for a variety of reasons; early season fitness, course for sprinters, course for breakaways, primes, prizes and upgrade points. But I can already hear you saying, “Gee, that’s a long way to drive for a 30 mile training race.” And sure, it is a long way to go, but that’s where you’re doing it wrong. Horrible takes aside, there’s a lot of great things to do in Maine.
Post race options for food, more training, beer and donuts are through the roof with any effort beyond, “pack my bike and drive south.”
Want to spin more? Go to turn one, make a left through the yellow gate and you’ll hit the Eastern Greenway in a few hundred yards, make a left. Less than a mile of gravel yields to pavement where you can ride any number of ways in/around South Portland and Cape Elizabeth for an easy 25-35 miles. Find your way to Rt 77 and make it a loop.
Just follow the yellow line until you intersect Black Point Rd, go right.
Want amazing food and/or beer? Make the 10 minute drive to Portland and eat and drink literally whatever you want. If you’re a 1/2/3 racer, by the time you pack up the car post race and get over the Portland, it’ll be lunch time.
The lowest hanging fruit though, is the Holy Donut. If you’ve ever been on Exchange Street in Portland in the summer and seen a line that’s way too long for anything other someone giving away money, then you may be familiar with the potato donut revolution. There is a Holy Donut location right at the entrance to the industrial park and you should absolutely replenish your carb/fat stores with a post race donut or four.
Hitting the Holy Donut, riding Rt 77 counterclockwise up to Portland to grab lunch and a beer then riding back to your car is remarkably easy and about 70 miles total. The map below is the route from your car to the heart of downtown Portland, 18 miles and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a nice tailwind on most of Rt. 77.
Most nice weekends get a good crowd. 40 starters in the 1/2/3 and 4/5 races. The atmosphere is family friendly so you get a small but supportive crowd. The last, but certainly not least, bonus is that one of New England’s favorite cycling photographers, Angelica Dixon, is a regular attendee and takes amazing photos of you in your favorite team kit, even if it’s raining, on Easter Sunday.