Chisinau Criterium – circular cycling race through the main streets of the city

I told you many times why I started doing sports and how Sporter came to be. But I almost never mentioned that the longest stage of a triathlon – cycling – turned out to be my least favorite. Some people swim hard, some people run. But I don’t really like pedaling. I think of the bicycle as a “layer” between the athlete and the race. And that’s why my relationship with it didn’t work out very well.

 But that’s just the way I am. Meanwhile, in Chisinau, the bicycle is popular not only with athletes, but also with ordinary citizens as a mode of transportation. In 2013, when Sporter just appeared, VeloHora was already popular, gathering thousands of cyclists. So in 2014 we decided that it was time to organize the first circular cycling race through the streets of the city – Chisinau Criterium.

It is a high-speed race around the city with a closed circuit (on a loop). In 2018, the Criterium will be held for the fifth time. And over these 5 years, the race has undergone some changes.

 A little chronology:

Criterium 2014

In 2014, the contest was held on September 21. It was hosted by the Great National Assembly Square, and we also used the central street – Stefan cel Mare. The participants competed in the following categories: “veterans” and “amateurs” (16.8 km) and “professionals” (35 km). There were 200 participants.

The weather was really autumnal – rainy and windy. And the digged-through Banulescu-Bodoni street (they were changing the pipes) was an unpleasant addition to the picture. The finish arch was bouncy and could not withstand the gusts of wind, so, we had to hold it still.


Criterium 2015

On October 11, 2015, Chisinau hosted the second edition of the circular cycling race. The competition was moved to Riscani district (“Afghans Park”). This year we introduced a 15-km VeloFun for all comers. But there was only one competitive distance – 50 km for only “professionals” on MTB and Road bikes. Also, this year we introduced age categories, and many climbed onto the stage for the long-awaited awards. There were fewer participants than the previous year – just over 100 people.

And in 2015, Chisinau Criterium was included in the Official Calendar of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of RM.

The weather was even worse – +5°C and heavy rain. We tried to warm up the finishers with tea as much as we could. By this time, we had a normal arch, which could withstand any weather. When we got back to the office, we kept squeezing our underpants. For the second year somehow we had no luck with the weather.


Criterium 2016

The next year, the circular cycling race again was held in Riscani district (“Afghans Park” along Moscova ave.). On September 18 competitors started in the categories of 32 km and 48 km. Categories were intended for both “professionals” and “amateurs”. VeloFun became a good tradition, and the distance was the same – 15 km. The contest had a total number of 5,000 participants.

The weather this time was perfect – sunshine, peaceful, and everyone was happy. For the first time at the Criterium the team stayed dry, and the participants did not shiver with cold after the finish.

 In 2016, I really wanted to ride the distance in Dji’s costume (Dji is the unlucky Death, a character of a cartoon series by Simpals). But my bike broke down on the way home and I had to take the public trolley. And since I didn’t have any money with me, I, wearing the disguise, had to ask passengers for money to pay the fare.

 Also, after the contest there were quite a lot of watermelons and melons left over, which were prepared for the relaxation zone. The delicious September melons were handed out absolutely free to anyone who wanted them. The team was just calling out to all the passersby in the park who were very hesitant to take it for free.


Criterium 2017

And so, 2017 has come. This year we made several changes at once. First, we held the event for the first time in the spring – May 28. Second, we moved the Marathon from spring to autumn, and the Criterium from autumn to spring. Third, in 2017, the event was brought back to Great National Assembly Square. The distances were changed again: 30 km and 60 km with an option to participate in either category: MTB or Road. Also, VeloFun remained within the 15 km distance around the city. A total of 5,000 people entered the race, among whom there were about 350 professionals.

Fourth, in 2017 we held Chisinau Criterium for two days: on Saturday we did the competition for children – Kids Criterium, and on Sunday –for adults.


This year we prepared three different starts for athletes: separately VeloFun, separately 30 km and separately 60 km. First the 30km started. After 2 hours, when they had to complete the race, came the VeloFun, who according to the plan had to cover their distance in an hour. And at 13-00 those who were competing at 60 km distance were aligned for the start. But it didn’t go according to plan 🙂

 VeloFun was delayed because of traffic jams and arrived on the square late. All the professionals were at the start and, unfortunately, they had to wait for about 40 minutes. Appreciations to those who sadly waited for their start. We will take all the cons into account and for the future we’ll try very hard not to repeat mistakes.


Criterium 2018

By 2018 we already had a lot of cycling experience under our belt and didn’t “reinvent the wheel”. What I mean by that is that we didn’t change the location, rules and distances of the event. Like the previous year, we decided to hold the children’s competition on Saturday and the championship for athletes and fans on Sunday, as well as the traditional mass VeloFun.

On Saturday, May 12 we had Kids Criterium bicycle races. Music was playing, partners, organizers and volunteers were there, children were having fun and getting ready for the start. They had to cover 400, 800 or 1200 meters, i.e. the distances chosen at registration.

The start was announced and the young cyclists raced. Each participant rode their own distance. Luckily, everything went without incident. We warned parents that helmet protection was a requirement for participation. In addition, the contest rules were explained to the children in advance and they were familiar to them. The competition was over and the winners were determined.

After the contest stage, we had Kids Velo Fun. This was a race for fun. You could use not only bikes, but also scooters, roller skates, whatever, because the main thing was to overcome the 400-meter distance in any way.


Sunday, May 13, we officially opened the 2018 Criterium Championships. The central square was filled with participants and guests, and the sky was cloudy. Fortunately, the overcast weather had no effect on the athletic mood of the participants, and after the warm-up we announced the start. Participants covered their distances, which remained the same as the previous year – 30 km and 60 km. The race was held in the format of a circular race on the main streets of the city. The competition stage came to an end and the winners received their deserved awards.

If the rain was not an obstacle for the athletes who participated in the competitive stages, the VeloFun mass races had to be canceled for safety reasons (wet track, lots of participants, anything could happen…).

Two weeks later, as promised, we did VeloFun. On Saturday, May 26, more than 5,000 people had gathered in the center of the city. The convoy of cyclists started at 12:00 from the central square and rode 15 km along the streets of Center and Riscani district. This time the weather didn’t let us down and everything went according to plan.

Mentioned projects:
Criterium Sporter
An island of bad luck in the Philippines is...

An island of bad luck in the Philippines is...

Is it legal to murder boaters? Do sharks take off legs? How not to step on a sea urchin and which nation is the most intelligent?

Can you run away from Death?

Can you run away from Death?