The Critérium des As (Race of the Aces) was a cycle race that was generally held at the end of the season, with entry by invitation only, for the leading riders of the season. Competitors rode behind pacers on tandems or motorcycles. It was held from 1921 until 1990, mostly in Paris, France but also in Switzerland and Holland. The last Critérium des As was held in 1990 and was replaced by the Roue d'Or des As the following year.
|English name||Race of the Aces|
|First winner||Philippe Thys|
|Most wins||Rik Van Steenbergen (5 wins)|
|Final winner||Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle|
In 1920 the Critérium de la résistance was run from Bordeaux to Paris (Longchamp) and back to Bordeaux, and is regarded as the forerunner of Critérium des As. The 1,208 kilometres (751 mi) paced event was won by Louis Mottiat of Belgium, in 56 hours and 48 minutes.
In 1921 the best riders of the season were invited to enter the Critérium des As, 27 laps of a 3.63 km circuit around Longchamp. They rode alone except for pacers who helped on occasional laps, not being fast enough to last longer.
Crowds of up to 6,000 watched in the years before the World War II. The individual pacers were replaced by tandems, triplets, motorcycles and finally specialist Derny lightweight motorcycles in 1947. René de Latour, a journalist who organised the race in 1943, when the inside of the circuit included flak guns to defend the Renault factory in Boulogne-Billancourt, said:
The tandems gave more shelter and the race became more and more spectacular. Each of the selected riders had four or five tandems at his disposal, and it was a lovely sight to see the relieving tandem taking over from the 'double' that had just completed its allotted spell. If you talk to the older bike fans, they will tell you regretfully that racing was really beautiful to watch in the days of tandem-pacing and that nothing had ever really replaced them. I must say that I think that way, too." René de Latour
The race was held at:
- The 1938 race was not called the Critérium des As. It was held at Longchamp to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dunlop tyre company.