Catch Some of the Mad Dash Criterium Bicycle Racing

March 5, 2012

Criterium bicycle racing is the two-wheel equivalent to NASCAR, except you can see the competitors and get way closer to the action.

Criterium bicycle racing is high-speed, adrenalin-rushing, non-stop action. Photo by Sean Stuchen.

The Athlete Octane Old Pueblo Grand Prix will be a classic Downtown criterium (or crit) – the quintessential American-style bike race concentrated around a few city blocks with lots of turns, very high speeds and continuous action and excitement.

Downtown merchants 02 Modern Fitness and Fitworks Cycling are bringing the Athlete Octane Old Pueblo Grand Prix to Downtown’s streets on March 17.

The racing will begin at 10:30 a.m. and extend to 6:45 p.m., but co-promoter Susan Frank of O2 Modern Fitness wants to make sure people realize the top-tier race for women is at 4:30 p.m. and for men at 5:30 p.m. Amateur races fill the earlier hours (so will the St. Patrick’s Day Parade a few blocks to the north).

“The focus is on the end of the day,” Frank said. “That’s when it’s more spectator friendly.”

This is an elite event on the criterium circuit, one of only 11 races this year that make up the USA Criterium Championship Series.

It is family-friendly and spectator-friendly, because the racing action is all within view and passes by every minute at 25-35 mph on the .6-mile circuit. There will be intermediate sprint prizes of both product and cash to keep the racers motivated throughout their events, along with prizes for the top finishers.

The event is free to spectators.

The race start/finish line is on Stone Avenue in front of St. Augustine Cathedral, and racers head north, and lean nearly to the pavement to get onto Jackson Street (alongside the La Placita Village garage), and then right again onto Scott Avenue. They travel south on Scott past the Children’s Museum, the Scottish Rite Temple, and Temple of Music and Art, turn right onto 14th Street, and then right again onto Stone and back to the start/finish.

Ideal viewing locations will be the grassy area behind the Children’s Museum, the courtyard at the Temple of Music and Art, and the beer garden and expo at the start/finish line. Live streaming of the races can be watched at Hotel Congress and Playground Lounge.

Races throughout the day are separated by level of competitive experience and age group. The Pro/Elite men and women categories include national- and international-class athletes, including Olympic and Tour de France competitors.

During two intermissions, there will also be a fun kid’s race for children under 6 years old, and an open-class “Street Sprint.”

Festivities around the course will include a bicycle/sponsor Expo, Beer Garden, VIP area, bike-related family activities on the lawn of the Children’s Museum. A Cinelli bicycle and high-performance carbon wheels will be raffled off before the start of the Pro/Elite men’s race.

Food will be available from the Tucson Food Truck Coalition. The 25th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival will be ongoing only a few blocks away. Those who come Downtown on their bicycles can start their day with a “Bike Burrito” and Athlete Octane beverage bottle fill-up at the Hotel Congress from 8:00 a.m. until 10 a.m.

Athlete Octane, the event’s Title Sponsor, will be featuring ‘Octini’s’ at a ‘Meet the Pro’s’ post-race cocktail hour back at the Hotel Congress at 7:00 pm.

With a prize purse of $20,000, this event in Tucson rivals some of the premiere races in the country and will attract many of our nation’s top cyclists.