Cyclists will be heating up the pavement Saturday in the 10th annual rain or shine Sedalia Downtown Criterium bicycle race and visitors are welcome to bring lawn chairs for this free, family event.
Usually a two-day event with a road race on Sunday, this year will only feature the Criterium race on Saturday.
For those who wish to know, Criterium is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “a bicycle race of a specified number of laps on a closed course over public roads closed to normal traffic.”
“The Criterium is a short-circuit race,” said Ebby Norman, owner of Pro-Velo bike shop. “So you will see the racers multiple times within a specific race. The course is 7/10 of a mile. So you will see them every minute and 15 to 20 seconds.”
The course starts in front of the Pettis County Courthouse on Ohio Avenue. The racers will follow Ohio Avenue south to Sixth Street turning right to Osage Avenue then north to Second Street and then back up Ohio to the courthouse.
“It’s a big long rectangle,” he said. “It’s like the bicycle racing they see on TV but often times it’s faster. Because it’s a short, closed, flat course. You have the pack style racing.”
Norman brought the first Criterium to Sedalia a decade ago and is happy that over the years he’s had the help of several men in the community to organized the event.
Norman said Mike McGaha is actually this year’s race promoter, but he will be gone on Saturday.
“We have a number of guys,” he said.
Besides Norman and McGaha, Toti Coruna, Brough Bailey, Dan Holt, Brian Ager, and John Swords, all of Sedalia, have worked to put the race together.
“Brough will be a very important person the day of the race,” Norman said. “Dan will be primarily manning the registration. (Brian) will be doing course set-up and John Swords has always been a big help. He’s very instrumental in course set-up as well. He’s so quiet and gets so much done.”
The Criterium is part of a series of races with cyclists, comprised of some professionals, arriving from different states to compete.
“It is mostly across the Midwest,” Norman said. “Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas, Arkansas and Kansas and Kentucky.”
In previous years the Criterium has brought in approximately 200 racers, Norman is hoping for 180 to 200 this year.
“The road race is cancelled but we are doing the Criterium Saturday,” Norman said. “The road race logistically it’s a little easier to put on and promote than the Criterium, but it is way more volunteer heavy. And we just couldn’t come up with the volunteers this year. We think we may change some things for next year and we think maybe we won’t have as many categories for the road race.”
The racers win cash for the races, which are in several categories including men, women junior and women’s open.
“There’s a $3,000 purse,” Norman said.
They also offer $1,500 in Primes.
“It’s spelled primes, but for some reason it’s pronounced preems,” he said. “What that is, is a race within the race.”
As the racers cycle along the course, Norman said, they may offer a $25 Prime for who ever wins the next lap.
“It could be $80, it could be $100,” he added. “And a lot of times, especially if it starts lagging, we often do what we call ‘the pass the hat prime.’ If we have a good crowd we’ll pass the hat and people will put a $1 in or $2 in and the next thing you know we’ll have an $80 prime.”
Norman added that the racing is extremely fast.
“There are sights and sounds you can’t really explain unless you come and see it really,” he said. “It’s hard to explain until you see it.”
The public is invited to experience the race and Norman suggested they bring lawn chairs and coolers.
“It’s free and it’s family friendly,” he added. “I hope people come and make a day of it. The last race doesn’t start until 9 p.m. so it’ll be 10 p.m. before everything is said and done.”
Norman pointed out that the first race at 4 p.m., the men’s 4/5, is a great race to watch along with the 6:30 p.m. Men’s 3/4 and the 9 p.m. Men’s 1/2/3 races.
“We’ve in the past had pros show up,” he said. “And we didn’t pay for them to come, which is always neat. So you just never know.”
Norman said the race is best suited for those that race often and have worked up to competing.
“There’s a certain skill set that goes with this,” he said. “It’s very dangerous, it really is. I don’t want to discourage anybody racing bikes, but if you’ve not seen a Criterium before, let alone done one I absolutely, totally invite you to come out and watch.”
Norman and his crew plus other volunteers will begin setting up barricades and roping off the course around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Saturday’s races will begin at 4 p.m. downtown in front of the Pettis County Courthouse; the last race will occur at 9 p.m.
“That last race is a fun race,” Norman added. “They’re the fast guys, they’re noticeably and visibly faster — they’re breaking the speed limit going up Ohio. They’re going 30, 33, 35 miles per hour. I hope people wait around for the last race.”