About 300 bicyclists are expected to converge downtown Saturday for the inaugural running of the Indy Criterium.
Bicycle races in the Indianapolis area are not uncommon. In fact, 15 are scheduled in August, including the Mass Ave. Criterium held just last Saturday. What makes this race unusual is the course, which includes a portion of Monument Circle.
“We’re using a couple of main arteries and the Circle as part of the race course, which at one time we used to do, but it’s been many years since it’s been done,” said Dean Peterson, who coaches the Marian University bicycle program.
Peterson will ride in one of the men’s master’s races but is not involved in organizing the event. That’s the job of Jennifer Cvar, an “amateur cyclist” who is a member of local Team Nebo Ridge.
“I’ve been to events in other cities like St. Louis or Chicago, and they do some of their races right in the city, and they make them into these big festivals,” Cvar said. “What’s better than to use Monument Circle to attract racers.”
A criterium, or crit, is a bike race typically held on a short course and often run on closed-off city streets.
The 0.7-mile, rectangular-shaped Indy Crit course starts on North Meridian Street near University Park, heads west on Vermont Street, south on North Illinois Street, and east on West Market. From there, racers will zip through a quarter of Monument Circle and head back on North Meridian.
Several race categories are available for men and women, depending on age and ability. The first race starts at 9 a.m. and the last one begins at 1:30 p.m. Races last from 45 minutes to 75 minutes, with racers attempting to complete the most laps in those timeframes. Speeds can reach 25 mph to 35 mph.
A 15-minute race for children 12 and under will be held at 12:15 p.m.
Roughly $4,000 in prize money is available to racers. The purse for the 1:30 p.m. men’s feature race totals $1,500, with first place paying $350. Riders pay a $40 entry fee.
Proceeds from the race benefit the local Freewheelin’ Community Bikes not-for-profit, which teaches cycling skills and mechanical training to youth. Organizers also will accept used bicycle donations for the not-for-profit.