Barreling down the streets of the Historic District at speeds reaching 40 miles an hour, nearly 200 professional cyclists will compete for a piece of a $15,000 purse in the Fifth Annual Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic.
Some 4,000 spectators are expected to turn out for the May 3 event, part of the USA Crits Southeast series. The seven-race schedule starts April 30 in Athens, Ga., with the Terrapin Twilight and ends eight days later in Sandy Springs, Ga. The Beaufort heat is the third race in the series.
Criterium competitions are a unique form of cycling that feature high-speed racing in an urban atmosphere, combining the most exciting elements of popular sports with the large-scale appeal of a downtown festival atmosphere.
“People line the course, ringing cowbells, cheering and whistling as the riders go by,” said Joe DeVito, one of the organizers of the event. “It really helps to keep the cyclists’ energy level up.”
An estimated 70 female and 118 male competitors will be riding the .6-mile course that begins on Bay Street and loops around Scott, Raven and Newcastle streets. The men cyclists will make 75 laps, the women 50, at speeds averaging 25 to 30 miles per hour.
“In the time it takes you to walk the course, you can see the riders make about five laps,” DeVito said. “A lot of people will set up chairs to watch the races, but I think it’s more fun to walk around. Every corner, every street offers a different perspective of the race.”
The tight turn from Bay Street to Scott—a one lane street measuring about 12 feet across—is one of the most popular viewing spots on the course.
“Imagine 100 guys charging into that corner after a long straight away where they’ve hit top speed,” DeVito said. “It’s fantastic.”
The free event will start with a kids’ race at 5 p.m., followed by the women’s race at 6 and the men’s heat at 7:30.
Cycling Sunday, a kids bike rodeo, will kick off the week of bicycling fun. It will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of Beaufort Memorial Hospital on Sunday, May 1 and will include an obstacle course with rolling hills, a figure eight track and street signs. The rodeo will close with a one-mile family fun ride through nearby neighborhoods.
“We’re proud to be the title sponsor of the Cycling Classic again this year,” said Rick Toomey, president and CEO of Beaufort Memorial Hospital. “The event supports our mission to promote wellness and healthy living in our community. At the same time, it offers outstanding exposure for the Lowcountry, as well as the opportunity to be associated with a growing national and professional sport.”
IF YOU GO
Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic
Tuesday, May 3 beginning at 5 PM
The Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic will roll through downtown Beaufort on Tuesday evening, April 27. The event will kick off with a kids’ race at 5 p.m. on Bay Street and will be followed by the women’s, then men’s races.
Pick your place on the .6 course, which begins and ends at the clock on Bay Street and runs on Scott, Craven, and Newcastle Streets. All races are free and open to the public.
Sunday, May 1 from 2 to 4 PM
Cycling Sunday, a free kids’ bike safety rodeo, will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. in the parking lot of Beaufort Memorial Hospital, and will include an obstacle course with rolling hills, bike fittings, free bike helmets and more. The rodeo will close with a one-mile family fun ride through nearby neighborhoods.
For more details about the Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic and a full schedule of events, visit www.lowcountrycyclist.com.