bike racing event for pedaling in the upscale areas of Athens | Local news

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The Athens Brick Criterium cycling race is set to return to Athens this summer pending probable approval from Athens city council.

After a 12-year stint from 1986 to 1998, the annual “Classic Cyclist” came to an end, with the central event each year being the criterium race around the main urban area. In its heyday, renowned riders such as Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and other notable professional racing cyclists took part, which led to thousands of people flocking to Athens to witness the show.

“I have fond memories of this event,” said Daniel Brown of Athens, lead organizer of the proposed new brick criterium, at an Athens city council meeting on February 25. “I know others are doing it too, and I want to pass this on to future generations.”

A criterium style race is generally preferred because it consists of a defined number of laps around a closed circuit. The main course of the criterium event on Saturday 22 June would largely follow the original route around downtown Athens, starting in front of the county courthouse and returning to the same location. One of the most exciting parts of the race takes place at the bottom of South Congress Street, as the runners turn towards West Union.

“This is one of the friendliest cycling races you can attend. It’s really exciting, you see the runners go by every minute, give or take, ”said Brown.

Friday night of June 21 would also feature a playoff-style sprint circuit that would start on East Union Street, continue to Jeff Hill and end around College Street for an overall distance of approximately 2/10 of a mile.

At the February meeting, City Council member Patrick McGee expressed concern about the proposed route for Saturday’s criterium. He said races around College Green will still include brick roads and will not close Court Street for an entire day.

Brown said the downtown route will ultimately be more fun for cyclists.

“The course is what draws people to this race, or what has drawn runners to this event in the past,” said Brown. “It’s on the bricks, you have the hills: it’s a difficult course with fairly tight turns. “

He also proposed to close a section of West Union Street – between South Congress and South Court Street – in the evening for a post-race party. McGee said he was in favor of the idea.

While the Brick Critérium’s resurgence is inspired by the past, not all will be the same.

Bruce Mitchell, founder and longtime former owner and publisher of NEWS from Athens, has been heavily involved in racing for all of its 12 years. He was both assistant and main director until the end. In reality, NEWS from Athens even had its own all-female cycling team that raced across the country.

At the time, the fall race turned into a three-day event (The A to Z Classic) and offered a “big prize” – a total of $ 10,000 per year – to keep participants coming back. The current online listings for this summer’s event have the top prize set at $ 2,500.

This year, the event takes place in the summer due to the dates of other races in Ohio and peak criterium season that change from fall, according to Brown, who says he grew up in Athens. The Brick Criterium is sandwiched between a race in Grandview Heights, Columbus, the previous weekend and the Hyde Park Blast in Cincinnati the following weekend. The race in Cincinnati is also the state championship, so Brown said he hopes runners will want to compete in more back-to-back races.

The main difference between the upcoming event and its predecessors is that the new event aims to donate its profits to a non-profit charity, The Athens Brick, whose mission is to involve local youth in cycling.

During its 12 year run, the Critérium d’Athènes / A to Z Classic has been involved with a wide range of the community. For example, great professional cyclists spoke at assemblies in local schools.

“We got them up to the gym,” recalls Mitchell, who now lives primarily in Key West, Florida, but maintains a part-time residency and business interests in Athens. “Getting into the gym was a great excitement. ”

Mitchell emphasized the importance of community support and participation to ensure the success of the Critérium Brick. At its peak, the Brick Criterium attracted up to 20,000 participants.

“It’s important that business owners support the event,” he said. “It is an expensive and complex event; it is a difficult task.

Since the race was listed online, Brown said he had received emails from several people thanking him for bringing the event back. He also noted that in recent years, the number of bicycle races held in Ohio has declined “largely because it is difficult to organize a race and not lose money.”

Brown said he had met with business owners in the area to hear their feedback and had received “constructive criticism” as well as a fair amount of enthusiasm.


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