By Marie McAden
The Fifth Annual Beaufort MemorialCycling Classic will bring 200 professional cyclists to town Tuesday,May 3 for another hair-raising, heart-pounding race through downtown.The 70 female and 118 male competitors participating in this year’s event will be riding a .6-mile course that begins on Bay Street, turns onto…
the one-lane Scott Street and continues around Craven and Newcastle streets. At top speed, the cyclists will hit 40 mph.“It’s like NASCAR on bicycles,” said Joe DeVito, one of the race organizers.“They’re diving into turns at very fastspeeds in a constant battle to stay infront. And they’re riding just inches fromeach other.”The women will make 50 laps — theequivalent of 30 miles. The men will ridearound the course 75 times or 45 miles.Averaging speeds of 25 to 30 mph, it willtake the cyclists one and a half to twohours to finish their heat.Unlike long, arduous road races suchas the Tour de France, criterion racing
involves short, fast courses in urbanareas, providing cycling fans with non-stop excitement. Rather than see theriders cruise by them once, spectators arewatching the pack pass every 90 seconds.They also are able to walk thecourse during the race to get differentperspectives of the action. In the Beaufortcompetition, the first turn is one of themost harrowing as the cyclists comeoff Bay Street’s long straightaway ontonarrow Scott Street.
“ They’re coming into a very tightturn at top speed,” DeVito said. “ They don’t really slow down. They may ease up on the power, but they don’t hit thebrake.”This is the fifth year BeaufortMemorial has sponsored the event, partof the USA Crits Southeast series thatincludes seven races in nine days, eachin a different Southeastern city. TheCycling Classic is the third race in theseries.“As the community’s primaryhealthcare provider, we are delighted toonce again be a part of Beaufort’s procycling event,” said Beaufort MemorialHospital President and CEO RickToomey. “The Beaufort MemorialCycling Classic truly celebrates active,healthy living, and we always look
forward to this event.”Training year round, the professionalcyclists are in top form as they enterthe racing season. They typically ridesix days a week, 40 to 80 miles a day, toprepare for the grueling competitions.At peak performance, their heart rateswill accelerate to 150 to 200 beats perminute.“It’s very exciting watching themrace,” said DeVito, an avid cyclist. “Theback stretch is where they make theirmoves. They’re jockeying for position onCraven. As they turn onto New Castle,they really pick up speed.”The event, which is free and open tothe public, will start with a kids’ raceat 5 p.m., followed by the women’srace at 6 and the men’s heat at 7:30.Approximately 4,000 people areexpected to line the streets for theCycling Classic. Spectators are welcometo bring chairs to watch the event.For more information, visit www.lowcountrycyclist.com.