Cycling Classic Coming to Beaufort

By Marie McAden

The Fifth Annual Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic will bring 200 professional cyclists to town May 3 for another hair-raising, heart-pounding race through the Historic District.

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 fast speeds in a constant battle to stay in front. And they’re riding just inches from each other.”

The women will make 50 laps—the equivalent of 30 miles. The men will ride around the course 75 times or 45 miles. Averaging speeds of 25 to 30 mph, it will take the cyclists one and a half to two hours to finish their heat.

Unlike long, arduous road races such as the Tour de France, criterion racing involves short, fast courses in urban areas, providing cycling fans with non-stop excitement. Rather than see the riders cruise by them once, spectators are watching the pack pass them every 90 seconds.

They also are able to walk the course during the race to get different perspectives of the action. In the Beaufort competition, the first turn is one of the most harrowing as the cyclists come off Bay Street’s long straightaway onto the narrow Scott Street.

“They’re coming into a very tight turn at top speed,” DeVito said. “They don’t really slow down. They may ease up on the power, but they don’t hit the brake.”

This is the fifth year Beaufort Memorial has sponsored the event, part of the USA Crits Southeast series that includes seven races in nine days, each in a different Southeastern city. The Cycling Classic is the third race in the series.

“As the community’s primary healthcare provider, we are delighted to once again be a part of Beaufort’s pro cycling event,” said Beaufort Memorial Hospital President and CEO Rick Toomey. “The Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic truly celebrates active, healthy living, and we always look forward to this event.”

Training year round, the professional cyclists are in top form as they enter the racing season. They typically ride six days a week, 40 to 80 miles a day, to prepare for the grueling competitions. At peak performance, their heart rates will accelerate to 150 to 200 beats per minute.

“It’s very exciting watching them race,” said DeVito, an avid cyclist. “The back stretch is where they make their moves. They’re jockeying for position on Craven. As they turn onto New Castle, they really pick up speed.”

The event, which is free and open to the public, 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. Approximately 4,000 people are expected to line the streets for the Cycling Classic. Spectators are welcome to bring chairs to watch the event.

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Cycling Sunday


Young up-and-coming cyclists can sharpen their biking skills May 1 at the Cycling Sunday bike rodeo taking place from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Beaufort Memorial Hospital parking lot.

Members of Lowcountry Velo—the Beaufort-based cycling club organizing the Cycling Classic—will be setting up an obstacle course complete with small rolling hills, a figure eight track and traffic signs. Participants must have their own bicycles to ride the course. Helmets also are requited, but a limited number will be available for riders who need them.

To ensure maximum performance, experts will be on hand to pump up tires and adjust bikes to properly fit their riders. They’ll also help newbies navigate the course and instruct them on how to follow traffic signs.

“We want to make sure they know what to do when they get to a stop sign or yield sign,” said Joe DeVito, a Lowcountry Velo member and Cycling Sunday organizer.

The free event will end with a one-mile ride around a nearby neighborhood.

“We had 150 kids participate in this event the last time we had it,” DeVito said. “There were kids from 13 years old to little ones riding with training wheels.”

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