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Stretches of several streets belonged exclusively to cyclists speeding around the course during the six races that comprised the Aug. 5 Littleton Twilight Criterium.
A criterium is a timed bicycle race around a closed course. Racers competing in the Littleton Twilight Criterium sped around an L-shaped eight-tenths-of-a-mile course that wound through portions of the downtown area with the start-finish line at Prince and Main streets. The event included six races. Each race was for specific category racers. Racer categories are based on skill level and experience.
Race times varied from 40 minutes for some classifications to one hour for the professional women’s race and 80 minutes for the professional men’s race. Racers recorded top speeds of about 30 miles an hour.
“This is the fifth year for the Littleton Criterium and my third year as race director,” Aaron Hugen said. “One change I have noticed in my three years directing the race is everything is more organized, plus the event is drawing more spectators.”
About 120 people volunteered to assist with tasks like allowing spectators to use the crosswalks only when the track was clear and deal with many of the other tasks necessary to put on the event.
“The cooperation and assistance of the City of Littleton was a huge help in putting on the event,” Hugen, of Parker, said.
Besides watching the races, spectators could enjoy live bands, a beer garden, food trucks and for children, a climbing wall and face painting.
Most retail shops and restaurants along the course also were open.
Spectators lined up along the race barriers, ringing cow bells and cheering on racers. Rain led to a short suspension of racing and sent spectators scrambling for cover. But the rain let up and racing resumed and more spectators began gathering for the later races.
The pro women’s race ran an hour and began at 7:55 p.m. as it was getting dark. The men’s pro race started at 9:05 p.m. and was run entirely under the lights.
The pro races drew the largest crowds. Spectators stood shoulder to shoulder along many stretches of the course and the crowd was three and four deep in the areas around the start finish line.
“I like bike racing but this is the first time I have come to watch a criterium,” Mike Ballentine said as he watched the pro women’s race. “The riders really push their bikes, and that last lap the rider in second place was in line and inches behind the first-place rider. And the announcer said they were traveling at close to 30 miles an hour. That is exciting to watch.”
The Centennial resident said he likes the criterium better than watching a road race because the racers pass you many times and you can watch the maneuvers they make to move up in the pack.
“It is just a lot of fun to watch because there are only small breaks in the action going on right in front of you,” he said.
The racing isn’t just for fun. Top finishers receive prizes including cash and merchandise. The winners of each race also received a yellow winner’s jersey.
George Simpson received the yellow jersey as the winner of the men’s pro race with Greg Hecht finishing second and Zack Allison third.
Skylar Schneider won the women’s pro race with Stephanie Roorda and Slylar’s sister, Samantha Schneider, finishing second and third, respectively.
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