BLOOMINGTON — Watching the Bloomington Criterium sparked Beth Billing to enter the world of bicycle racing. She has competed three times in the event since then.
Billing won’t be on a bike Saturday when the Criterium returns to downtown Bloomington for its sixth year. She and Carly Davis will be too busy in their new roles as co-race directors.
Their goal is to make the event a hit with competitors and spectators. The Criterium has the added boost of being selected as the Illinois Cycling Association’s State Championship Race and also as the final race in the ICA’s Illinois Cup Series.
Center Street hill offers a challenge on a one-kilometer course with the start-finish line at the corner of Market and Main streets.
“Our course is very spectator friendly, so it’s good to come out and just sort of hang out throughout the day, walk around, get different viewpoints of the course,” Billing said.
“It’s a good course for the athletes, too. We have a little bit of a descent on the front part of the course and the back part of the course is a climb. You’re doing that climb over and over. By the end of an hour-long race, you’re going to not want to be climbing.”
The Women’s Pro 1/2/3 race begins at 2 p.m. and the Men’s Pro 1/2/3 race is at 3:10 p.m. Winners of each receive $1,540.
Racing begins at 9 a.m. with the boys and girls junior events for ages 9-14 and 15-18. Other races include the men’s Category 4/5 (9:35 a.m.), women’s Cat 4/5 (10:10 a.m.), men’s Cat 3/4 (10:50 a.m.), women’s Cat 3/4 (11:40 a.m.) and Masters 40-plus (12:30 p.m.).
Also scheduled are a free kids race at 1:25 p.m. and a celebrity adult tricycle race, which will include Bloomington mayor Tari Renner, at 1:35 p.m.
Preregistration has closed, but race-day registration is available beginning at 8:15 a.m. Organizers are hoping for approximately 250 entries.
“We just think it’s a really cool event and we’re hoping to help it continue to grow,” said Davis, whose parents own Bloomington Cycle and Fitness. “We’ve had a lot of support from the city and a lot of organizations have helped us. The Downtown Bloomington Association has been a huge help.
“It’s a free event and the bars and restaurants will be open. We have an open container permit, so you’ll be able to grab a drink, grab some food and hang out outside.”
Spectators can purchase wristbands at licensed establishments that allow them to consume beer and wine on sidewalks in a pre-determined area while watching races.
An ad hoc organizing committee includes representatives from Bloomington Cycle and Fitness, City of Bloomington, Downtown Bloomington Association, Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sports Commission and Neuhoff Media.
Races will be held "rain or shine," Davis said. The estimated direct economic impact is $86,950.