Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Like Nascar on Bikes..."

Note: This is a BIG blog today, lots of photos we wanted to share. We heard that there was going to be a BIG bike race in Beaufort! (In the south, you say "Bew-fert". Just don't say "Bow-fort", or they will know you are a northerner :-)  It's called the Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic, the 6th annual one. It was the third in a series of seven races in nine days, each in a different southwestern city. It's an exciting race of a different kind in the sleepy town of Beaufort. It's called "criterion" racing--a short, fast course in an urban area. Everybody is gonna wake up for this one! They are expecting 3,000 spectators, so we thought we'd better get there early. The workers were just starting to set up the rails when we got there...but the crowd didn't start gathering until around 6:00...They had rails all along the course, and hay bales in the turns in case of a crash.

It's an exciting .6 mile course where the bikers might hit speeds up to 40 miles per hour, coming into tight turns at these fast speeds...The bikers go round and round the course, 75 times or 45 miles for the men's race. Criterion racing is based on teams and the cyclists have strategies to protect their sprinters who have the best chance of winning. Sort of like Nascar, where drivers on teams draft (riding just behind the rider in front) and use strategies to help get the win. The riders can save up to 30% of their energy by drafting. They even have a pace car, like Nascar races. It was an all electric Leaf, by Nissan. The pace car stays ahead in the race the entire time, making sure the coast is clear for the riders barreling down the street behind it, honking before each turn. What a great choice! No exhaust for the riders to breathe...We were wondering if the car would make it through both the men's and women's races, but it did...It has a 100 mile range on a full charge.

The race is ensured to keep speed at a constant high, by the riders competing for "prime" ("preem") laps in which the fastest rider for the lap wins a prize. There are many of these offered during the race, so the rider doesn't hold back in speed to sprint at the end. The racers are sort of divided into groups by the nature of the race--you have ones that are going for the final win, you have riders that compete just to get lap prizes, and you have riders that aid the teammate in pursuit of the win. There are "groups" that jockey during the race in order to control the speed of the race, too. The "breakaway" is when a rider or two splits from the pack and makes his move. You might be able to see the teams in some of the photos....

We really wanted to see this, so mid-afternoon today, we headed to Beaufort to find a place to park the car and a good vantage point to watch the race. Nothing like getting there early to get a good spot. The event was FREE and open to the public. Woo-hoo! We're in!

We got ourselves situated, got Sparky (and Eldo) fed with some good local food "to go" from a place called "Luther's" and settled in to wait. We took a quick walk on the way in, around the waterfront park, which was absolutely GORGEOUS, while waiting for the kids' race to start at 5:00 PM. The waterfront park in Beaufort is one of the most beautiful parks we have ever seen...beautiful grassy, shaded areas, porch swings, many of them down by the waterfront, greens for bocce ball, and a wonderful view of the harbor.

Time for the kids' race...They were so cute!

This kid gave the fist up winner's signal....He's a future winner of something, for sure!

Next, the women's race, 70 competitors.....50 laps around the streets for a total of 30 miles, speeds averaging 25-30 m.p.h. coming into the first turn at Scott Street. And--there was a CRASH!

Nobody was seriously hurt, just some bruised egos, bent bikes and frustrated riders...This gal below, was in the crash, but as you can see, but she has a winning attitude....and a winning outfit! Wow! (And a few other winning things, says E., smiling)

Eldy enjoyed checking out the women's cycling outfits, like the one above. Sparky thinks it makes the sport extra "cool" to see these amazing outfits and gear.....Unbelievable, the cool shoes, racing outfits and gear, including the bikes! The price of the bikes is in the thousands for these skilled racers, who came from all over the world to participate in today's race. No harm in lookin' good, even if you may not be the best of the best, Sparky says...But these are the best of the best riders, they come from all over the world and the U.S. to compete in this race.

The rest of the women's race proceeded uneventfully...Sparky got lots of camera practice with the Nikon D3100 but had lots of trouble with figuring out the best setting without getting blurry photos. (Sparky is not very good about doing her homework beforehand! explains Eldo.) But this is kind of a cool blurry photo. It's her attempt at an "artsy fartsy" kind of photo, showing the speed, the riders really were a blur as they went by, they were going so fast!.....This was from the men's race after the sun went down....

Almost immediately after the women's race, the men's started, with 118 competitors. You could really see the difference between the speeds in the two races. The men's was much faster and more intense, even the pace car traveled faster around the course, and the competitors were much more close to each other, just inches away. They hugged the rails a lot more closely, too! You didn't dare stick an arm out with a camera over the railing, or you might break an arm or cause a wreck! Eldy said he could see the whites of the eyes on some competitors, they were so close! It was a little unnerving, he said. The WHOOSH of air as the pack went by was a STRONG gust of wind.

Here they come, get out of the way!
Some people tried to cross over to the other side to get a different perspective on the race and had a close call! Eldy said that he could have easily touched the riders as they came by...You didn't want your arms or a camera to be outstretched, that's for sure! The men came a LOT closer to the rails than the women did.

Some people were bored by the whole thing, but that was a rarity.... ;-> Most hung near the rails for hours to watch the cyclists whir by again and again.

It was a very well organized event from everything we saw. It was really exciting and the crowd grew as the evening hours descended.

You think the group of racers is just a bunch of riders all trying to win, but it's much more complicated than that, and we learned a LOT about criterion racing today by watching and listening to the announcer. The team that can get a small group of riders to the front of the pack to keep the speed up and protect their sprinter, is the one that is going to win the race.

When we heard the announcements of the winners tonight, we heard the name, and "Team ....." demonstrating just what a group effort it takes to win a race like this. The only disappointment we had in the race was the announcer botching the names of the women's race winners. He couldn't even recall the names of the three winners and used the excuse he had been to too many races this month. Sparky was very upset about that! (She's a feminist, you know...) Shame on him! But it was exciting, there were lots of cowbells ringing and people urging the riders onward and faster, ringing the bells, hollerin' and whistling, the crowd had lots of enthusiasm for the race today. Heck, Sparky got into the spirit of things and was whooping and hollering for the racers and she didn't even know anybody! It was a great celebration of healthy living and southern town hospitality and we will definitely come back to Beaufort, South Carolina for another visit! Hope you enjoyed your visit at the Beaufort Memorial Classic today!


  1. Oh my gosh...I could never have watched that. They would have made me so nervous. I can't watch this stuff on TV let alone in person. I am always afraid someone is going to get seriously hurt. The photos are awesome. Great job!
    How could the announcer not have the names on a piece of paper? Inexcusable!

  2. Believe it or not, I'd almost sooner watch racing vehicles, and that too has to do with the nervousness. I always expect there to be a crash, and the bike riders have so little protection. Cars have a bunch of "safety stuff" to protect the drivers.
    Most "small time" announcers are just that, unfortunately. Paper is cheap. So is a bic pen. Write down what you need to remember! How hard is that?

  3. WHEW... I think I would be nervous too, just watching them whiz past. That shot of the little guy sitting down by his bike, either with a nook or a tablet, looks like what my grandson would do! haha he loves to play on "Granmuddah's Big Iphone" as he calls my Galaxy Tablet. But then it gets put away and we go outside to play. LOL

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  4. Really interesting Jeannie. I've never even heard of anything like this. Do you what all towns they do this in? I guess these people do it on the week-ends when they aren't working or is this "professional" and they get paid. Not the women of no not them. :-)

  5. Do you know all the towns is what that should have said. Miss Flippy Fingers got in my way as I was racing along trying not to let my thoughts disappear into the sieve that is my mind these days. It was a crash for sure.

  6. Correction: SOUTHEASTERN cities, I should have said. That's Sparky's spatially challenged mind at work, and no, sorry, I do not know the other cities, but if you googled Beaufort Criterion Racing, or criterion racing southeast, I'll bet it might come up.

  7. Your comment about closeness of spectators reminds me of the Tour de France and the crazies that dress up in superhero or chicken costumes and run along side the riders as they climb the steep mountains. They're certifiably nuts (just looking for TV camera time). Lance Armstrong had his handlebar catch a handbag on a woman's arm draped over the fence on a curve and went down like a stone; he just got up, hopped on, and won the stage.