With the Tour de France coming to a close on July 22 and the summer season in full swing, you’ve no doubt been wistfully daydreaming of long, meandering bicycle excursions through the world you know and the world you don’t. Over the past month, we’ve been exploring road racing and the nuts and bolts of competitive cycling on both the amateur and professional levels.
You now know enough to have an idea of the sorts of events you’d like to participate in and what kind of bike you’ll need to get started. What you might not know, however, is where to go from here. The USA Cycling website serves as one of the best resources for connecting with like-minded riders locally, but read on for an overview of some of the most well-known bike races in the U.S.
LoToJa Bicycle Classic
The LoToJa Bicycle Classic is a single-day road race spanning the 206-mile stretch of land between Logan, Utah and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The annual mid-September competition has seen its attendance grow considerably since it launch in 1983 with just nine riders. The 2011 race attracted 1,500 riders, split into more than 30 categories, including pro and amateur groupings. relay teams and even non-competitors just out for a fun ride. It’s a difficult and lengthy day-long journey through some of the country’s most beautiful mountain countryside.
The annual Twilight Series has been running in Athens, Georgia since 1980. It’s a weekend-long event that covers a range of cycling disciplines for both amateurs and professionals, everything from BMX racing and trick riding to mountain bike showdowns and a “Twiathlon.” The marquee event each year is the Twilight Criterium, a 50-mile lap race that sees riders zooming around a half-mile course that’s been set up in the downtown Athens area. Visit the Twilight Criterium for the latest info and suit up for next April.
USA Pro Cycling Challenge
Colorado kicked off the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in 2011 as a nod to the state’s stage race legacy, embodied by the Coors Classic competition that ran annually from 1980 to 1988. The 2012 edition of the eight-day event will wind through more than a dozen cities and towns throughout the state over its 683-mile length, eventually culminating in Denver. A series of individual time trials on the final day determines the winner. You can still sign up to ride in the challenge until August 17th, so jump in before it’s too late.
Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge
For those who prefer fixed-gear bicycles and a more structured approach to course design, track racing is going to be the preferred competition. One of the most well known of these is the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge, a banked oval track that’s been built on the property of the Alpenrose Dairy. This is one of only 25 such tracks in the United States. The Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge is in its 14th year now, and it’s one of the most popular examples of the sport in this country. It’s also one of the tougher ones to qualify for as an amateur.
Amgen Tour of California
The Amgen-sponsored Tour of California is one of the biggest stage races in the U.S., lasting eight days and covering roughly 700 miles of California’s highly varied countryside. Originally launched in February 2006, the timeframe for the race was moved to May in 2009, with the organizers highlighting it as a prep race for the Tour de France. The Tour of California also carries a UCI category rating of 2.HC, making it the highest-ranked anuual stage race operating in the U.S. right now. As such, the race is typically a destination for many of the top racers out there, including notable Tour de France competitors.
Race Across America
The Race Across America (RAAM), as you’ve probably figured out from the event’s name, is the longest example you’ll be reading about here today. The transcontinental stage race covers the 3,000-mile stretch of land between our Pacific and Atlantic coasts, with the riders historically always moving from west to east. It’s also longer than the 2,300-mile Tour de France, and it’s not a stage race; the RAAM clock is always ticking from the moment the race starts, even while riders are asleep.
The race accounts for different categories of rider, so there are standings for solo racers and teams of two, four, and eight, plus additional categorizing based on gender, age, and type of bike used. Time stations are scattered throughout the route, no more than 100 miles apart, and riders must check in at each one in order to ensure that their time — and their place in the overall standings — is officially logged.