After six years, San Luis Obispo’s Downtown Criterium Classic and Cycling Festival returns Sunday with ultra-competitive pro bicycle racing.
The full-race day is expected to lure in thousands of spectators and will include 600 amateur, collegiate and professional racers to compete for cash purses totaling more than $5,000.
“We are excited to bring this legendary cycling event back to the streets of downtown,” said Shaba Mohseni, an organizer of the event and Cal Poly Wheelmen Cycling Club racer. “Many remember with great nostalgia the unique excitement that this race showcased in the ’70s and ’80s. We look forward to participating in its revival.”
The circuit starts and finishes on Chorro and Higuera streets, traveling clockwise on Higuera, Broad and Monterey streets with the famous dash through Mission Plaza, turns onto Osos Street, and finishes with a right turn back onto Higuera.
“This is truly a spectator sport,” Mohseni said. “People are continually amazed by criteriums’ technical turns, blazing speeds and intensely competitive participants. A successful rider will be able to dive into a tight corner at high speeds, leaning the bike over at a gravity-defying angle, then power out of the turn and instantly set up for the next.”
The last San Luis Obispo Downtown Criterium was organized by the Cal Poly Wheelmen in 2001, and was discontinued after business owners took their concerns to the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association. A vote was taken and the race was cancelled.
“The problem then was that the race was held by a different director each year,” Mohseni said. “There was little communication between the organizer and the businesses. We have an overall plan that encompasses the objectives of the city. This is about event management, which incorporates consideration of the businesses.”
“I have nothing against the race,” said Jim Moyer, a store owner for 28 years. “I think shoppers from out of town stay out of town during any event like this due to lack of parking. I’ve spoken with people from Paso Robles and Atascadero who have commented on this very issue.”
Along with the races, Mohseni and other event coordinators planned a downtown community celebration that will welcome enthusiasts of all ages with an array of festival areas including a Farmers’ Market Hub Expo, a Thrive iNteractive Health and Wellness Area, a quadricycle Demo Track, the Community Bike Happening Parade at noon, a free bicycle valet service hosted by the SLO Bike Valet Program for those who ride downtown, and more.
“We worked with the Chamber of Commerce and agree lasting exposure for the businesses is important, but is not tangible and can’t be quantified,” Mohseni said. “People remember SLO by lasting memories and fantastic events.”
Racing action starts 7 a.m. Sunday with the juniors-men division and concludes around 3 p.m. For more information, visit www.cencalcycling.com for more information, including schedules and registration links.