This April marks the 24th annual Criterium bike race — a race which notoriously blocks roads and sidewalks around campus. After 24 years of racing through campus, the Wheelman cycling club is turning the race into a whole weekend with the first ever Criterium Health and Wellness Fair.
The fair, which will be held Thursday during UU Hour, was University Housing’s idea, Wheelmen president and architecture senior Kathryn Hicks said. In the past, there was tension between the club and residents because the racers are right outside the red brick residence halls early Sunday morning, Hicks said.
The fair will be a way to get the whole campus involved, Student Life and Leadership assistant coordinator for student clubs and organization Layla Zare said. Zare, a business administration junior, said because the race is located on campus, Student Life and Leadership wanted to make it a university event focusing on bike safety and overall health and wellness. The race went well with the opening of the Recreation Center and allows students to focus on what their future looks like related to health, she said.
“The race is so impactful on the residents, we wanted to make it something fun they could be a part of rather than something that changes their usual Sunday routine,” Zare said.
Students can expect to see 10 to 12 different clubs promoting awareness for health, including Safer, Stride, Peers Understanding Listening Speaking Educating and club sports and representatives from San Luis Obispo Health and Fitness, Zare said. The Wheelmen invited its sponsors and other bicyclists in the community to be a part of the event as well, according to Hicks, and will also have a stationary bike trainer for people to use.
“It makes it a treadmill, if you will,” Hicks said. “There’ll be a contest for how much power you can put out.”
The club will also be running a bike-fix for students. If you need to fix a flat, tighten breaks or have other maintenance issues, the club will help for free.
“We promote cycling because we enjoy riding and the lifestyle as a whole, for the commuter or someone who rides for fun,” Hicks said. “We race some but it’s not mandatory for being in the club.”
A Wellness Expo will also be held on the same day as the race. Zare said there will be bike companies, massage therapists from SLO Wellness giving out free massages, food and music.
Students who come to watch the race will see a familiar face amongst the riders. Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong has been invited to be the Grand Marshal, Zare said. He’ll ride in a casual lap to start off the upper division collegiate races, she said.
“We wanted to thank him for being supportive throughout the year,” Zare said. “It’s this interaction that makes being involved worthwhile.”
The lap will also have professionals from the racing community, including San Luis Obispo local Menso DeJong, who graduated last year and is now racing for team Jelly Belly. According to Hicks, the team is one step below the Tour de France, but is at the top level for the United States.
The race is divided into categories based on experience and skill level, with “D” denoting a beginner and “A” being the fastest and most experienced riders. Armstong’s lap will be held before the men’s “A” race.
The Criterium race is a six-mile loop around the red brick dorms,road race director and mechanical engineering sophomore Justin Russo said. There are approximately a dozen races a day and they go for about 25 minutes around this loop, he said. According to Hick, Criterium is fun to watch because it’s a small course and you see riders every two minutes or so.
“Cycling racing has been going on longer than I’ve been alive,” Russo said. “People are welcome to come out and watch. We want people to come and check it out.”