Bike racing hits Carbondale this weekend
CARBONDALE – What’s become a regular late-spring attraction in the lower Roaring Fork Valley in recent years, the three-day Rocky Mountain Omnium bicycle race returns this weekend.
Formerly the Western Slope Omnium, the three-race event kicks off with the Leg Breaker Time Trial race Friday evening along County Road 109 just north of Carbondale, between Colorado Rocky Mountain School and Ironbridge.
The most spectator-friendly of the events, the Street Fight Criterium, takes place in downtown Carbondale for most of the day on Saturday.
Sunday’s finale is the 60-mile Rock the River Road Race from the Glenwood Canyon trailhead proceeding to Dotsero and up the Colorado River Road to Burns and back.
“It’s grown and changed over the years, but this is the third year for the event,” said race director Mitch Hyra of Glenwood Springs. “Racers can pick and choose the events they want to participate in. If they’re trying to win the omnium they’ll do all three.”
Last year’s event included a surprise appearance by renowned cyclists Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, who raced in the time trial event, finishing first and second, respectively.
While they won’t be returning this year, the overall men’s winner, Jonathan Baker, is expected to be on hand to defend his title, Hyra said.
Baker won last year’s road race and the criterium events, and finished third in the time trial behind Armstrong and Leipheimer, to claim the Omnium title.
Also on hand will be one of the winningest female racing cyclists, former Olympian Jeannie Longo of France, Hyra confirmed.
“We expect a number of professional cyclists to be there,” he said. “We have a small percentage of local participants, but about 95 percent are from elsewhere, including the Front Range, Utah, Durango and Grand Junction.”
Last year’s Omnium attracted around 450 cyclists, racing in men’s, women’s and junior categories.
“We traditionally have a good core group of cycling enthusiasts, and they really enjoy the Glenwood and Carbondale area,” Hyra said. “That was one of the reasons we started doing this, is we have such great roads, and great scenery, and great weather here.”
Friday’s time trial pits cyclists against the clock on a fairly straight out-and-back course along County Road 109. The course totals approximately 20 kilometers. Races begin at 5:30 p.m. near the CRMS bridge.
The Saturday criterium is a short track race over a circuit course in a three-block area of the downtown, including Main Street, which will be ideal for spectators, Hyra said.
Each of the roughly hour-long races will pit groups of cyclists against each other and the clock in what he described as a “NASCAR-style” race that’s fun to watch.
“It’s really handle bar to handle bar racing, with the riders going 30 miles per hour plus the whole race,” Hyra said.
The course itself is less than a mile and a half, but racers complete several laps, he said.
“There will be a start/finish on Main Street, which is a great place to sit and watch the racers go by,” he said.
Races will be ongoing all day starting at 9 a.m., building up to the women’s pro race at 5:30 p.m. and the men’s pro race at 6:40 p.m. There will also be live music during the event.
The previous two years, the criterium has taken place in Glenwood Springs. But Hyra said he liked the way Carbondale is positioning itself as a “bike friendly town,” and chose to move the race there this year.
“There’s a real good synergy with a lot of local bike supporters,” he said. “We’re looking to capitalize on that energy that they’ve created. And, it’s just the quintessential mountain town that’s ideal for a criterium-style race.”
Sunday’s road race will begin at 7:40 a.m. near the Glenwood Canyon trailhead, located at the east end of the canyon. Racing will continue throughout the day..
To register or for more information, visit the event website at http://www.rockymountainomnium.com, or call 688-0102.
Some downtown Carbondale streets will be closed for Saturday’s criterium, and there will be no car access to the post office during the event. The downtown RFTA bus stop will also be temporarily moved farther west on Main Street.