Andy Phelps knows the average spectator at this weekend's NCAA National Road Championships might not know as much as the average cycling fan.
Still, Phelps, Kansas University Cycling Club president, said one need not be a cycling expert to enjoy the races.
"People can see something that they don't normally see on Mass. Street and something they haven't seen before," Phelps said. "This event is different and new, and we hope people will try it out."
The nationals will take place Friday through Sunday, with three different racing stages in the surrounding area.
Friday's criterium promises to be the most fan-friendly event, Phelps said, as cyclists compete on a one-mile course through Lawrence's Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets.
A criterium differs from other events in that riders race for a designated time instead of over a specific distance. At the end of the designated time, the cyclist finishing the most laps takes the victory.
Remaining riders, if they are a lap or more behind, do not finish the race, much like what occurs at a NASCAR or Formula One racing event.
Phelps said the best spot to view the action would be near the start/finish line at Ninth and Massachusetts. From there, spectators will be able to see the sprint finishes, and public-address announcers also will give race updates near the finish line.
"If people stay around the announcers, they can listen to race commentary and figure out what's going on to educate themselves," Phelps said. "The announcers do a good job of both informing and educating."
|What: NCAA National Road ChampionshipsEvents: Criterium, Friday, downtown; road race, Saturday, Perry Lake; team time trial, Sunday, South Lawrence TrafficwayAdmission: Free|
Phelps said other good viewing points would be Eighth and Massachusetts, where spectators can watch racers go by, then walk half a block to Vermont Street to see them pass again, or any of the six turns in the course.
Spectators should prepare for possible weather conditions, Phelps said, by bringing sunglasses, a hat and water. He also recommended that fans bring chairs so they could watch without having to stand.
Because streets will be closed around the race, all Lawrence "T" buses will give free rides to and from the downtown area.
Saturday's road race at Perry Lake will feature a 28.2-mile course, making it more difficult for spectators to see the riders at multiple points in the race.
Unlike the criterium, the road race covers a set distance instead of a set time..
The start/finish line again will be a spectator's best viewing point, Phelps said, with race announcers continuously updating the action.
Sunday's team time trial on the South Lawrence Trafficway will be the only of the three races not beginning with a mass start of up to 150 cyclists.
Instead, four collegiate teammates start and finish the 12-mile race together, with the time of the third-place rider counted as the team's final mark.
Located at 27th and Wakarusa, the start/finish line will allow spectators to see the cyclists three times on the looped course.
The Kansas cycling club will have six members competing in the weekend events, with sophomore Brian Jensen entering as the team's top seed.
Originally from Denmark, the 29-year-old arrived at Kansas in 1998 to compete in cross country and track and field, but has found his niche in cycling the past three years.
Phelps said Jensen would be an athlete to watch, but that it was difficult to predict a cyclist's outcome in such a large event.
"In a conference race, we could tell exactly how our riders would do since there aren't as many people, but nationals is a different ballgame," Phelps said. "The competition is that much more intense."
Also competing for KU on the men's side are graduate student Adam Mills, seniors Stephen Schneller and Rick Barrett, and sophomore Brian Jensen.
Senior Kim Kissing will be the lone female cyclist.
Race director Bill Marshall hopes Lawrence residents will turn out for the national races.
"Lawrence has always been a cycling-friendly community," Marshall said, "but it has never had an event of this size."