2010 Tour of Lawrence
This is the second year for the bicycle race, which is expected to draw more than 400 riders.
With a camera around her neck and video camera in hand, Lora Webb stood ready to watch bicyclists sprint up Seventh Street in downtown Lawrence on Friday night.
En route from Kearney, Neb., to Branson, Mo., Webb and her husband, Jim Webb, decided to stop over in Lawrence to take in the three-day Tour of Lawrence event.
The speed, the expensive bikes and the sprint to the finish were all part of the appeal.
“We are pretty excited. We’ve never been to one before,” Lora Webb said.
The Webbs won’t be the only ones this weekend who will get their first taste of live bike racing.
Susan Henderson with the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau and a few spectating pros who lined the streets Friday night shared some tips for novice race watchers.
Whether it be the popular cowbell or the South African vuvuzela, many spectators bring a noisemaker to cheer on the cyclists.
“It lets them know people are paying attention,” Henderson said.
Along with noisemakers, there are a few other essentials for those planning to spend a couple of hours on the course.
Larry Wasikowski, who came from Omaha, Neb., to watch his son Joe race, packed water, folding chairs and large golf umbrellas for shade.
Today’s hot spots
Today, cyclists will race on a four-mile loop through Kansas University’s campus. The course is a hilly one with almost 500 feet of vertical climb and less than half a mile of level terrain per loop.
To catch riders in their most grueling moments, Henderson recommends camping out near the top of Sunflower Road as bikers make a left turn onto Jayhawk Boulevard.
“That’s a great place to see riders gutting it out and it’s when they need the crowd support,” Henderson said.
Another good viewing area is along West Campus Road. As the longest straightaway on the course, the stretch allows spectators to assess how the packs changed during the previous lap.
For the Wasikowski family, a favorite view is watching racers come down hills, turn corners and enter the feed zone where cyclists slow down for bags of food. Of course, the finish line is always a good spot too, Wasikowski said.
Down on the corner
On Sunday, riders will whiz around a one-mile course that weaves through the downtown. The races last for a set amount of time, with the winner being the rider who completes the most laps.
Part of the thrill of watching a criterium is the threat of spectacular crashes as packs of cyclists round tight corners.
Carol Hottman says watching her daughter Megan round corners can be nerve-racking for a mother.
“It’s wild and crazy,” she said.
A criterium always follows a figure eight pattern. In Sunday’s event, the center of the figure eight will be at Eighth and Massachusetts streets. That’s where you can view cyclists coming from both directions and rounding two different corners.
Corners are also where riders have the best chance for pulling ahead of the pack, Wasikowski said.
At Sunday’s race, Henderson said that spectators should also be aware of what is known as the premium lap. That’s when a course official declares that the winner of the next lap gets a prize.
During that round, positions can shift as riders go as hard as they can to take the prize. And winners of the premium lap are often not the same as the cyclist who wins the whole race.