Following denial of downtown permit, Tour of Lawrence plans new cycling event

photo by: Nick Krug

Shadows of cyclists chase each other along a straightaway during the Men's Masters 40+ race of the Tour of Lawrence Haskell Campus Criterium at Haskell Indian Nations University on Saturday, July 16, 2016.

Even without its signature downtown finale, the Tour of Lawrence will go on, and organizers say the cycling race still offers thrills for cyclists and spectators alike.

Local cycling group Women’s Free State Racing is organizing the tour for the first time this year, and attempted to get a permit to hold the downtown criterium race that has been the tour’s final event for several years. Downtown Lawrence Inc. objected to the street closures requested for the race, citing closures’ negative impact on sales, and city leaders subsequently denied the tour’s street event permit earlier this month.

The three-day tour begins June 29, and the downtown event has been replaced with a road race near Lone Star Lake, southwest of Lawrence. Race director Cindy Bracker said it was heartbreaking that they were not able to get the necessary permits for the downtown course but that the Lone Star race provided a challenging event for riders.

“We will start them on the Lone Star dam and then it’s about a half mile neutral to a turn on County Road 10, to go up this really, really, really nice hill,” Bracker said. “It’s a circuit, so they’ll climb that hill every lap.”

Bracker also said spectator-friendly options were still available in this year’s tour, particularly Saturday’s event at Haskell Indian Nations University. The criterium at Haskell takes riders around the campus on a course with long straightaways and sharp turns. Bracker said the race would be fast-paced and would also include primes — short sprint races within a race — that would offer small prizes for the winning rider.

Bracker said the Haskell course provided lots of room for spectators and that the plan was to have a food truck and some other small vendors available.

“I would love to have the Lawrence community come out on Saturday to see these bike races, the same way they used to go to downtown,” Bracker said. “I think it’s going to be so much fun and a great atmosphere.”

The tour includes three events total, beginning with a 10K time trial on the old 59 Highway on June 29. The criterium at Haskell Indian Nations University and the road race near Lone Star Lake occur June 30 and July 1.

The tour is open to men’s and women’s professional, amateur and youth categories, and Bracker said they expected about 150 racers to participate. She said registration closes Thursday for the time trial race, but that cyclists could register on site for the other two races.

More information about the Tour of Lawrence, including race times, is available of Women’s Free State Racing’s website.