The Perron District Criterium is a wheel big deal.
Sunday’s road cycling event through the city’s downtown core is “high speed and spectator friendly,” according to organizer Troy Rossmann of St. Albert.
“On a road race, they might be out in the country for 100 or 120 kilometres and you never see them but in this format they’re going to be doing multiple laps of a relatively small circuit,” Rossmann said of the criterium, co-hosted by the Cranky’s Bike Shop Cycling Club of St. Albert and Velocity Cycling Club of Edmonton.
“It's fast, hard, aggressive style of racing,” Rossmann added. “The racers are going to be using road bikes like they use in the Tour de France.”
The 1.1-km course starts in front of St. Albert Place and as of Tuesday morning discussions were ongoing whether it will go clockwise, with right turns for the cyclists from St. Anne Street to Perron Street and then to Sir Winston Churchill Ave. before rejoining St. Anne Street, or go counter clockwise.
“The roads lend themselves to a nice, fast race and that’s basically what it is,” Rossmann said. “We always thought that this would be a great spot to do it and we can also bring a lot of excitement to the downtown with this event.”
The last major cycling race of this calibre in St. Albert was in the ’70s.
“It sounds like there was one about 40 years ago downtown. Some of our seasoned vets are kind of recalling that,” Rossmann said
The idea of the Perron District Criterium was greeted with enthusiasm.
“We’ve been talking about it for a long time, but we didn’t actually get a date from the ABA (Alberta Bicycle Association) until late February so we didn’t know what we had to work with until then and basically it's kind of taken off since,” said Rossmann, a Cranky’s club member who is assisted on the organization committee by Kevin Coghlan, a St. Albert resident with ties to the Velocity club.
“We’re excited about it. We’ve received a lot of support from the City and they really want this to happen and to go off well. They put a lot of work on their side into this so for that reason I’m really hopeful that we can have a successful event. We’ve done a lot of planning and we just have to make it happen,” Rossmann said.
The first of six races – four men’s and two women’s categories – starts at 8:30 a.m. and the last category is men one/two at 1:30 p.m.
“Our cat five men (at 8:30 a.m.) and cat four/five women (at 9:25 a.m.) are going 35 minutes plus three laps and then our cat one/two men do 55 minutes plus three laps,” Rossmann said. “There will be a lot of laps so that’s what makes it spectator friendly.”
The rest of the start times are 10:20 a.m. for category men four, 11:20 a.m. for category men three and 12:25 p.m. category one/two/three women.
Cyclists must have an ABA racing license to compete in the criterium and newcomers would be slotted into category five.
“Cat one/two is definitely more elite,” Rossmann said. “There are individual categories but because of the low numbers we combined some races.”
As for the registration totals, “We have good interest,” Rossmann said. “If we got 150 people out racing it would be amazing. I would be quite happy to even get 100 but we’ll see how it goes. Cyclists or bike racers are kind of notorious for signing up at the last second. I used to do it snd Kevin used to do it. I don’t why but we kind of watch the weather.
“I’m hopeful that we can draw people from Calgary and even from Saskatchewan. On the (May) long weekend there was always a big race in Saskatchewan called Bikes on Broadway (in Saskatoon), which was a three stage race and that has been cancelled this year so we're hoping to get all of the Alberta riders who used to go out to Saskatchewan to come to our race as well as draw some of those Saskatchewan riders out here.”
Sunday’s forecast is positive for dry racing conditions.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed for the weather,” Rossmann said. “We really want a safe event and if it’s raining we kind of have to make a call on whether we can do this as safely as we want to do it because there is significant investment that’s already gone into making this happen so we don’t want to be wasteful in that regard, but we want to be sure everybody is safe.
“I’ve raced in the rain and I think all the other guys who are organizing it have raced in the rain but I can’t personally see it being too terrible if it’s raining.”
Volunteers are still required for the criterium.
“We’ve got a lot of good volunteers, but we still need them for marshalling pedestrians. The City and Alberta Traffic Supply are going to take care of the vehicular traffic and we'll have RCMP out there marshalling one of the intersections for us for vehicles, but our volunteer marshals will be controlling pedestrians and just making sure that nobody inadvertently walks out in front of 30 bicycles coming at 50 kilometres an hour," Rossmann said.
To volunteer or for more information on the criterium, contact Rossmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The post-race headquarters is the Endeavour Brewing Company, one of the criterium sponsors.
Rossmann is hoping a number of cyclists in the criterium will also compete in the Sunnyside ITT on Monday in Bon Accord.
“It’s an individual time trial. Each person sets off in one minute intervals and they’re purely racing against the clock,” Rossmann said of the 25-km race distance. “The riders are segregated by their categories, but they are not racing a mass start event. It’s an indiviudal event.”
The first rider goes at 10 a.m. on Sunnyside Road located between between Hwy. 28 and Hwy. 37.
“You ride from Bon Accord south almost to Highway 37 and then the riders will turn around and come back,” Rossmann said.