Creating a criterium: Group of cycling enthusiasts form Grand Junction Criterium Series

Photo by Dean Humphrey—John Weirath saddles his racing bike after practicing near Colorado National Monument. Weirath is a co-creator of the Grand Junction Criterium Series, a USA Cycling-sanctioned event that’s new to the Grand Valley.

When Richard Price moved to Grand Junction last summer, he was surprised to see no road cycling racing events in the valley.

“I found it odd there were no real races here,” the Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic physician said. “For a town that’s known for mountain biking, there wasn’t really much here.

“Sometimes we have 75 people for the Tuesday, Thursday group rides. So it was like, the people are here, why isn’t there some kind of organization for racing?”

There is now.

Price, physical therapist and bicycle fitter John Weirath, cycling expert Mike Driver and event producer Chris Reed got together to form the Grand Junction Criterium Series. Reed is co-owner and operator of Ascent Productions, which organizes several Livestrong events, the Rim Rock Marathon and other cycling events.

The Grand Junction Criterium Series begins March 31 at 5:30 p.m. at Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates, 627 25 1/2 Road.

“There are a lot of talented people here,” Driver said. “If you travel to a cycling event, you run into people from the Grand Valley that are very competitive. We hope to draw people from outside the valley as well. I have friends in Summit County that would love to come here.”

The six-week USA Cycling-sanctioned event takes place each Wednesday night.

A criterium is a timed race with a group start. It will take place on a 2/3-mile loop. At the end of 45 minutes, the riders will be signaled that two laps remain. The leader after the two laps is the winner.

“Criteriums are fun for both the spectators and the riders,” Price said. “You get to see most of the whole course for the entire event. A lot of times there are a lot of crashes, which is spectator friendly. It’s like NASCAR essentially without the nice bank turns.”

The course wraps around Eisenhauer Street, Hollingsworth Street and Birchmann Avenue in the Foresight Circle Business Park.

There are two group races, Group B for category 4 and 5 and Masters cyclists and Group A for category 1-3 and collegiate riders.

Participants may sign up at or prior to the race at the Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates building.

Each group race is capped at 100 riders and Driver thinks they will be full in just the first year of the event.

“The cool thing is, it’s something that is accessible to any level of rider,” Weirath said. ‘The one threshold is being comfortable in a group. Anyone can do it. If worse comes to worse and you have to drop out, it’s not like you’re down the road 20 miles. You might pit and get something to drink and pick (the race) back up. It’s a very accessible form of racing.”

Criteriums don’t take a long time to run, so it’s easier to get a permit to block off traffic.

Weirath has competed in mountain bike races and long distance road cycling races, but is looking forward to the criterium for its challenge and to train for longer road races.

“This kind of racing is good for me because I’m not good at it,” Weirath said. “I tend to gravitate to longer races. I’ve done 24-hour mountain bike races. This is the type of training I don’t get very often.

“These type of short, fast races can help you train, really, for longer distances and short races. When you train at high intensities, it trains all the intensities below that, too. Going out for a four-hour ride is a little bit easier.”

Weirath works with several cyclists at his Bicycle Studio of Western Colorado shop and anticipates most of them participating in the criterium series.

“I think 80 percent of my athletes are going to do most of the series, if not the whole thing,” Weirath said. “I think people are excited to have a series of races. It’s fun to accrue points and see where you finish at the end. It’s something we haven’t had much of.”

Weirath and Price are two of 20 Livetrainrace team members who will compete in road and mountain bike racing events throughout the year.

The Livetrainrace team is founded by Driver, who hopes to have as many as 100 team members.


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