Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday at the Races

Indianapolis is known in some circles as "The Racing Capital of the World", with most of that motorized activity taking place a few miles from where we live. This weekend, though, we got a close-up look at a different type of racing just a few blocks from home. The 2009 "Mass Ave Criterium" took place on a 2/3 mile triangle of city streets just a few blocks from our condo.

According to Nuvo Newsweekly, criteriums are the most common type of bicycle races held in the US. They are road races, typically run on city streets that are closed to other traffic. The race format is simple - each race runs for a set period of time (at Mass Ave it was 35 to 60 minutes) followed by 2 or 3 additional laps. During each race, extra prizes called primes (pronounced "preems"), usually cash, are given to the winners of specific laps. Speeds on the course may average 25 - 30mph during the race, with sprints of 45+ mph to the finish line.

This is the 2nd year that the criterium has been run on Massachusetts Avenue. Mass Ave is lined with shops and restaurants. It's a popular destination downtown, and makes a great venue for the Criterium.

The start / finish line was at 435 Mass Ave, just outside the Three Dog Bakery, one of Beans' favorite haunts.

The racers proceeded southwest on Mass Ave, then turned left on Vermont St., right in front of the Old Point Tavern and Julian Opie's animated LED artwork "Ann Dancing".

(I always get a kick out of watching Ann dance. You can see a video taken during the winter of 2008 when she was first installed.)

The route continued east on Vermont, past St. Mary's church. Riders then turned north on East St. and finally turned back onto Mass Ave.

Some spectators enjoyed the view from a safe distance...

...while some of us wanted a close-up view of the action.

Many of the participants were highly-skilled athletes, but they made room for a few others, too. Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard, a former participant in the "Little 500" cycle races at Indiana University, led the parade lap for the final event, the men's professional race.

There was also a race for younger cyclists, many of whom demonstrated the same level of intensity as their older counterparts.

It was a beautiful Saturday in downtown Indianapolis, the racing capital of the world!