Crowds up a bit for cycle racing

Riders approach a turn in the .85-mile loop course of Sunday’s Missouri State Criterium Championships downtown. The annual race draws some of the top cyclists around, including some professional racers. Below, racers in the women’s open division leave the Capitol grounds section of the course.

Riders approach a turn in the .85-mile loop course of Sunday’s Missouri State Criterium Championships downtown. The annual race draws some of the top cyclists around, including some professional racers. Below, racers in the women’s open division leave the Capitol grounds section of the course.

Some organizers and riders at Sunday’s Missouri State Criterium Championships said they believe Jefferson City's Convention and Visitors Bureau’s push to bring more people downtown for the event worked — and they hope to build on that foundation of support.

“I think there are more (spectators) than before, because of that,” cyclist Jim Vandeven said, pointing toward a stage on High Street where the band Musical Uprising was playing on a flatbed trailer. He said the weather helped, too.

Vandeven spoke to the News Tribune after winning the masters 35-plus division. He not only won the race, but he lapped his field of competitors, something not commonly seen. He averaged a pace of 26.9 miles per hour during his 50-minute race.

Vandeven, of Crystal City, said he has raced since the age of 6, starting with BMX bikes.

“It’s mentally hard, because it’s painful, but you can block that out for an hour,” he said. To him, winning medals is better than the cash prize “because you remember that forever.”

The CVB pushed the annual cycling race as “Sunday Funday,” bringing in the band and opening the downtown festival district. A couple dozen people in the area of High Street Pub and J Pfenny’s were listening to the band, while enjoying food and drink. A few nearby bubble machines were there to entertain the kids.

“There’s definitely more people milling around with curiosity,” said Event Director Mike Weiss, adding that the CVB did a good job of promoting the event.

Cycling enthusiast Caryn Giarratano used to work at the event. She was there as a spectator on Sunday.

“I think that having an event such as this showcases bicycling in its finest form because it is spectator friendly,” she said. “It allows young people the opportunity to see a new type of sport.”

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