By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN A crowd of fast-moving men and women on two wheels is expected to hit the area this weekend.
An estimated 150 bicycle racers from as far away as Canada and Colorado will travel to Lester Prairie and Watertown to participate in the MN Memorial Classic during Memorial weekend, according to organizer Mike Delaney of Endurance Promotions.
The three-day event will feature races in a different city each day.
The Lester Prairie Road Race will take place Saturday, May 29, the Watertown Circuit Race and Time Trial will take place Sunday, May 30, and the Target Criterium will take place in Brooklyn Park Monday, May 31.
The Lester Prairie and Watertown races are sponsored by Endurance Promotions, and the Brooklyn Park race is sponsored by Kinetic.
This will be the first year for the event, but Delaney said he hopes it will become an annual event and continue to grow.
The Lester Prairie Road Race will start in Lester Prairie’s city park on Second Avenue South.
Delaney said he appreciates the cooperation of Integrity Tool, 129 Pine Street South, which gave him permission to use its lot for parking during the event.
Registration will take place in the pavilion at the park between 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Race start times range from 10 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
The race will follow a 23-mile course, that will head east from Lester Prairie on McLeod County Road 23 to New Germany, South on Carver County Road 33 to Norwood-Young America, west on Carver County Road 34 to McLeod County Road 9, and back to Lester Prairie.
The field will be broken down into six categories. Some categories will make the loop once, some twice (46 miles), and the elite group will make the loop three times (69 miles).
The elite group, which includes the fastest riders, will make the loop in about an hour, and the race is expected to take less than three hours, Delaney said.
The course is relatively flat, and the only challenge riders are likely to face is winds blowing across open farm fields, he added.
The Watertown Circuit Race and Time Trial will begin at the Watertown-Mayer Elementary School in Watertown.
This will follow a 7.4-mile circuit, with some groups making three loops (22.2 miles), and some making four loops (29.6 miles).
The route will start on Paul Avenue, go north to Carver County Road 20, east to Carver County Road 127, south to County Road 24, and west to Paul Avenue.
Registration for the various categories will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., and start times range from noon to 3:15 p.m.
The time trial is a seven-mile point-to-point event. It will begin at 6 p.m.
The only race open to new racers is the Brooklyn Park race. Participants in all other races must be licensed by USA Cycling, which is the governing body for the races, and the largest bicycle racing organization in the country, according to Delaney. All USA Cycling rules apply.
Delaney described the Brooklyn Center event as “NASCAR for bikes.” He said the course is a .9-mile loop, and riders will average 28 to 29 mph.
In addition to Minnesota, Canada and Colorado, Delaney said racers from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have registered for the event.
Delaney has been involved in bicycle racing since 1994, although he has not been racing much during the past couple of years because he has focused on promotion of races instead.
He said participation in the sport has been increasing, partly because of what he called “the Lance Armstrong effect,” and partly because of the economic conditions, which make it popular because bicycle racing is cheap entertainment.
Delaney said he has organized races in Stearns County in the past, but selected the courses near Lester Prairie and Watertown because they are closer to the Metro area, conveniently located near Highway 7, and more accessible for racers from western Wisconsin.
Delaney also said he selected these routes because there is likely to be less traffic on these roads than on some further east.
Safety is an important consideration during bicycle races, and Delaney said he has been in contact with the Carver and McLeod County sheriff’s departments, as well as the Lester Prairie Police Department.
More information is available at www.endurancepromotions.com.