Whitefish streets will partly shut down on Saturday. Not for construction, but for the annual Fish Trails Criterium. It’s one bike race spectators won’t want to miss. “It’s really spectator friendly,” explains Craig Prather, owner of Great Northern Cycles that is organizing the event along with Great Northern Cycling Club. “In a road race, you get a flash of the riders and never see them again, but in a crit, you see them for an hour.”
Crits draw elite racers for their high rate of speed and lead changes. The races uses a short loop course that favors skill in rapid, sharp cornering and aggressive sprints. “A lot of times there’s great action,” says Prather. “There can be quite a few crashes because they are traveling at such fast high speeds in a bunch.”
The sanctioned races begin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 7, on the several-block course. The route loops between Spokane Avenue, Depot Street, Columbia Avenue, Railway Street, and Kalispell Avenue with registration in the O’Shaughnessy courtyard. Last year, the crit drew 70 riders. This year, Prather is hoping for over 100 participants as the event is the state championship.
The criterium is part of a larger weekend celebration to promote the two-wheeled wonders. During the day, the new bicycle paths and the dirt bike jump course at Armory Park will also be dedicated.
Even kids can get in on the action. At Depot Park, kids decorate their bikes at 10:30 for a parade at 11:30, followed by an unofficial one-lap bike race on the same course at noon.
For participants and spectators, free parking is available around the city perimeter, although Fish Trails is encouraging using pedal power rather than gasoline to get to town. In recognition of National Trails Day, the group is advocating a No Drive Day. In Depot Park, a bike corral–complete with guards–will watch over bikes. A raffle featuring bike giveways and other big-ticket items will take place at noon.
On Sunday, June 8, the Flathead Cycling and Glacier Cyclery will host the Star Meadows/Fish Trails Omnium. It features two sprint races, a King and Queen of the Mountain race, and a long distance race stretching over 50 miles. The event kicks off at 11:00 a.m. near the Round Meadows parking lot.
“Last year was the inaugural crit event,” says Prather. “We hope to build on this every year.”
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