Yellow wristbands with the slogan Livestrong on them will be popular accessories this weekend with Lance Armstrong starting his bid for his seventh straight Tour de France title. They should be more popular than normal in Columbia, though, with hundreds of cycling enthusiasts in town for the 20th Columbia Cup.
A set of four United States Cycling Federation events spanning Saturday and Sunday, the Columbia Cup begins the same day as the Tour de France.
Cyclists from around the Midwest will take part, including professional cyclist Steve Tilford, a National Off-Road Bicycling Association champion from Colorado Springs, Colo., who is expected to race in all four events.
The Apple Cup Road Race is the first in the series. The 11-mile race at 9 a.m. Saturday sends cyclists south along Sinclair Road at its start and takes them back to town along routes K and KK. The Hot Lap Time Trials follow the same route with cyclists striving to record the fastest time.
“This is going to be a whole bunch of guys riding fast,” said Aaro Froese, 36, a member of the Columbia Bike Club’s race team. Froese is serving as race promoter for the first time this year.
There are divisions for each race based on cyclists’ age and experience. Froese said by the time all four events are complete, about 400 to 500 people from as far away as Oregon and Texas are expected to have raced, with 25 to 50 Columbia riders among them.
According to Froese, the most spectator-friendly event is the street sprints, a Saturday evening race on South Seventh Street which takes riders from Elm Street to Broadway at speeds up to 35 mph. The last event is the criterium, a 1-mile course through downtown and the MU campus Sunday morning.
“In the Crit, as cyclists call it, it’s no longer about who is the fastest,” Froese said. “It takes fitness and skill as they get up to 42 mph, rounding the curves where there is only a thin piece of Lycra between the rider and the pavement.”
Race registration takes place on site and is open until 30 minutes before each race. One-day trial United States Cycling Federation licenses will be available along with renewal licenses.
“I think being on a bicycle is the closest you can come to flying,” Froese said. “You’re just that much off the ground.”