By Amy Wenk
Professional cyclists will race down the streets of Sandy Springs on May 2.
The Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge will for the third year host the final leg of the USA CRITS Speed Week Series.
The all-day event benefits the city’s police and fire departments and features other races, trackside dining and an arts festival.
“So folks that come to the race as a family, if you are not big on the racing, you have the art festival to look at, too,” said Dist. 2 City Councilwomen Dianne Fries, who organizes the cycling event. “But I can promise you, you get to that race and you might not be a fan. By the time you are through, you are a fan.”
Speed Week, which runs April 24 to May 2, is a series of seven races in three states for top criterium racers. Criterium racing involves cyclists running short laps through city streets.
The 10-day series starts with the Athens Terrapin Twilight, a 30-year-old event that Fries said is one the largest criteriums in the country.
Racers travel to Roswell, three cities in South Carolina and to Charlotte, N.C. before ending the series in Sandy Springs. The winner is awarded $150,000.
Fries said more than 120 pro men’s teams should compete in Sandy Springs. Cyclists will follow a half-mile course around the Heritage Green entertainment lawn and through the City Walk shopping center at Roswell Road and Hammond Drive.
The start and finish line is located at Sandy Springs Circle and Sandy Springs Place.
“Usually criteriums are four turns,” Fries said. “We have six and one of them is a left-hand turn, which is unusual. But the pros love the course.”
The cycling event also will feature races for certified junior cyclists, ages 10 to 18.
Spectators can watch a stunt bicyclist, taste food from trackside diners, and peruse the handicraft of local artists. “I like to have the joint activities,” Fries said, saying she hopes 5,000 to 7,000 people will attend this year’s event.
About 1,500 people came last year when the bike race was held with a 5K run, Fries said.
“There were tornado warnings all day and the newscaster kept saying, ‘Stay at home. Hide in your basement. Watch a movie and don’t go outside,’” she said.
When the race debuted in 2008, it combined with the Taste of Sandy Springs and drew about 5,000 people, Fries said.
“We have done well raising money,” Fries said. “We are $500 shy of $50,000. I’m really pleased with that. The fundraising has just been wonderful. My sponsors are back, and they have been very supportive.”
Global BMW Sandy Springs Cycling Challenge
What: The third-annual cycling event hosts the final leg of the USA CRITS Speed Week Series, other races and an arts festival.
When: May 2 with registration at 7:30 a.m., cycling events from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., and an awards presentation at 6:15 p.m.
Where: The start and finish line is at Sandy Springs Place and Sandy Springs Circle. Find an event map at www.reporternewspapers.net.