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Big bike races in Asheville area this weekend

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7/19/2012 - Big bike races in Asheville area this weekend
by Karen Chavez-Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Adam Ray competes in so many bicycle races each year, sometimes he can't keep them straight.

Except when it comes to his hometown race -- the French Broad Cycling Classic -- which highlights the beauty of the mountains, the high-caliber cycling talent and the bonding spirit of the biking community.

The three-day race runs Friday through Sunday on courses around Asheville and is one of the last "true omniums" in the Southeast, said Ray, president of the Asheville Bicycle Racing Club, which puts on the longtime event each summer.

"It's one of my favorites. It's gorgeous course, and it's local, and your friends and people you work with get to come out and see you race," said Ray, who rides with Team DIY Music presented by Chainheart Cycling Studio and works as a transition coach for SUWS of the Carolinas.

The French Broad Classic is an omnium -- a multistage points race, sort of like a mini-Tour de France -- that consists of three separate races in a variety of categories for juniors, amateurs, professionals and masters riders. It also will bring out the support of the biking community for a fallen cyclist.

Ray said cyclists will hold a benefit for Marlon Cleghorn, an Asheville cyclist who was hit by a car while riding on Airport Road in late June and suffered serious injuries. The benefit will be 6-10 p.m. Saturday at Beer City Bicycles, sponsored by ABRC and French Broad Brewing Co.

The race kicks off Friday night with the Beer City Bicycles Time Trial, said race director Richard Dunn.

"It's still the same course -- a 20K time trial in Marshall," Dunn said. "But this year it's a Merckx-style race -- no time trial equipment will be allowed in this event, to make the playing field more even. No one can use high-dollar time trial equipment. They must use regular road bikes and helmets."

The Liberty Bicycles Road Race on Saturday is still a 40-mile course starting in Marshall, but the juniors course has been modified, Dunn said. It will be a 17-mile course starting at Mars Hill College at noon and finishing on Old 19/23.

The grand finale is the Chainheart Cycling Studio Criterium on Sunday, returning to the highly visible River Arts District.

"The criterium was first in the River Arts District in 2006, '07 and '08," Dunn said. "Because of road construction, it moved to the South Asheville course. Now we're getting an extremely warm reception from the River Arts merchants. It will be a very nice, fast spectator event."

The half-mile, closed-loop, triangular-shaped course will start at 201 Clingman Ave., across from The Grey Eagle. The first turn is Clingman and Haywood, turn 2 is Haywood and Roberts, and turn 3 is Roberts and Clingman, a "180-degree turn, where we will have a festival atmosphere."

"This is probably the best spectator race you'll ever see, except for maybe the Tour de France, because of the frequency you will see the riders," Dunn said. "There will be music and beer from the Wedge and a professional finish line."

The criterium draws the most competitors over the weekend, but many riders will race in all three events, Dunn said. He is expecting more than 1,000 starts, with riders coming from across the Southeast. There is a bigger cash purse this year -- $8,000.

"This is a must-do regional event. People who come each year, with their families and stay for vacation," he said. "We have a lot of return riders because of quality. An event like this takes a phenomenal amount of dedicated volunteers. They are the key to the success of the race."

"One of the huge draws for the race is Asheville," said Ray, who will compete in the omnium. "People adore Asheville. You can bring your family and go to a B&B or hotel or the Biltmore Estate."

He said the club is working to encourage more junior riders to get involved with the sport.

Cycling is currently getting a big boost in interest with the Tour de France, which ends Sunday, and from the London Olympics starting next week, in which Asheville cyclist Lauren Tamayo, who has raced in the French Broad, will compete in track cycling.

"Being able to have a race in mountains with a lot of climbing, it suits a unique kind of racing," Ray said. "It is more spectator-friendly. It makes for really dynamic racing."

WANT TO RACE?

What: French Broad Cycling Classic, a three-day race omnium Friday, Saturday and Sunday with an $8,800 purse plus cash prizes, hosted by the Asheville Bicycle Racing Club.
When: The Beer City Bicycles 20K Time Trial starts at 5 p.m. Friday in Marshall; the 40-mile Liberty Bicycles Road Race (17 miles for Juniors) starts at 8 a.m. Saturday in Marshall; and the Chainheart Cycling Studio Criterium starts at 8 a.m. Sunday in the Asheville River Arts District.
Entry fees for all three races: $25 for Juniors; $80 for Women Cat. 4, 5 and Citizens; and $90 for all other categories. Individual race fees available. Spectators watch for free.
Register: Online at www.pre-reg.com through noon Friday for time trial, 10 p.m. Friday for road race and 10 p.m. Saturday for criterium. Race-day registration available for road race and criterium. Podium presentations for the omnium are 15 minutes after each event.
Learn more: Visit http://Frenchbroadcyclingclassic2012.com.

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