Just over a week after thousands of cyclists cross the state on bicycles for RAGBRAI, dozens of cyclists are expected to descend upon downtown Fort Dodge for the fifth annual RockNRail 1850 bike race.
This year’s event will also be the first time Fort Dodge has hosted the Iowa State Criterium Championship, according to event organizer Meg Beshey. A criterium is a bike race that consists of several laps around a closed circuit.
“Our course is considered quite technical for those who do criterium bike racing in the state and in the region,” she said. “Our course is a lot more challenging than a lot of other ones.”
The course loops through downtown, running west along Central Avenue from Eighth Street to Fourth Street, then north to First Avenue North before heading back east to Eighth Street. In all, the loop is about three-quarters of a mile, Beshey said. There are also some challenging elevation changes along the course, she said.
The race schedule is customized into the categories typically seen in a USA Cycling championship event. There will be three winners at the podium after each race and each winner will receive an official USA Cycling medal, a trophy and cash prize.
Beshey said she expects about 70 to 80 cyclists to compete, and said most will bring their support teams and family and friends. Cyclists will come from across the state and even some surrounding states like Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The schedule of races will kick off at 1 p.m. with the Juniors 9-14, followed by the Juniors 15-18 at 1:25 p.m. Men’s Category 5 will begin at 2 p.m., with Women’s Category 4/5/Masters at 2:35 p.m. Men’s Category 4 will start at 3:10 p.m., followed by Men’s Category 3 at 3:45 p.m.
The highlight of the day, Beshey said, will be the Kiddie Race at 4:35 p.m.
The schedule will wind down with Masters ages 40-79 at 5 p.m., Women’s Pro 1/2/3 at 6 p.m. and Men’s Pro 1/2 at 7 p.m.
Registration for the races are now open at www.bikereg.com/rocknrail1850. Pre-registration race fees are $35 and day-of registration will be $40. There is no registration fee for the Kiddie Race, but all children must have a helmet.
Spectators are welcomed at the event, Beshey said.
“There’s a number of people that come and sit down along the course, which is great,” she said. “It doesn’t cost you a dime to come down and watch.”
Downtown streets will be closed from Eighth Street to Fourth Street along Central Avenue and First Avenue North as of noon on Aug. 5. Streets inside the bike race course and alleyways will not be usable for traffic. Barricades will be in the intersections along the course and the public is asked not to go around them for safety purposes; please find alternative routes until the roads are opened up after 8 p.m. The public can sit anywhere on either side of the course in lawn chairs or under popup tents. Some nonprofit and corporate sponsors will have their tents propped up in intersections and cheering the riders on all afternoon.
“It’s so much fun to watch as they go around and around at 40-plus miles per hour,” Beshey said of the racers. “It’s amazing the skill it takes to try to navigate not only the street, but also each other.”
Beshey also encourages spectators to play an active role in the event.
“We tell people to bring your cow bells and bring your pots and pans so when you’re sitting there watching them go around and around, when they go by you, make some noise, tell them to ride faster,” she said. “Have fun — it’s meant to be a nice afternoon.”
With the bike race still two weeks away, Beshey is looking for more volunteers to help in a myriad of ways. She said they’ll need help with setup and tear down, as well as watching intersections, lighting at the finish line and setting up extra barricades.
Those interested in volunteering can email Beshey at email@example.com. A meeting for volunteers is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 31 at the Fort Dodge Public Library.