BROOKSVILLE — The whirring of bicycle tires on cobblestone streets, the panting of riders as they head into the home stretch, the cheers from spectators craning to see competitors as they ferociously pedal toward the finish line — all are signs that Brooksville has once again opened its arms to what has become known as one of the state's premier bicycle race events.
The Brooksville Cycling Classic, hosted by the Get Healthy health food store in Brooksville, is the centerpiece of an annual street festival that attracts hundreds of cycling enthusiasts and curious onlookers to a course that winds through the oak-lined streets of the city just south of Broad Street. The event kicks off Saturday downtown with amateur and professional heats and concludes Sunday with the 17-mile Ice Cream Hill Road Race, beginning and ending at the Arc Nature Coast on Neff Lake Road.
Saturday's rides and races have become marketable events, as they draw a diverse crowd that comes not only to ride or watch but to take in a bit of Brooksville's hospitality and charm, said Brooksville Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn.
"It really is a wonderful, fun community event that has been a huge benefit for the city," Bradburn said. "The nice thing is that you don't have to be into watching bike racing to enjoy it. There are plenty of activities for everyone."
Coupled with the city's annual Founders Week celebration each October, the festival includes an interactive art show, an open-air market, entertainment and kids activities. Proceeds from the race go to three local charities.
Recognized as one of the more distinctive criterium courses in Florida because of its constant shift from asphalt to brick, the city layout attracts upward of 150 amateur and professional racers who enjoy the challenge of competing for top honors.
"It's a very exciting course to ride," said Pablo Santa Cruz, a Safety Harbor racer who runs Florida Cycling, the company that stages the competition. "You have a great crowd lining the streets and cheering. That encourages you to ride faster."
Saturday's activities include an open ride on the course for riders of all abilities, a kids race on Liberty Street, and a bike-building and racing competition between police and fire personnel.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.