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Brooksville Cycling Classic is this weekend

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 lneill@tampabay.com.

Brooksville Cycling Classic schedule

Saturday

9 to 9:30 a.m.: Bob's Red Mill open ride. Riders of all ages and abilities welcome for this 30-minute ride on the criterium course. Helmet required. $20 registration donation includes T-shirt.

9:30 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.: Criterium races. Start/finish line is at Liberty and Main streets. Racing begins with juniors at 9:30 a.m.; the pro race starts at 5 p.m.

4:15 p.m.: Liberty Street Kids Classic and Youth Challenge Classic. Races for children 12 and younger. Registration is free and begins at 3 p.m. at Liberty and Main streets. Helmet required.

4:30 p.m.: Police/Fire Rescue Rally. Police officers and firefighters compete to put together kids bikes and then ride through a rally course on Liberty Street.

9 a.m. to 7 p.m.: The Get Healthy Zone, near the corner of Liberty Street and Lemon Avenue, is open. Entertainment and hands-on activities provided by local dance groups run from 9 a.m.

to 4 p.m.

Criterium course: The start and finish line is at Liberty and Main streets. Racers head west on Liberty and then make a tight turn south onto Lemon Avenue, picking up speed on the downhill before turning east on Lamar Avenue and then south on Main. The racers then turn east onto Russell Street and roll past the historic train depot before a left turn onto the brick surface of S Brooksville Avenue, back to Liberty.

Sunday

9 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m.: Ice Cream Hill Road Race. Start/finish line is at the Arc Nature Coast, 5283 Neff Lake Road, east of Brooksville. The Get Healthy Zone will be open at the Arc throughout the day.

Caution requested: Organizers are asking drivers to take care while traveling near downtown Saturday and in the Spring Lake area Sunday as officers close or limit access to roads for the festival.

For information, call (352) 796-9798 or visit blog.brooksville

cyclingclassic.com.

Brooksville Cycling Classic is this weekend 10/18/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 7:25pm]

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