New crit championship courses, changes to ABRA calendar

Riders will vie for state championship criterium titles on two different courses next year, and the Flagstaff Omnium is making an earlier-season comeback on the new 2017 race calendar for Arizona’s USA Cycling-sanctioned races.

The 2017 calendar was announced at an Arizona Bicycle Racing Association board meeting on Sunday.

Category riders will take to Yuma’s North End Classic course in late March for the state championship crit, while Masters and Juniors riders will battle for their state titles at the McDowell Circuit Race.

The Flagstaff Omnium, absent from the calendar in 2016, will take place over two days in early June.

“[Separating the two crits] will increase participation at both events because eligible riders can compete for two championships on two days on two different courses,” ABRA president Joey Iuliano said.

[button color=”red” size=”normal” alignment=”none” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=””]ABRA 2017 calendar[/button]

3:10 to Yuma

Two Wheel Jones, who hosted the state championship crits for the past two years on a flat course in Mesa, did not bid again for those races, Iuliano said.

Yuma’s downtown city course will be a much different state title race from years past, with a hill, a fast, short descent into a turn and a chicane. It is one of the more technical courses in Arizona.

Adam Bryfogle (Landis/Trek), finished second at Yuma this year against Nathaniel Davis (Sabino Cycles Racing), who rode away from the field. Bryfogle said he loved the course with its climb and technical turns. He said the key to Yuma involves doing well in the turns and keeping your speed up.

“You hit the climb super hard and bomb through the turns, and it typically strings out a lot,” Bryfogle said. “People on the back are definitely victims of the slinky effect.”

Kat Salthouse (Sabino Cycles Racing), a Cat 2 rider, won the Yuma North End Classic last year and said she’s excited to race it as the state championship.

“I’m stoked!” Salthouse said. “I think it’s the best course in Arizona and a well-run race. It will be great to have more riders out there [next] year.”

The race weekend could also attract more participants making the long drive; promoters have added Friday night street sprints and a road race.

Kim Lucie (Canyon Elite Women’s Racing) who has never raced the Yuma course before, said she had heard it’s fun and is excited about the long weekend of racing.

“Seems like if they do three days it’ll be a sweet event, and hopefully it won’t conflict with any other bigger races so larger fields come out,” Lucie said.

Over the hill

Masters riders will haul up the climb of the McDowell Circuit Race toward their state championship crit titles next year in place of the flat course of Mesa.

James Kramer (FASTER), a 45+ Masters rider, said he thinks that’s a good thing.

“While it is not a traditional criterium circuit, it is a known quantity that the race community loves and also rewards a combination of fitness and bike handling,” Kramer said.

The other north end

Iuliano said Melanie Colavito, former ABRA president, and Kyle Hornbeck are taking over the Flagstaff Omnium as race promoters.

The weekend will include the Williams Road Race followed by the Snowbowl Hill Climb.

“It’s a much needed additional race up north that will provide a welcome break from riding in the heat,” Iuliano said.

Other calendar changes and additions:

  • Man vs. Machine, which will take place on Sept. 30, is becoming a USA Cycling-sanctioned race.
  • Old Pueblo Grand Prix is coming back to the calendar as a pro-race only and part of a jam-packed race weekend in Tucson. During March 10-12 riders will have the option of participating in four races: the Southern Arizona Omnium, which includes the Musselman Crit (Friday night), Flapjack Time Trial (Saturday) and the Colossal Cave Road Race (Sunday); Old Pueblo Grand Prix will take place Saturday evening.
  • The North End Classic, which has moved to late March, is now a full weekend of racing with street sprints on Friday night, a road race on Saturday and the category state championship crits on Sunday.
  • A new crit has been added west of Phoenix in Verrado on Jan. 15.
  • University of Arizona’s crit will take place on campus.

Copper Cup

The ABRA board formally has done away with the Copper Cup competition, a points series that riders accumulate over the course of the season to win an overall series jersey, citing that it “wasn’t working.”

Instead, Kramer is taking over the series and calling it Arizona BAR for Best All-Around Rider and keeping track for bragging rights purposes, Iuliano said.

Iuliano said eliminating it from ABRA would save the association $2,000 to $3,000, which will be allocated to race promoters at the end of the season based on numbers of their race’s participants.

“It is my hope that you will invest these funds, even if it is small, to improve and grow your race,” Iuliano told promoters at the meeting Sunday. He cited things like marketing, hiring a commentator or adding a finish-line banner, for example, to make races a better experience for riders.

“Participants expect a lot from our events, more than just cones on the ground,” Iuliano said. “We need to make it easier, and faster, to build our calendar.”