Four past winners will be part of a strong Women’s Pro 1/2 field when the flag drops Saturday on the 17th annual Sunny King Criterium in downtown Anniston, Ala.
The Men’s Pro/1 field will feature riders from three UCI Continental teams, as well as international competitors representing more than six countries.
It’s the first criterium-only event on this year’s USA Cycling Pro Road Tour calendar.
Live stream schedule
All elite and pro races of the Sunny King Criterium will be broadcast on a free webcast Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. CDT. Sports commentator and broadcast producer Brad Sohner returns to call the action.
“There’s no better place to kick off the criterium racing season for USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour than in Anniston,” Sohner said. “It’s a fast, smooth course in downtown with plenty of spectators. It is one of the few events in the country that offers a full nine hours of free webcasting to showcase amateurs and pros.”
Alabama Power will return to sponsor the webcast for a fourth year.
The Alabama Cycling Classic combines the Sunny King Criterium with a second day of racing: Sunday features the Piedmont Road Race. More than 500 cyclists are expected to compete in 29 cycling events over the weekend. There is more than $31,000 in prize money for USA Cycling-registered athletes. Medals and prizes are up for grabs by top amateurs and juniors.
Who to watch: Women’s Pro 1/2
On the pro women’s side, the new CWA Racing p/b Trek team brings a full squad to Anniston, including 2016 Sunny King Crit champion Samantha Schneider. CWA Racing competed previously as Papa John’s Racing, and merged with ISCorp women’s squad for 2019.
“I am really looking forward to coming to Anniston again,” said Schneider, who has finished in the top 10 at the Sunny King Crit each year since 2015. She was fourth last year. “There’s such a great atmosphere around the bike race and the community is so welcoming. I would love to reclaim the crown that I won in 2016, but the women’s field will be full of very talented riders.”
Lily Williams of Hagens Berman | Supermint returns to defend her 2018 title. This UCI-registered women’s professional cycling team will have five riders in the crit.
“Last year was a surprise win,” Williams said. “It was my first PRT race as a pro. It will be one of the first races I will have done more than once, and also having a good crit team there will make the race a lot of fun as we will have a number of cards to play. Crits are probably my favorite discipline of racing, so to have a crit with points on the line really verifies the importance of crit racing and makes the wins more meaningful. The live stream was huge too. Being able to watch our races and represent our sponsors on TV is huge for growing our half of the sport.”
Two other past Sunny King Criterium champions in the Women’s Pro 1/2 field will be 2006/2008 winner Tina Pic of Colavita Bialetti Racing, and 2012 winner Erica Carney of Rally UHC Cycling.
Who to watch: Men’s Pro/1
The Men’s Pro/Cat 1 event on Saturday will take place under the lights.
Three UCI Continental squads in the field are Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling, Arapahoe Hincapie p/b BMC and Team Skyline.
The Elevate-KHS Pro Cycling Team will be led by sprinter Eric Young, who won the silver at the 2018 USPro Criterium Championship. In March this year, he earned two podiums at the Tour de Taiwan.
Another dangerous squad for the 60-lap men’s race is Texas Roadhouse Cycling. Among the six riders coming to Anniston are Daniel Holloway, Danny Summerhill and Luke Keough.
“Myself and Texas Roadhouse Cycling are excited to return to Alabama Cycling Classic. The group has always had great success over the years at this event,” said Holloway, who has 21 national titles on the track, including three gold medals at the 2018 U.S. Elite Track Championships (Omnium, Points, Madison).
“Danny, Adrian Hegyvary and myself are coming off a long winter season on the track, but are motivated to put on a show and make a hard race,” Holloway said. “Racing in Anniston is always a treat. The crowd comes out every year in a big way to support the racers.”
Holloway finished fourth in the Sunny King Criterium last year. Summerhill was seventh in the 2018 Sunny King Crit and has two time trial victories this season. Keough was second in 2015 Sunny King Crit.
Sunny King Automotive Group continues as a longtime supporter of the Sunny King Criterium and Noble Street Festival. A portion of proceeds from all bicycle race registration fees will be donated to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life chapter of Calhoun County. Since 2002, more than $120,000 has been raised for cancer research and patient support.
Admission for spectators is free for all bicycle races, making it one of the most unique professional sporting events in the country. For information about races, visit www.annistoncycling.com. For information about the Noble Street Festival, visit www.mainstreetanniston.com.
Content provided by Jackie Tyson, Peloton Sports. Photo by Jim Deese.