Ready or not, bike racing season is upon us. It seems late this year, especially after a cold, long winter and with the absence of a few early season favorites like Kent Park and the Hills Spring Classic. Of course, we never stopped racing – with fat bike craziness, gravel races and trail runs, even an early mtb race at Sylvan Island – but now we're getting into the heart of bike racing season, also known as the slow build-up to cyclocross.
Iowa City Cycling Club's Chris Lillig Memorial Cup is just a week away, featuring the Iowa City Road Race and the Old Capital Criterium. It will be interesting to see if this year the traditional "I'm not in shape yet" finally gives way to legions of Zwift zombies soft-pedalling into the sunlight. But even for those of us who hibernate through winter instead, there's no good reason not to toe the line in an effort to race into shape.
The Iowa City Road Race is actually south of town in Kalona, the heart of Amish country. The race stages at the Fairview Mennonite Church, then rolls through one to four hilly 13-mile laps of beautiful farmland. Manure can be a road hazard, especially in wet weather. And races are neutralized for passing horses and buggies, as even the steadiest workhorse can be spooked by large packs of riders. Two waves of races, from 9 and 11:30am, allow for fields of every category and age group, from juniors to masters (including masters women 40+/50+/60+!). This road race is a favorite for a reason, and as long as the weather is good it should not be missed – Just ask those who have raced it in 40˚ rain!
The Old Capital Criterium is a .8-mile six-corner loop around downtown Iowa City's Pentacrest. Each lap – whether 8 or 10 for beginners or 40 for the open race – the 50-foot climb feels steeper, and the subsequent descent faster, until someone gets away or the whole pack sprints to the finish. The day includes a full slate of juniors development races, as well as free kids' races at midday for those 9 and under. Now in it's 42nd year, the Old Capital Crit is still a great rush for racers and spectators alike.
Sign up to race, or sign up to help out. But definitely make it downtown for this classic Iowa City day of bike racing.
Special thanks to Justin Torner Photography for all the retro race photos.