The sight of cyclists with colorful uniforms pedalling at high speed on residential streets will dominate Winfield this weekend as the town plays host to its annual criterium-style bicycle races.
Organizers say the Winfield Criterium is expected to attract about 1,000 people to watch hundreds of riders compete in a series of professional and amateur races over two days, Aug. 11 and 12.
"Many people look forward to this," said Gary Bernard of the Advocates of the Winfield Riverwalk, one of the groups organizing the event. "It does interrupt traffic a little bit. Still, most of the residents are very happy to have this event come to town."
Spectators won't be disappointed because of the style of racing, according to Mike Farrell, president of the Athletes By Design Cycle Club. He said a criterium is a type of race in which riders do multiple laps on a short course that is no longer a mile.
"The pack of racers usually are completing a lap every two minutes," Farrell said. "So it's really very entertaining and keeps the people's interest."
Most bike races in the United States are criterium-style races, according to Farrell.
"They are easy to spectate," he said. "They're also logistically simpler to coordinate, as opposed to trying to do a stage race."
Farrell said Winfield's first criterium was held 12 years ago to help attract visitors to the downtown area. So many people attended the debut event that it continued to the point where it's become a tradition for the community. It also expanded to become a two-day event.
Originally, the races were on a Sunday on the south side of town. But then road construction forced organizers to find a location on the north side.
"Then when we announced that we were going to go back to the south side, the people on the north side still wanted to have a race," Farrell said.
Now the criterium has Saturday races at Oakwood Park on Winfield's north side, while the Sunday races are on the south side of town at Creekside Park.
A total of nearly $10,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winners of the top amateur and professional races. Races are broken down by age groups and five ability categories, with category one having the top riders.
Saturday's races will be on a .9-mile course with a long gradual climb. Sunday's course will be a 1-mile rectangle with a steep climb and a gradual downhill on the home stretch, organizers said.
"A lot of courses are in a downtown area or an industrial park area," Farrell said. "Our courses are sort of unique in that they go right through two neighborhoods."
Residents in the neighborhoods welcome the criterium by hosting parties on race days.
"A lot of people will get out and have barbecues along the course," Farrell said. "They really get into following the races."
For riders and spectators coming from out of town, beverages and food -- including sandwiches, popcorn and snow cones -- will be for sale.
Entertainment includes a professional juggler on Saturday and an acrobatic dog act on Sunday. The movie "Breaking Away" is scheduled to be shown Saturday night.
New this year are citizen lawn mower races. Bernard said there will be both riding mower and push mower races.
"We wanted to come up with events that would get the residents involved," Bernard said.
A portion of the riders' entry fees will be donated to Special Olympics. Event proceeds will be donated to the Advocates of the Winfield Riverwalk, a nonprofit group trying to raise money to help pay for the village's proposed riverwalk construction project.