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DESTINATION: RACE NEW ORLEANS

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As the asphalt heats up and road racing season for bicycles comes to a peak in Louisiana and Mississippi, Semi-­‐Tough Cycling Club and Yeah You Ride are bringing the racing action home to New Orleans in a big way. Presented by Massey’s Outfitters, the Harbor Master Criterium will drop anchor at the New Orleans Lakefront on June 22, 2014 with all the thrills of high-­speed criterium racing in a party atmosphere complete with music, food truck concourse, and generous beer sponsorship.

Words: Richard Carman
Images: Michael Boedigheimer

Held at the scenic South Shore Harbor Marina, this is the only road race on the 2014 USAC calendar to take place in New Orleans, and race organizers are pulling out all the stops to be sure that it sets a high standard not just for cycle racing as sport, but as public entertainment as well. Multi‐lap races on a technical course will offer maximum entertainment for racers and spectators alike. Those with an appetite for more than competition can look forward to first rate grub from popular local food trucks. Cold beer sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon will be flowing freely for all attendees 21 and up.

The scope of production, certainly more extensive than what is typical of a road race in this district, is proportional to the vision organizers hold for this race, harkening back to an era when racers flew through the major avenues of the city. Decades in the past, streets of the French Quarter and CBD were closed for circuit racing and criteriums, and the South Shore Harbor hosted a race in its early days to promote to boaters.

But in the years since, interest in the sport waned, and the cost of closing streets pushed racing far into outlying areas. Now that the competitive cycling community in New Orleans seems to be booming, Harbor Master producers hope to share their vision and create demand for successively bigger and better races in the city.

Louisiana/Mississippi Bicycle Racing Association President Randy Legeai remarks, “Finding venues like South Shore Harbor is extremely important to the local cycling community. Typical racers in New Orleans routinely travel 3-­5 hours one-­way to weekend races. It is very difficult to get new riders into the sport when they have to make that kind of commitment just in order to try out their first bike races.”

Semi-­Tough and Yeah You Ride are united in their interest in promoting amateur racing and making the sport more accessible to beginners. One key audience organizers hope to reach is crucial to properly expanding the cycling sphere in New Orleans, and that is women. With the women’s category commanding one of the highest payout levels, as well as $250 in primes, organizers are keen to incentivize a really competitive performance in the women’s race.

Made possible by generous sponsorship from Massey’s Outfitters and Bicycle Michael’s, as well as the Pablove Foundation, peloton magazine, Person Huff CPA, Salvation Fitness Studios, and Medical Rehab Accident Injury Center, the Harbor Master Criterium will feature USA Cycling sanctioned races across 7 skill categories, including designated Masters’, Women’s and Juniors’ races. Total purse, including primes, is in excess of $2,000. Payouts will be large but few, going only to the top 4 finishers in each class, and placing extra incentive on cash primes. Races are open to all with a valid USAC racing license. One-­day licenses will be available for purchase on race day. More information and updates are available at facebook.com/HarborMasterCriterium. Online pre-­‐registration is available at USA Cycling.