Northern California’s top cyclists head to Modesto for criterium, road race

05/15/2014 6:51 PM

05/15/2014 6:52 PM

For cyclists and race fans who watch them, there’s nothing like a criterium on an hourglass-shaped course.

As opposed to the more mundane square- or rectangular-shaped courses, its more winding cousin tests a rider’s ability to come in and out of different, shorter turns. It makes it more fun for the rider ... and the fans.

“It’s not just for one who can pedal the hardest,” Logan Loader said. “Whoever wins the race has to be more well-rounded. ... It makes it a more dynamic course.”

Loader will be among the top racers on Saturday at the Surla’s Modesto Downtown Criterium. It’s the first event of a big weekend of racing that concludes Sunday near Salida with the Modesto Road Race.

If you watched Amgen Tour of California cyclists compete in and around Modesto in previous years, Saturday’s races on the twisting, eight-turn course between 12th and 15th and H and J streets should be a little more exciting.

Race director Rick Ciccarelli said he expects up to 200 cyclists for the six timed races. The first starts at 8:15 a.m., and the final race, a one-hour competition that includes the elite Category 1 (pro), 2 and 3 racers, at 1:40 p.m. In between, there’s a children’s ride open to all kids at 10:50 a.m.

The start/finish line is at 13th and H streets near the course’s most southwest end and reaches 15th and H at the top of the hourglass.

Ciccarelli anticipates a strong field even though arguably the country’s biggest cyling race, the Tour of California, is being held at the same time.

The final two stages of the TOC are Saturday and Sunday in Southern California.

“It’s so hard to know if they are here or down south,” he said of competitive cyclists torn between spectating and competing. “That the finish is down south I think will help in the riders staying up this way and racing.”

One of those is Loader, a 24-year-old Seaside resident and the only American on the Italian pro racing team of Amore e Vita. He earned a one-year contract with the self-proclaimed world’s oldest professional cycling team by virtue of his breakthrough victory at last year’s U.S. National Time Trial Cycling Championship in Madison, Wis.

Loader, who will ride in the 1:40 p.m. race, cut his cycling chops as a teenager throughout Northern California and with the support of the Ciccarellis.

“I’ve known them since I was a little kid, and they were a big help in my development,” he said. “It’s their race, and they helped me so much in the past.”

In addition to the chance to ride with his former competitors, Loader is looking at both Modesto races as a way to complete his rehab after breaking his elbow and collarbone two months ago at a race in Mexico.

“This will help in my training,” said of Saturday’s criterium and Sunday’s road race. “You’re able to get better training in when you’re racing than if you’re riding by yourself.”

He spends most of his time these days in Europe. Following Modesto’s races, Loader will be off to the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professionial Road & Time Trial National Championships next week in Chattanooga, Tenn.. Then, it’s a return to Italy to compete for his team in Europe.

His goal this weekend?

“To win,” Loader said simply.

Lower temperatures this weekend, an Amgen race that has left the region and prize money bolstered by Surla’s Restaurant and other sponsors have left Ciccarelli feeling victorious.

“Everything is looking great,” he said. “It’s going to be a fabulous weekend.”

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