Friday, July 18, 2008

Le Tour du Shorewood

The Shorewood Criterium rolled through our small village yesterday and there is only one word for it - wow. Our house was located smack dab in the middle of the race so by default, the race was the only place to be.

The streets were blocked off by about 3:30pm and the first race didn't start until about 5pm. Evidently that was about 30 minutes later than expected and the delay was due to a crash at a different bike race across town. The women were doing 20 laps of a 1.3 mile course. About lap 5 or 6, the race was stopped for a good 30 minutes to take care of a serious crash. 10 riders went down, 3 were injured and 1 was taken to the hospital. Of course, that took place on the other side of the loop and we were watching from the start/finish line on the main street running through the village.

And 30 minutes later, the women started off to finish the race. It was fascinating. All of the things that you hear about in the Tour de France, but on a smaller scale and with no huge mountains to climb. Plus, since they were going in a loop, you actually got to see them every few minutes and who was now in which position in the pelaton.

The kids race began immediately after. The kids rode the same loop, and only the one loop. They youngest was three and the oldest about 8 would be my guess. Some kids were on tricycles, and they looked determined - to win or finish I don't know, but they were pretty cute.

We decided not to stay for the men's race. BIG MISTAKE! 10 minutes later we had to go to a friends car (that parked outside the loop) and saw the men go by. Needless to say we didn't go home for the next 2 and a half hours. This was serious racing. A huge field of men's professional racing. I'd had no idea what we could have missed.

Every time the pel0ton went by, we would naturally stop and watch. Plus, it made for a very good breeze on a very hot day. In front of one neighbor's house, the woman I was standing next to said, "mmm. Spandex". That was probably the funniest moment of the race.

We were also watching them on the other side of the loop (where the crash had been during the women's race), so the street was narrower and so they were that much closer. They are fast! And the peloton was a full three blocks long. Around lap 30, a break-away group of 4 made it's way forward and by the end had a full 1/2 loop lead on the rest of the field.

They man driving the lead car drove not only the men's race (50 laps) but also the women's - in the same direction, the same 1.3 mile loop, basically for 3 and a 1/2 hours. I think he probably had a crick in his neck by the end. And he had to drive pretty fast - especially for the men.

The other nice thing was that at least on the neighborhood side of the race, everyone brought out their lawn chairs, a lot of people set up barbeques if not full out picnics, and everyone was just hanging out and doing the Shorewood version of tailgaiting. That was pretty nice. We talked to a few neighbors, played with some dogs and declined the offer of shrimp cocktail.

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