The Tour de France may be an ocean away, but cycling enthusiasts in Hampton Roads won't have to travel far to see their favorite sport this weekend.
Thanks to the efforts of Celerity Cycling, a cycling team based out of southern Virginia, organizers have worked for a year preparing to welcome around 200 riders between three races on Saturday and Sunday in Newport News, Williamsburg and New Kent.
The inaugural Tour of Hampton Roads 2014 is expected to attract cyclists and cycling fans from around the state, according to Celerity Cycling vice president Frank Cundiff. An avid cyclist himself, Cundiff said he's expecting for the casual fan to enjoy the events just as much as the die-hards.
"I think it works both ways, because the Tour de France helps engage people to check out a bike race, since most people know it's going on," Cundiff said. "So if people see this race going on in the city center, they'll be more eager to watch a bike race anywhere and check out what's going on."
The three-race event, or omnium in cycling lingo, begins early in the morning at Jolly Pond Road in Williamsburg with a 10.5-mile time trial before continuing on to Newport News City Center, where riders will run laps along a course eight-tenths of a mile long near Lakefront Commons.
The final leg, a road race, begins at New Kent High School early Sunday morning and ends near Stage Road. Riders will ride between 28 and 87 miles, depending on their experience.
Riders are given a number of points based on where they placed in each race and the rider with the most points at the end of Sunday's race will be the overall omnium winner. Events are held rain or shine and riders do not have to participate in all three events.
Cundiff says the criterium (a bike race held on a short course) at the city center will likely attract the most followers because it's easier for people to see the riders when they're on a fixed loop, rather than out on the road. The event begins at 1 p.m.
"The tactics there resemble NASCAR tactics," Cundiff said. "It'll probably be the best for the people to come watch, because they're very spectator-friendly events."
Yorktown native Don Haley is new to the cycling scene, but expects to compete in the full omnium this weekend. It's the first official cycling race for Haley, who has been an avid runner for nearly 30 years.
"I've been pretty good at running, but I don't know where I am [with cycling,]" he said. "I want to do a race to see if this is something I can do from a competitive standpoint. It gives me a goal for the future."
Haley said he's hoping to place high, but will be looking to have fun. That makes a cycling enthusiast, like Cundiff, happy.
"When all the residents can come out and cheer on the riders, that makes these races exciting for everyone," he said. "It's amazing how competitive it can get."
Thackham can be reached by phone at 757-247-7422.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun