• Planning your race
• Community benefits
• A winning event
In Burlington, IA you will find what Ripley’s Believe It or Not® once claimed as the Crookedest Street in the World, Snake Alley. This road is 276-ft. long and has five switchbacks in a 60-ft. climb, averaging a grade of 12.5% in that block. In 1983, the Snake Alley Criterium was born, creating one of the most physically challenging races in the Midwest.
The Snake Alley Criterium is a twenty-block course, with differences in elevation from 555 ft. to 678 ft. The course is entirely on city streets, in downtown, with a one-block-long climb up the historic brick street of Snake Alley. Steve Frevert, Executive Director, Downtown Partners, Inc, has been involved with the Criterium since 2008.
“I believe in the beginning, there were fewer categories of racers; that has increased over time. As the event has grown in renown, we have regularly attracted cyclists from 20+ states and a number of other countries. The Criterium route has changed several times but always goes up Snake Alley. This year the route was changed again, so as not to cut off Burlington’s new police station, which would have been inside the previous closed course,” Frevert said.
But, before the race, there are many other details to attend to. “The Snake Alley Criterium and the associated road races the day before require extensive coordination with local officials for permits, barricades, accompanying patrol vehicles, and checking to see that the race routes are physically safe for cyclists. We also need to plan for marketing, online race registration, race officials, winners’ payouts, medical assistance, food service, and trash removal,” explained Frevert.
Then there is the work of procuring event volunteers. Frevert shared, “Our partner Bike Burlington, the local cycling club, works with their members to fill the dozens of volunteer slots needed to present the races. Along with registration, people are needed to patrol every corner of the closed course to guarantee the safety of the cyclists.”
Events like the Snake Alley Criterium benefit their communities. This event brings hundreds of racers and enthusiastic fans from across America and beyond and is a great opportunity to showcase the vibrant, growing downtown of Burlington. “We hear many compliments from returning visitors on the improvements they’ve seen with our historic building restorations and new shopping and dining options. Having the road races the day before entices many racers to stay in town overnight, and this greatly increases the amount of money they spend in our community,” Frevert said.
Frevert also had a few words of advice for other cycle race planners, “Bike racers are very serious about their sport and spend a great deal of time, money, and energy on it. Since out-of-town travel is involved, they plan their race schedule well in advance, so it is imperative to have everything set far ahead of time and avoid scheduling conflicts with other races in the region. USA Cycling keeps a master calendar of the wide variety of cycling events.”
When coordinating your community race, whether running, cycling, or, even, a triathlon look to national organizations, community officials, and local clubs, organizations, and businesses to help every detail fall into place for your competition. And remember, steep climbs require balance and momentum.