Bikes battle on the square Saturday

Friday, August 4, 2017
High level bike racing returns to Marshall County this weekend and is expected to draw hundreds of racers and their families to downtown, creating a festival atmoshpere all day long. Unlike the Hell of the South road racing pictured here, spectators for the racing on Saturday will be able to see the course and the racing up close.

Downtown Lewisburg will see a battle this weekend as bicycle racers ride into town for a day of bike racing billed as the Battle of Lewisburg.

Riders in 25 different categories, from 9-year-olds to professionals, will be racing from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a course around the square.

“It will be something completely different,” said Nathan Stone, the race organizer and director of road racing for the Tennessee Bicycle Racing Association. “Nobody has ever seen anything like this in downtown Lewisburg.”

Hundreds of cyclists will be racing around the Lewisburg square all day long on Saturday as part of the Battle of Lewisburg criterium. The course, less than a mile, is expected to produce speeds up to 40 miles per hour and lots of exciting wheel-to-wheel action.

Unlike the Hell of the South road race held in the spring, this race is a format known as a criterium.

Racers will be racing on a course, less than a mile in length, around and through the square all day long, making the race much more spectator friendly.

“You’ll be able to see almost all of the course and the start and finish line from several spots,” said Stone.

Stone said that riders will be hitting speeds of 40 miles an hour at some points in the course, meaning they will be passing through the square constantly.

Unlike three-hour road races, the riders won’t spread out either, leaving lots of wheel-to-wheel racing all day.

With the speeds and lots of tight turns, the race will probably see its share of crashes as well.

Races are set for time limits, from 25 minutes to an hour, instead of number of laps. Race officials track how fast the racers are covering the course and will indicate when there are six laps left before the finish.

All of this has come together in a matter of weeks.

The race has been known as the Battle of Nashville for the previous eight years with racing taking place on Bicentennial Mall in downtown Nashville.

Less than two months ago, the city installed non-removable speed bumps on the course the racers used, forcing the organizers to find a new home.

Lewisburg’s reputation as a good host and a good place to race in the cycling community brought Stone here.

Stone said that the city and local businesses had been “amazing to work with” and that the race had received a lot of support.

“We are excited,” said Lewisburg City Manager Randall Dunn. “It’s going to be a big event and it’s going to be good for businesses around here.”

Since spectators can really watch the racing in a crit, as they are known, they tend to attract more families and attendees.

Holding them in a smaller area contributes to more of a festival atmosphere as well.

The Lewisburg Downtown Association has booked a band to play in the pocket park on the square from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Merchants on the square will be open for the day and food trucks will be set up on the square as well.

Kids will have plenty to do, as well, with inflatables set up in a special kids zone.

Children will also have a chance to try out bike racing for themselves with a special kids race at 11 a.m.

Stone said any kid under 12 years old with a bike could enter the casual event, with a separate race around the courthouse for the under-sevens.

Despite the last-minute move from Nashville, registration numbers for the race are still strong, with Stone saying that he expected some categories to have as many as 50 racers.

Overall, hundreds of riders from all across the state, as well as their families, are expected.

Stone said the race traditionally has had some of the higher payouts in the state for prize money and is a big opportunity to win race points in the year-long points competition.

If anything, forcing a change of venue, might have breathed some fresh air into the event.

“I’m really excited for Saturday,” he said. “Next year, we could do some really next level stuff.”