Madison's Capitol Square is a popular destination for weekend bicyclists, but the two-wheeled traffic was moving at a significantly quicker-than-normal pace Sunday. The criterium stages of USA Cycling's amateur and para-cycling road national championships was the occasion, wrapping up a week's worth of races taking place in Waterloo, at Blue Mound State Park and in downtown Madison.
Jesse Hammond, a communications representative for USA Cycle, said Madison was a great venue for the event.
"There's a lot of excitement among the fans, parents and riders here," Hammond said. "A lot of teams and families are looking to find results and see how their kids or their friends are doing."
According to Hammond, the event is growing in size. This year, around 1,000 cyclists were riding in the para-cycling and amateur road race championships. Rachel Leif, another representative and event coordinator for USA Cycle, was also pleased by the turnout for the event and plans to continue working with Madison for future events.
"I think it's been going very well. We've been getting a lot of compliments from a lot of the parents and the athletes, and the city and the counties that we've been in have been great to work with," Leif said. "It's been a great experience. Overall we've had a lot of very happy bike racers."
Glenda Craddock, a sponsor from the Texas-based team Slipstream Craddock Junior Development, traveled to Madison from Georgia and was cheering her son on in a number of races throughout the week, glad to see the team place in a few races.
"It's been great. The weather's been very nice," Craddock said. "They've done real well. We've got some podium shots. They've won a few."
Craddock's team is made up of a number of groups with teenagers ranging from 13 to 18 years old. Amateur races featuring younger cyclists like this are important for the future of the sport, according to Leif.
"[It's] about making it special, especially for some of the younger kids," Leif says. "Some of the riders are only 10 years old, but after the race, they're up on that podium with a backdrop just like pro-riders."
Ben Frederick, a cyclist riding for Kelley Benefit Strategies, is also excited about the level of competition and professionalism at the event.
"It doesn't get any bigger than this," Frederick said. "We're trying to come away with a Stars-and-Stripes jersey that we would get to wear at every race for the following year."
Frederick's team struggled in their last road race, but the group was hopeful that Sunday afternoon's criterium would go well. Despite his team's performance, Frederick was happy to be in Madison and was able to enjoy some time at the Memorial Union Terrace and even took a swim in Lake Mendota before racing Sunday.
"We rode from our host house for about an hour and we jumped in the lake and hung out. It was really, really gorgeous," Frederick said. "We've been really impressed with the amount of people outdoors, hanging out here."
Frederick's teammate, Jon D'Alba, was cycling in a national championship for the first time, and was also happy with the location.
"It's obviously a very bicycle friendly city. It's nice to see that as a cyclist," D'Alba said. "Everything is pretty easy to get to... you see bike lanes everywhere."
D'Alba was also struggling in some of the races, but was looking forward to picking up some new strategies.
"So far it's been great. I haven't had a great weekend so far, but we've been learning a lot racing in this competition," D'Alba said. "It's my first time in a national championship, and so far, Madison has been quite the host city."