The Southside Sprint brings bike racing back to the streets of south Minneapolis for the fifth consecutive year on July 19. This year’s event has been named the Minnesota State Criterium Championship, a designation organizers expect will mean more racers, more fans and more excitement.
Amateur bike races are often contested in suburban office parks or country roads with few spectators and few opportunities for family fun. The Southside Sprint is applauded by racers for its urban setting, enthusiastic crowds and plentiful dining and shopping options on the course.
“I was impressed with the crowds, the support, the staffing, the businesses and the neighbors. This is the largest crowd I have seen at an amateur race – and without a doubt the most fan support I have ever been privileged to witness,” noted USA Cycling official, Steve Haugh.
The most popular event of the Southside Sprint schedule is the Family Dental Clinic Dash – the Kids Fun Race. This free event for kids ages 4-12 gives little racers a chance to show off in front of family, friends and neighbors. It’s just one of the opportunities the Southside Sprint provides for racers of all levels. Race officials state that the race brings in the most new race license purchases of any Minnesota race each year. These new riders appreciate the Beginner Racing Clinic offered before racing starts and the dedicated beginner races that put coaches into the race alongside racers.
The event also showcases top Minnesota talent each year, including locally-based professionals, World Masters and US National Champions. Defending men’s Elite Champion, Colin Catlin, has won numerous races around the Midwest, including multiple MN State Championships. He currently splits his season between the University of MN team and the NorthStar Junior Development Team—a regional youth development squad. His sister, Kelly, took the women’s Elite prize in 2014 and is preparing to represent the United States at the upcoming Pan Am Games in Toronto.
Outside the fences, the Southside Sprint offers entertainment for everyone. The Twin Six Family Fun Zone includes free kids’ art activities, fitness and lifestyle exhibits from sponsors and other neighborhood businesses and the always-popular snow cone machine. This year, the Fun Zone will include an Athletes’ Village on 48th Street where teams will gather to warm up, cool down and interact with fans. Young race fans can get autographs and pictures with their favorite racers within a few steps of the finish line.
All of these activities bring new visitors to the neighborhood each year. Many racers live in the Twin Cities suburbs, greater Minnesota and neighboring states. For some, it’s their first visit to the Field Regina Northrop neighborhood. St. Paul racer Loren Willis noted, “I came back in the evening for a burger at Town Hall Tap and a scoop at Pumphouse Creamery. None of that would have happened without the Southside Sprint.”
Never-ending legs – that’s every bike racer’s dream. Minnesota racers feed on the energy of the Southside Sprint’s fans and find themselves with “never-ending legs” every summer in the heart of the Field Regina Northrop Neighborhood. Said racer Terra James, “That was the best Minnesota race I have ever raced! A crowd like that makes a race feel like five minutes and gives a girl never-ending legs!”
Racing begins July 19 at 8:00 a.m. and concludes with the final State Championship awards ceremony at 4:00 p.m. The Twin Six Family Fun Zone runs during all race events at the corner of 48th Street and Chicago Avenue. Racers will toe the line just south of the 48th and Chicago intersection. Full race details can be found at: www.southsidesprint.com
By Jason Lardy
Editor’s note: Jason Lardy is co-founder of the Southside Sprint. He and his wife, Lisa, live in Northrop.