Wednesday, April 25, 2018
In the land of tailgates and summer cookouts, Spartanburg’s biggest annual party comes together for series of twilight bicycle races.
Each year, the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Criterium takes over Downtown Spartanburg the Friday night of Spring Fling weekend. Known as “the Crit” to many, the afternoon and evening bike races have become a focal point of the event and have come to usher in Spring Fling’s weekend of activities.
Attendees flocking to Spartanburg (who aren’t testing their will in the races) will find groups set up in tailgate tents along Main and Broad streets before the races start with the first racers speeding off at 4 p.m.
“So many people who normally might not go to watch a cycling event get to see it and love it,” said Mandy Merck, special events and festivals manager for the City of Spartanburg. “And then…people who are here for the Crit take a stroll through Morgan Square and quickly find themselves shopping in Downtown businesses or grabbing something yummy to eat at one of our great restaurants.”
The Criterium is part of U.S. Cycling Speed Week, which features races across the Carolinas and Georgia. Spartanburg has been a stop on the tour for the last 14 years.
“Spartanburg has become known on the pro racing circuit as a great host for these races, and we are excited to be welcoming back not only racers but fans from across the southeast,” said Chris Jennings, executive vice president of the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Criterium is made up of several races featuring amateurs and professionals, culminating in the men’s pro race which starts around 8 p.m. Friday night.
“Our tourism industry has put out the red carpet for fans and racers alike, and the SRHS Criterium has helped insure Spartanburg is indeed Bike Town,” Jennings said.
Many of the sponsor tents that pop up during the Criterium are open to guests, so don’t hesitate to drop in for a greeting (and likely a drink) during the festivities. You won’t have a hard time finding a welcoming group during the races.
Tent sponsorship opportunities are closed for this year’s Crit, but there are multiple spectator areas set up around the course, including bleacher seating around the track.
FR8yard will also live stream the event on their jumbo screen, giving viewers the chance to see the entire race from one spot!
The Criterium course spans the heart of Downtown Spartanburg and plenty of businesses along the course stay open during the races.
“We had a blast last year. All the staff took turns going out to watch a few minutes of the Criterium and the rest of the weekend was in full swing with all the other festivities,” said Michael Silverman, who owns Hub City Scoops with his wife, Kathy.
The Crit goes down during Spring Fling, meaning dozens of vendors in the streets of Downtown Spartanburg. You’ll be able to find everything from traditional fair food like corn dogs and French fries to frozen lemonade and a long list of other desserts.
Hub City Scoops and other businesses along the Crit course plan to operate on extended hours to accommodate crowds expected Downtown, Silverman said.
When we say there’s no shortage of fun during the Crit, we mean it.
When the last of the cyclists have crossed the finish line, the official Criterium after party will kickoff from 9 p.m.-midnight at FR8yard. In keeping with the night’s cycling theme, a portion of the party’s proceeds will go to Partners for Active Living.
And a short walk from the course takes you to places like Groucho’s, Hub City Scoops, Renato’s, Lime Leaf Thai restaurant, Abbott’s Frozen Custard, Pokenori and a host of others.
“PAL is honored and thrilled to partner with the FR8yard for the Crit after-party,” said PAL Executive Director Laura Ringo. “As one of the coolest new places in town, we hope that event attendees continue the fun and support PAL at the same time as we work to make Spartanburg a healthy, active and vibrant community.”
If the weather is cooperative (and we hope it is) you can bet on Downton Spartanburg being packed as revelers enjoy craft drinks and the late-April weather.