Spectators at Tuesday's Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic should spend some time at one of the course's four turns for a glimpse of what one race coordinator likened to "NASCAR on bicycles."
"That's where the excitement really is," coordinator and cycling enthusiast Joe DeVito said. "Everyone's jockeying for positions, and when they get to the turns, the bikers dive in and it narrows down to one or two people wide. ... They'll be doing this for 70 laps."
More than 120 professional male and female cyclists are expected to compete Tuesday in Beaufort in the fifth annual Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic, sponsored by Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
The event is free to the public and begins at 5 p.m. with a kids race, followed by the women's race at 6 p.m. and the men's race after that.
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The BMH Classic is a criterium -- a race held on a short, fast course in an urban setting. Cyclists are expected to race at speeds of up to 40 mph.
Racers follow a .6-mile course that begins and ends at the clock tower at the intersection of Bay and West streets.
Beaufort's classic is part of the USA Crits Southeast series that kicked off Saturday in Athens, Ga. Riders participate in seven races over a nine-day period in three states.
Professional rider Matthew Crane raced in the classic last year and said Beaufort's course -- set amid historic buildings, towering live oaks drenched in Spanish moss and waterfront views -- makes it a memorable one.
"As the race is winding down, the sun sets and we're riding at twilight," said Crane, a member of the Realcyclists.com Pro Cycling Team. "It's a pretty place to race."
Despite the event's popularity, race director D.G. Veitch said sponsorships were down last year and haven't improved.
"I think it's the economy, not a lack of support for the event," Veitch said. "We're breaking even on the event. We're just getting it done. But we couldn't do it withoutBeaufort Memorial Hospital."