Professional cyclists will be whirling around downtown tonight, as the racers prepare to compete for $15,000 at the sixth annual Beaufort Memorial Cycling Classic.
Racing starts at 5 p.m. with a bike race for children ages 12 and younger. Registration begins at 4 p.m. at the Charles Street Extension, and participants receive free helmets.
The women's 50-lap race starts at 6 p.m., and the men's 75-lap race at 7:30 p.m. The races start and end at the clock on Bay Street, and the public can attend for free.
Top prizes are $10,000 in the men's race and $5,000 for the women's race.
The course is six-tenths of a mile and winds through the downtown district, from Bay to Scott to Craven to Newcastle streets. The roads will be closed to vehicle traffic starting at 4 p.m. and will remain closed until after the races. Each professional race takes about an hour and a half, said Donald Veitch, who coordinates the event for Lowcountry Velo.
The Downtown Marina parking lot is reserved for parking for the professional cyclists.
Beaufort Memorial Hospital is sponsoring the race, the third in the USA Crits Southeast series that started Saturday in Athens, Ga. Teams compete seven times in nine days, each time in a different city.
With more than 120 cyclists circling downtown, sometimes topping 40 mph, Veitch said the Cycling Classic is a must-see event.
"Where else do you get to see top-level professionals come into your community and put on an event like this on a Tuesday night?" he said.