He had participated in multiple professional cycling races in the past seven years. But even so, for Duncan the Sunny King Criterium today was no small feat.
“I’m not a fan of hills, but it was a good course,” Duncan said with a laugh.
Hundreds of professional and amateur bicycling racers converged in downtown Anniston today for the annual Sunny King Criterium. Hundreds more turned out to cheer the cyclists as they rode through downtown, or to view them on a large screen set up on Noble Street. The event was also streamed live through various websites.
The Criterium course is a nearly 1-mile circuit in downtown Anniston. The event includes multiple cycling races for varying ages and skill levels throughout the day and into the evening. It is considered a top-tier competition by cycling organizations and a top-10 event in the state by the Alabama Department of Tourism and Travel.
The Noble Street Festival, which provided live music and food from various local restaurants, was held in conjunction with the races.
Duncan traveled all the way from Warner Robins, Ga. to participate in the Criterium with his team, Doulas Productions Cycling. Duncan said the festival was an excellent addition to the Criterium.
“It’s nice to have the festival at the same time … it’s a good way to get people interested in the sport,” Duncan said.
For Steve Riley of Atlanta, Saturday was his first time in the Criterium as well. Riley said he decided to participate this year due to the popularity of the event.
“It’s a big race,” Riley said. “And with it being streamed live, all my buddies get to watch me.”
Riley, who came with a team called Team Mission Source, said he used to race in the 1990s and decided to start doing it again in recent years to get back into shape.
“And it’s such a fun thing to do –- there is a great community of people and it’s just a ton of fun,” Riley said.
Riley said he planned to participate in two races back-to-back before checking out the festival.
“I’ll be spending some money at the festival,” Riley said.
Tony Jewah of Clay County finished his third year racing in the Criterium Saturday morning. Jewah, who was resting in the back of a pickup truck drinking water, said he normally races with mountain bikes but still considers the Criterium a challenge.
“It ranks right up there with some of the best races around,” Jewah said. “This is of national caliber … the competition is just as strong here as anywhere else.”
Retired from the U.S. Army, Jewah years ago used to race motorcycles.
“But as I got older the tracks got bigger and the kids got faster,” Jewah said. “I used to train with bicycles to keep my conditioning up for motorcycles, so I decided to just switch to cycling.”
Jewah said the Criterium is good for the festival and vice versa.
“The festival brings in people who normally wouldn’t come to a bicycling event and the Criterium introduces other people to the festival,” he ssaid.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star