Two years ago, one of the biggest cycling events in Utah history took place in the form of the age-graded nationals - competition for over-30 racers. This summer, local cycling organizers will go one better when Park City hosts the U.S. National Road Championships.

The championships, also referred to as the Senior Nationals, will be held July 11-20. They will include about 700 of the top cyclists in the country and feature time trials, road race and a criterium events. From that competition, racers will be selected to represent the United States in the World Championships in August.The event is being hosted by the Utah Sports Foundation. The Senior Nationals include the nation's top male and female racers from 18-30 years old.

A 40-kilometer time trial will be held east of Coalville around the east edge of Echo reservoir. The criterium will be run through Park City and the road race will be near Deer Valley, along a similar route as the one used for the 1987 age-graded nationals.

The nationals coincide with an increasing interest in bicycling in Utah. USCF membership in the state has climbed dramatically in the past three years. The Road championships are among the biggest cycling events of the year.

"This is the largest cycling competition in Utah's history," says Nancy Volner of the Park City Chamber of Commerce.

"We're very pleased that Utah will once again be the site of our national championships," says USCF Executive Director Jerry Lace. "With their promotional expertise, we're confident the Utah Sports Foundation will host a quality event."

In addition to determining the men's and women's national champions in four categories, the male and female road-race winners will earn spots on the world championship team.

"This is the USCF's biggest race of the year," says Utah Sports Foundation's Dave Johnson. Prestigious racing teams, including those sponsored by 7-Eleven, Coors Light and Crest, are expected to attend.

"I imagine the top athletes from the 1984 and 1988 Olympics will be there," says USCF spokesperson, Diane Fritschner. "This will be the elite athletes we'll see."

Estimates are that the 10-day event will generate up to $1 million in revenue for local businesses. USCF spokesperson Lisa Voight says studies have shown the cycling crowd to be a well-heeled group. Average salary for cyclers is over $50,000. However, the Seniors racers aren't as affluent as their over-30 counterparts, the Masters, who were in the area in 1987.

Johnson says the event is part of an overall move by the state to become as popular a bicycle racing destination as Colorado - one of the nation's biggest cycling area. "The terrain here is very conducive to cycling," says Johnson. "This kind of race gives us a substantial opportunity to create an atmosphere for cyclists. We think we can give Colorado a run for their money in cycling."

Johnson says hosting the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Trials last year, and the Age Graded Nationals in 1987, helped attract this year's championships. Gymnastics officals of were asked about Utah, and apparently they gave good reports, leading to the USCF selecting the area for the Senior Nationals. A site committee was in Utah earlier this spring and after touring the Park City area, they determined to hold the races there.

Voight, who was on the site selection committee, says the road race course is an exceptionally good one for spectators. "It is the best spectator-oriented course we've ever had," she says. "What is unique is that you can see the races at every stage. It will be a very fast road race. It will be a very fast, exciting championship."

Voight also applauded the course for the criterium, which will be run through Park City. "It is going to be fantastic. It is a tough course - it will separate the men from the boys, so to speak. It has a challenging climb. It is a perfect place for the championships."

Johnson says if Salt Lake earns a Winter Olympics bid, "this kind of opportunity will occur all the time."

The national championships will be televised on cable television and champions will be crowned in all three major events - time trials, road race and criterium.

To area racing fans, the best news is that the event is free of charge. Estimates are that 12,000 to 16,000 fans will attend the criterium race, scheduled for July 16.

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(ADDITIONAL INFORMATION)

Bicycle racing schedule

Here is the cycling schedule for the Bicycle Racing Association of Utah:

Date Event Info

May 11 SLIC Criterium

May 13 Payson Crit. 489-3532

May 13 Little Mt. RR 753-1669

May 18 SLIC Crit.

May 20-21 Lava S.R. 232-3711

May 25 SLIC Crit.

May 26-27 SL Classic 972-7830

June 1 SLIC Crit.

June 3 District TT 392-4019

June 8 SLIC Crit.

June 10-11 District RR 392-4019

June 15 SLIC Crit.

June 17 Scholastics 942-5213

June 17 Commerical St. 942-5213

June 22 SLIC Crit.

June 29 SLIC Crit.

July 1-2 SL-Henefer RR 485-7568

July 6 SLIC Crit.

July 11-20 Senior Ntls. 364-7607

July 29 Kamas-Evanston

Aug. 3 SLIC Crit.

Aug 5 Pedali RR 363-3727

Aug. 10 SLIC Crit.

Aug. 13 Monte Cristo RR 399-4981

Aug. 17 SLIC Crit.

Aug. 19 Music Maker RR

Aug. 24 SLIC Crit.

Aug. 26 Cottwood Climb 278-6820

Aug. 31 SLIC Crit.

Sept. 2 Premier RR 944-0593

Sept. 7 SLIC Crit.

Sept. 9 Snowbird Climb 531-6400

Sept. 10 Snowbasin Climb

Sept. 14 SLIC Crit.

Sept. 16 Lo-to-Ja 753-3294

Sept. 21 SLIC Crit.

Sept. 28 SLIC Crit.

Senior Nationals

July 11 - Registration

July 12 - Individual time trials

July 13 - Rest day

July 14 - Team time trials

July 15 - Rest day/coaches clinic

July 16 - Criterim heats/criterium

July 17 - Rest day

July 18 - Road race heats

July 19 - Rest day

July 20 - Road races