For area bicycle racers and enthusiasts, Rockleigh, NJ, minutes from the Rockland border, has become a major destination on Thursday nights.
The Rockleigh Criterium Series summer season is well under way, with races beginning at 6 p.m. Thursdays through late August.
The course is a 0.9-mile loop on a Bergen County campus at 35 Piermont Road. The road is closed to traffic during the races.
The series is a production of the Rockleigh Criterium Association, a joint effort by GS Retro Velo, Westwood Velo and GS Park Ridge.
The group runs two events every Thursday evening. The first race is a combined field of Category 1/2/3 racers and goes for 60 minutes plus 2 laps. The Cat 4/5 field starts immediately after the first race and is 45 minutes plus 2 laps.
According to criterium organizer Steve Parseghian, the categories are designations from U.S. Cycling Federation based on experience and results. Every new racer starts as a Category 5 and with experience can move up to a 4.
Moving from 4 to 3 requires not only experience but also results, so it is much harder to become a 3, Parseghian noted. There are only about 3,000 Cat 3s in the U.S. From 3 to 2 requires further results and is very difficult. Cat 1 riders are national-caliber riders.
Parseghian said the Rockleigh races started 25 years ago, spearheaded by Mike Fraysee. Fraysee is a former racer, coach and the grandson of the U.S. Cycling Federation’s founder. Fraysee moved away about 20 years ago and the criterium hit a rough patch for a few years until Parseghian, of GS Park Ridge, helped pull together the coalition that has kept the event going for the past 15 years.
The original races were permitted by the USCF as training rides. Over the years there has been an evolution of the events until they are now permitted as full-fledged competitive races, according to Parseghian.
Looking over the race results on the event’s website — www.rockleighcrit.com/ — the races attract riders from throughout the region.
I haven’t been out to the criterium yet but I’m hoping to do so soon. I’d also like to post some results, photos and other stuff from the racers.