Street races shut down Automobile Alley most of the day Saturday, but it wasn't automobiles that were raced.
Instead, the inaugural Oklahoma City ProAm Classic brought bicyclists from across the region to downtown for some friendly competition.
Heats for men, women and children — beginners up to professionals — snaked through 10 city blocks all day long as part of the event.
Bill Hyman, a restaurant owner from Tulsa, gave the course and the organization a positive review after finishing his first run Saturday morning.
“They haven't posted the results yet, but I'm definitely not in the prize money,” he said.
Hyman, 45, has been racing three years with Sound Pony, a Tulsa team named after a bar and bicycle-
“This is a criterion race, which is usually about three-quarters to a mile and a quarter in length, with lots of turns,” he said. “It's not about who can go the fastest; it's about who can handle the bike, and if you have teammates out there. It's also about team tactics.”
Hyman said team racing is a pastime he picked up later in life to occupy his time and keep him active. Making short, hard sprints down city streets on a sunny afternoon is a lot more challenging than it looks, he said.
“A race only has 40 minutes, but I burned through 850 calories in 40 minutes,” he said.
Race organizer Chad Hodges said his team, DNA Racing, in Moore, was looking to supplement the annual Tulsa race with a sister competition in Oklahoma City. They wanted to stretch the competition to a week, and the bicycle shops, coffee houses and restaurants in Automobile Alley embraced the idea.
On Sunday, the races will continue in Moore, he said. Next year, they're aiming for a three-day event.
“We had just wanted to do something different and special, and to date this hadn't happened in Automobile Alley,” he said. “What we're trying to do is two big weekends of racing in a row.”
Almost 300 bicyclists preregistered for Saturday's races, and Hodges said another couple hundred more signed up at the morning registration.
He said the beginner's heats would give way that afternoon to intermediate heats, with a professional men's category scheduled to close out the day.
In all, about $25,000 would be handed out to the winners, he said.