As it has for the past 14 years, Arlington's Clarendon neighborhood will host another edition of Air Force Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup. This professional cycling race takes place on a tight and winding course threaded through Clarendon along Wilson, Washington and Clarendon boulevards. The short circuit is great for spectators, as the entire course is accessible in just a few steps.
While the newcomer may see 150-plus cyclists all competing to be first across the line, this kind of racing is actually a team sport. Each team devotes its efforts to protecting one or two of its best riders during most of the race, and then it falls on the shoulders of that rider to use his or her talents to win at the end.
The amateur races start at 8 a.m. Saturday, the women's elite race starts at 10:05 a.m., and the men's pro race kicks off at noon. There's a very popular children's "race" at 11:35 a.m. that is free and open to kids 9 and under (register here). This undercard will attract everything from kids who are still having a hard time with the concept of pedals to little ringers on Pinarellos with well-practiced victory salutes.
The outdoor seating areas of a number of local restaurants are good for viewing for the day's racing. Whitlow's, Lyon Hall and Liberty Tavern (my favorite) are best among them. It's incredibly easy to walk the entire course and get an appreciation of just how demanding it is to just survive 100 laps of it, nevermind win it. You can also get a great bird's eye view of the race from the top of the parking garage over the Orvis store at the corner of Clarendon Boulelvard and Fillmore Street.
On Sunday, the action will move to Crystal City, which will host the Air Force Cycling Classic. The course has been shortened from the previous years' circuit past the Air Force Memorial to a 2-kilometer criterium course contained entirely in Crystal City. The kids' race is at 11:15 a.m., the men's pro race starts at 11:40 a.m., and the women's elite race starts at 1:25 p.m. Stick around to watch local amateurs suffer at 2:30 p.m.
While there are plenty of other amateur races that take place on the weekends in the greater Washington area, there's nothing quite like seeing the pros at the Clarendon Cup. Come check it out.
All the info you could want about the races here, at the official race site.
Bonus kids' race album from previous years.
Remember the old Outdoor Life Network? Here's their two-minute recap of the 2001 edition of the Clarendon Cup.
Mark Blacknell is chairman of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.