Andy Chasteen has traveled far and wide seeking the highest levels of cycling competition.
The Oklahoma City resident needs look no further.
The first Oklahoma City Pro-Am Classic is coming to Automobile Alley on Saturday. With a $20,000-plus payout and a full slate of races scheduled for pros and amateurs, the event is expected to attract some of the nation’s elite cyclists while giving local fans an up-close look at the sport.
“It’s widely accepted that you go down to Texas to race against the ‘good guys,’” said Chasteen, who works as a photographer and as vice president at James Farris Associates, a local human resources consulting firm. “When you go to one of those big races in Texas or Tulsa, you say, ‘This is super-exciting. I wish we could have something like that in Oklahoma City.’ And now it’s coming to fruition.”
Helping the community
Chad Hodges envisioned an OKC event that rivaled Tulsa Tough, a three-day festival listed on USA Cycling’s prestigious National Racing Calendar.
As team director for DNA Racing, the local cycling team hosting the OKC Pro-Am, Hodges said he pitched the race in 2011 to its eventual sponsor, SandRidge Energy.
“Both of us expressed an interest of doing something positive for the community,” he said. “It’s just kind of grown from there.”
Automobile Alley’s business community has stepped up to support the race, and a variety of vendors will have plenty of food and beverage available during the event, Hodges said, who chose to showcase the district as a vibrant example of the city’s urban development.
Race organizers have partnered with Norman Pediatric Associates and Safe Kids Oklahoma to promote cycling safety by giving away helmets to the first 200 children who stop by the Safe Kids booth.
All Pro-Am proceeds will benefit White Fields, a safe, long-term home for severely abused and neglected boys.
With more than 600 cyclists expected to participate, the Pro-Am Classic is designed to become an annual event.
Rain or shine, the event will feature 11 criterium races in men’s, women’s, juniors’, masters’ and children’s divisions. The first race begins at 11 a.m., while the men’s race will be held under the lights of downtown at 8:55 p.m.
Criterium races are short-track, nonstop sprints featuring tight cornering and lots of grueling acceleration. “It’s really redline, from the time they say ‘go,’” Hodges said.
The start/finish line will be at 900 N. Broadway, and the .8-mile course will traverse a figure eight between N. Broadway and N. Harvey avenues and between N.W. Seventh and N.W. 10th streets.
A unique feature of the women’s pro race, set for 7:45 p.m., will be the crowd prime, a cash prize offered for the winner of a single lap.
Racers don’t know when the prime will be announced, but typically, it’s toward the end of the contest to give organizers time to work the crowd for donations, Hodges said.
The women’s crowd prime is already above $750, thanks to donations through the event website.
Hodges’ goal is to beat the $850 offered at last year’s Tulsa Tough.
The first week in June figures to be a boon for cycling enthusiasts. On Sunday, DNA Racing hosts the King of Moore Criterium, while Tulsa Tough will be held June 8-10.
One cyclist’s journey
Chasteen took up cycling in 2008 when he went for a weekend ride with a group of Edmond cyclists. He won his first competitive race a few weeks later, a 45-mile event during the Oklahoma State Championship at Lake Stanley Draper.
“I was hooked from then on,” he said.
Chasteen has advanced to become a Category 2 racer, as determined by USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body. Category 1 is the highest level, immediately below professionals.
While he specializes in time trials, he’s excited to compete in the Pro-Am’s criterium format.
“The spectator-friendly aspect of criteriums is awesome,” Chasteen said, “With the [cycling] community we have here, I do think there will be a really good turnout of people wanting to see the action.”