Downtown streets will become a fast-paced race track Saturday, Sept. 20.
Fort Mill is hosting the first Dylan Mitchell Memorial Criterium that day, and town officials hope the day of bicycle races will become an annual event, Parks and Recreation Director Brown Simpson said. Proceeds will benefit the Fort Mill Care Center.
A 1.2-mile course will be set up along Confederate, Main, Academy and Banks streets with 14 races spread over about nine hours. Simpson expects up to 300 racers.
"Our goal is to promote bike safety," Simpson said. "This is a great event to honor one of Fort Mill's sons."
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Mitchell, the criterium's namesake, was a 2002 graduate of Fort Mill High School and an avid bike rider. He started with mountain biking, but later switched to road racing, according to his former coach Eric Peterson, who is promoting the event through the Carolinas Cycling Association. He coaches the Carolina Cyclone Development Team.
Mitchell was killed three years ago while a student at USC in Columbia. He was riding his bike home after a training ride one September evening when he was hit by a car.
"It was just one of those things that turned into a tragedy," Peterson said. "He was one of those glowing spirits we hate to lose so young."
"It's still pretty tragic in our minds," Dylan's father, Paul Mitchell, said. "Because this is a benefit for the [Fort Mill] Care Center, we decided to go forward with it."
Entry fees for the races range from none for the 10-and-under kids race, up to $30 for the top amateurs and professionals. Winners in the beginners categories will receive medals. The high-level amateurs and pros can win cash and points, Simpson said. Once the town covers its expenses for the event, all additional proceeds will go to the Care Center.
Except for the kids race, which will be a straight, 400-meter sprint, all of the races will be timed: 30 minutes for the novices, up to 1.25 hours for the experienced riders. Racers will start on Confederate Street at Town Hall, ride to Main Street and into a sweeping turn down Academy Street to Banks Street, then up the hill on Banks back to Confederate.
Race officials will clock the time of the first few laps to estimate how many total laps will be needed to fill out the race time limits, Peterson said.
Riders can sign up for the criterium at www.PRE-REG.com until Friday, Sept. 19. An additional late fee will be charged to those that sign up the day of the race.
"We really want to make this about bike safety and bike awareness," Paul Mitchell said. "It's important people remember what can happen once you get on a bike."