They’re getting ready. Some of them are already on their way. And it’s going to be exciting. Probably the best ever. Because there is just nothing like the HSBC Tour de London, which takes place this weekend in all its bike shorts glory.

Dozens of top Kentucky racers are expected to descend on London Saturday morning just in time for the first event.

Organizers, who will hand out $11,000 in prizes, are excited.

“We really are looking forward to it,” chairman David Sutton said. “We’d love to see a lot of spectators on the side of the road and yard parties.”

One of the riders participating in the races will be local handcyclist Greg Queen.

“It’s a real good event,” he said. “It’s one of the best road races I’ve been to. It’s got some real hard hills in it and that’s what I like. That’s all I train on.”

Queen expects a good crowd.

“I know quite a few that’s coming down,” he said. “Two guys coming from Georgia, one from Indiana, a couple from Kentucky, a few from Tennessee. That’s the ones I know are coming.”

The annual bicycling festival features three events. Following is the breakdown:

ROAD RACE

The race kicks off at the London-Laurel County Farmers Market at 10 a.m. Category 1 through 3 cyclists will ride the 41-mile loop twice, with the other categories making the round once. Handcyclists travel a 19-mile loop.

The route, which circles the northeast quadrant of the county, features some grueling climbs tucked in amidst flat and gently rolling terrain. The view ranges from scenic farmland and shade-laden forests to charming neighborhoods.

In addition to being a fun race, it also holds some clout. The road race and criterium are races that are part of the Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Racing Series. These riders, who range in age from 10 to 16, are budding expert riders who hope to one day ride in world events like the Tour de France.

As well, the winners of the road race and the winners of the criterium race will receive a yellow Kentucky State Championship jersey. A jersey will be awarded for each category, but only to the highest placing Kentucky resident.

On the day of the race, groups leave every 10 minutes.

TASTE OF LONDON

This will be the biggest Taste of London ever, with 12 vendors setting up booths and selling nibble-size bites of London’s own cuisine. Grazers buy $1 tickets at the gate and then make their way around the circuit, picking up tantalizing tastes along the way.

The Taste of London will be set up from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday under the pavilion at the Farmers Market.

Vendors participating this year include: Gigee’s, Sel et Poivre, Designer Catering, Your Secret Chef, Laurel Landing, Ruby Tuesday, Chuckles, The African American Heritage Center, Dairy Dawg, The Creek, Reva’s and Mamma Rosa’s.

Organizer Nancy Sutton is expecting a good crowd.

“We had several 100 people at the Taste last year,” she said. “We encourage them to come back because we have more vendors and new vendors since then. We’re just looking forward to it.”

CRITERIUM

This heart stopping race starts at 8 a.m., Sunday with riders speeding down a 1-mile loop as many times as possible in the time allotted.

The criterium is on a relatively flat course but involves six sharp turns. The race itself starts at the Farmers’ Market, and then circles through Main, Fifth, Broad, First and Dixie streets. As such, those streets will be closed most of Sunday.

The pros ride the loop for 70 minutes, while the other category riders go for 40 minutes. Handcyclists and Lance Armstrong junior riders head out for 20 to 30 minutes.



Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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