Hey, so what's Mass Ave Crit? And why should you go this year? 

Five reasons to make the 2016 MAC your first MAC ever

click to enlarge Racers attack the corners around Mass Ave's "Ann Dancing," the turns that make the Mass Ave Crit world famous - MELANIE COULTER // NUVO FILE PHOTO
  • Racers attack the corners around Mass Ave's "Ann Dancing," the turns that make the Mass Ave Crit world famous
  • Melanie Coulter // NUVO File Photo
A giant bike party. A festival with beer, spectators, and the fastest bike racers in the Midwest.

There are criteriums all over the country, so the bike racers generally load their bikes onto their cars on the weekends and drive to the nearest (or fastest) one on the schedule.

This weekend, the criterium is in our own backyard. Riders will line up on Massachusetts Ave Downtown, and when the whistle blows, the controlled chaos begins. They'll dart around the short, sharp-turn-y course lined with crowds of people. People wait in line for the delicious smells wafting from the food trucks, some cheer on their friends, and some raising cups and cheer even louder from the beer garden.

The official rings a bell on random laps to signal a prime (say, preem), meaning the winner of the next lap could earn some cash, or perhaps just some socks. But regardless of whether it's a prime lap or not, the riders will be moving fast; the pace will be around 20 - 30 mph.

click to enlarge The 2016 MAC schedule and map - NUVO CREATIVE TEAM
  • The 2016 MAC schedule and map
  • NUVO Creative Team

Is this safe? Not entirely.

But riders have built up their endurance, strength, and skill over years of relentless training. So they know the risks, and many of them have felt first-hand (or first-shoulder, first-hip, or first-cheek) the outcome of taking a fast corner incorrectly. The riders swoop, chase and attack around the course until it comes down to the final lap. Some riders may have been able to dart away early and secure their win, but for everyone left in the race there is a sprint. The road-wide group of riders will be smashing their pedals as hard as they can towards the finish line.

RELATED: Will these racers be MAC winners this year?  

Only one will cross the line with their hands in the air.

The crowds, the beer, the bikes, the glory: This is the Mass Ave Criterium.

P.S. MAC kicks off a bike racing week. The State Championships touch down in Speedway on Sunday, August 7, with the Masters Nationals following at the Indy Cycloplex on August 9 through the 14.

— Riley Missel 

click to enlarge Don't know much about bike racing? Party in the beer garden and learn all about it. - NUVO FILE PHOTO
  • Don't know much about bike racing? Party in the beer garden and learn all about it.
  • NUVO File Photo

So, you've never checked out Mass Ave Crit before. You might not even own a bike. Why should this be your year? Here's five reasons even the bike-ambivalent should plan to post up on the Avenue this weekend for MAC.

1. It's basically a big party

Oskar Blues Brewing and New Belgium will provide the delicious brews; Bazbeaux will be slinging slices. You can scream and clap and cheer with wild abandon all day long, plus experience some vicarious calorie-burning and indulge in some ice cream, too. Hey, watching pro bike racers is strenuous, too!

2. It's the hardest course in regional  bike racing

If you're going to make this year your first big bike race ever, you should pick the hardest, most dangerous — and therefore most exciting — course to observe, right? Right.

3. It's for a good cause

Biking advocacy org IndyCog isn't just our badass volunteer coordinating organization — they're also our nonprofit beneficiary of MAC. A portion of proceeds raised from MAC is donated to IndyCog, helping them keep Indy's biking community beautiful. (P.S. Have you picked up one of their Ride Guides yet?)

4. It fosters young riders and shows off experienced ones

MAC is all about fostering young riders, who often come back year after year to compete in progressively more challenging categories. (Reminder: The lower the number of category, the more skilled the racer. Find a guide to cats here.) 

5. It's the best day to spend on Mass Ave all summer long

Can you think of any better place to introduce yourself to the world of crit racing than our beautiful Mass Ave? Plus: The forecast is 85 degrees and sunny. Perfection.

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Katherine Coplen

Katherine Coplen

Always looking for my new favorite band. Always listening to my old ones, too. Always baking cakes. Always collecting rock and roll dad quotes.

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