According

to shopkeepers, the Mass Ave Criterium is different than most events that

happen on that trendy avenue. Mass Ave's hip reputation is impossible for event

planners of all kinds to resist, and they swoop down onto the Ave like culture

vultures, seizing anything that looks like a choice bit of fresh indie flavor.

"There

are a lot of events on Mass Ave," says Kay Feeney-Caito of Mass Ave Toys. "But

this one is done with us in mind."

Shop

owners describe the Criterium as "great," "really fun," "exciting," "dynamic,

"colorful." For years, support from shop owners has been crucial in

managing the various organizational headaches such an event entails.

Environmental

sustainability

This

year, NUVO and our partners focused on creating an experience as

environmentally sustainable as it is enjoyable. Thanks to Onesource Water,

on-site water stations with their own filtration systems will be installed,

with Mass Ave Criterium refillable water bottles being sold for $2,

significantly reducing waste generated during the race.

Continuing

the theme of energy awareness, Bicycle Garage Indy will offer a stationary

bicycling station with electronic trackers that calculate how much energy

riders generate. Nine13sports, a health organization focused on combating youth

obesity through cycling and a new partner this year, will set up a similar

station with racing simulators for spectator participation.

For

those who prefer bicycles that actually move, Pedal & Park will be

stationed in the shade at Barton Towers, offering free bike repairs for those

spectators who cruise by, looking for relief from the hot weather.

An

all ages event

Teenagers

can participate in a junior race that's shorter than the adult races, but just

as competitive. For younger kids, there will be a rodeo, lessons about bike

riding basics and safety tips from Flanner & Buchanan, complete with

obstacle courses and goodie bags. There will be a chance to design your own

pannier put on by INDYCOG, a cornhole tournament, popsicles from Nicey Treat,

lemonade, pretzels and New Belgium beer.

If

a day of bike races isn't enough, the cycling will continue into the night at

another of the year's new a events: a post-race screening of Breaking Away in the New Belgium Beer

Garden in Davlan Park, open to all ages.

Bigger

and better

"We

support it," David Andrichik, owner of the Chatterbox Jazz Club and longtime

cycling fan says of the shifting nature of the Criterium. "The bigger and

better the race, the better the racing."

Andrichik

opens the Chatterbox to customers whenever the race begins, which, last year,

meant they started lining up at 7:30 am. With good reason, says Elizabeth

Garber, founder of Best Chocolate in Town: "David has the best view on the

street."

Unlike

Andrichik, Garber doesn't know much about the technicalities of the sport: the

exact angle of the turns, the balance needed to corner smoothly. For her, the

fun is off the course. "Last year, I played!" she remembers. "I drank mimosas,

cheered, and handed out trophies."

Other

spectators, who, like Garber, turn up to watch a blur of colorful jerseys speed

by and drink good beer are what excites shop owners the most about the

Criterium.

"It

draws a great crowd," says Kristen Kohn, owner of Silver in the City, a feeling

Garber echoes: "It's not your usual group of people."

Feeney-Caito

agrees, gushing about both organizers and spectators. "They're real

salt-of-the-earth type people," she says. "NUVO readers are the best because

they're involved people who are interested in being a part of anything that

supports their own town." (Editors note: While initially we considered removing

the above Feeney-Caito remark, we decided to keep it, but only after thoroughly

vetting it for its objective truth.)

A

grassroots feel

The

Criterium involves street closings and other infrastructural adjustments that

— at first —alarmed shop owners. Garber, who admits to some initial

worry about interference with the avenue's comerce, says that she soon

discovered that, in the long run, "for every day your sales are down, there's

another day when they're up."

"It

depends on perspective," she adds. "It's about experience and actually being in

a space, figuring out what are the true concerns versus perceived concerns."

Sage

Boutique's new location on the 400 block of Mass Ave means owner Jessica Hamm

will have a new experience of the race this year, though she hasn't exactly

been separated from past races.

"One

year my boyfriend and I almost ruined a race," she recalls, laughing. "We were

carrying boxes and all of a sudden the bikers were riding by, blowing whistles

and yelling. Luckily, we got out of the way just in time."

Cassie

Stockamp

, president of the Athenaeum Foundation, has been involved since the

race's first year. She's had only pleasant partnerships with organizers in

years past, though her fondest memory might be meeting a "dear, dear friend" at

the inaugural Criterium in 2008. They remain close to this day and plan to ride

bikes down to this year's race together.

These

stories are testaments to the race's grassroots feel. As Garber explains, "When

you're in an urban environment, you have to embrace what happens in that

environment."

It's

— pardon the pun — a two-way street. Without community events,

there would be no community. Without a community, there would be no community

events. And then there would be no accidental friendships, no close calls with

race-ruining, no stories of the uninvolved stumbling into the center of the

action, of the skeptical finding themselves caught up in a rush of cycles,

riders, and spokes. That's the thing about this event: it sweeps people away.

The

ultimate prize of the race is more than some chocolate or even a cash reward.

It's joining in, whether by riding or watching, and since it happens right on

the avenue where so much eating and drinking and sweating and living happens,

it's impossible to ignore.

Not

that anyone would want to. "It really feels like it's from us, for us,"

Feeney-Caito says. "Whatever they want to do, we're down."

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