Frank Travieso is all for the fast life.
He has heard all about Las Vegas and what it has to offer in that regard, and he can’t wait to get a taste of it.
But the first order of business for Travieso during his first trip to the city will be getting an up-close look at, of all things, a stretch of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center parking lot — over and over and over.
That is where The World Championships Sports Network USA Crits Finals bicycle race will be held Thursday.
Las Vegas is the last stop in the 10-race 2007 USA Crits Championship Series, and Travieso has a firm grip on the series title. He would have to finish out of the top 20 and have AEG Toshiba-JetNetwork teammate Yosvany Falcon, who is second in the series, win the race to fall out of the series lead.
Travieso, a 27-year-old Miami resident, has no intention of letting that happen.
“It’s pretty big because I am leader of the series and it’s the last race,” Travieso said. “To win the last race is important. … There’s big pressure because the race is in Las Vegas. The race is going to be really fast.”
About 120 riders are expected to compete in the men’s race at 9:15 p.m.; about 75 are expected to compete in the women’s race at 7:15 p.m.
Laura Van Gilder, of Cresco, Pa., who races for the Cheerwine team, has clinched the women’s series championship.
The men’s race will consist of 60 laps on a 1-kilometer course (0.62 miles), while the women will race 40 laps of the same distance.
Travieso said speeds approach 40 mph on straightaways on flat courses and can exceed 60 mph on downhills. Riders slow going into the turns, but Travieso said there are always some willing to take risks by steaming through the turns to gain an advantage heading into the straightaway.
“You’re sprinting the whole time,” he said. “You can’t let anyone get a big lead. If someone goes up 20 seconds, they have a chance to lap the field.”
The race is being held in conjunction with Interbike, a bike industry trade show that is expected to bring 22,000 people from 60 countries to Las Vegas. The show runs Wednesday through Friday at the Sands Expo Center but is closed to the public.
Ravi Rajcoomar, the managing director of Swagger, which is producing the race, said industry people and race promoters have been trying to bring a top race to Las Vegas for several years.
“The hard part was to have a meaningful event and a schedule that worked,” he said.
That was done by linking the race to Interbike and to the Crits Championship Series.
“September is a good time after a whole year of racing, and Vegas is a great spot,” Rajcoomar said. “But definitely one of the big draws is being in front of a big crowd from the bike industry.”
The winner of the Las Vegas race will be the finals champ, and organizers are labeling the race the unofficial world championship.
Top riders from all over the world are expected at the race, which will be free to the public.
How big of a deal is the race for Las Vegas?
“Enormous,” said Brandon Cunningham, a local racer who has lived in the Las Vegas area for nearly eight years. “Hopefully it will be a successful race that we have here every year. Las Vegas is not the best bike-racing community for its size. Having one of the best bike races in the country held at Mandalay Bay, one of the best resorts, is huge.”SPIN CITY
WHAT: The World Championships Sports Network USA Crits Finals, the final race in the 10-city 2007 USA Crits Championship Series.
WHEN: Thursday — pro women, 6:15 p.m.; Industry Cup (for Interbike exhibitors), 8:15 p.m.; pro men, 9:15 p.m.
WHERE: Mandalay Bay Convention Center parking lot.
WHAT’S A CRIT?: A criterium race is a series of laps around a course for a set number of laps. The course at Mandalay Bay will be 60 laps of one kilometer (0.62 miles).
ALSO THIS WEEK: Interbike trade show, Wednesday through Friday at Sands Expo Center; CrossVegas cyclocross race, Wednesday at Desert Breeze Soccer Complex; Kid’s Bike Rodeo, Thursday at Mandalay Bay.
ON THE WEB:
YOU CAN BET ON IT
What would a bike race be in Las Vegas if you couldn’t bet on it?
People will be able to place bets on the USA Crits Finals — and they won’t have to risk a thing.
BikeBet.com is offering what it calls fantasy wagers — free pari-mutuel betting — that will give people a chance to win an array of prizes.
“We’re trying to show that there is market interest and catching a demographic of people who are interested in it,” said Brandon Cunningham, a local racer involved in the formation of BikeBet.
Wagering money could come in the future, but Cunningham said that was not the push for the Web site. BikeBet instead hopes to draw interest from people regardless of how much they follow bicycle racing.
Players receive fantasy dollars to place pool wagers on teams and riders before each race. The wagers can be placed online at www.bikebet.com or at the race. Prizes include a multi-day bike tour of Bryce and Zion national parks through Las Vegas-based Escape Adventures; round-trip airfare anywhere in the continental U.S.; a date with one of the Umbrella Girls, a group of models known for appearances at motor sports events (dinner only, guys, but you can check them out a www.umbrellagirlsusa.com), and a chance to train and ride with a pro team during its training camp.
BikeBet will be used as a promotional fundraising tool for select races during the 2008 USA Crits Tour. A BikeBet race series is planned to take place in Las Vegas in fall 2008.