What: North Boulder Park Classic
When: June 9
Where: North Boulder Park, Boulder
More info: http://boulderclassic.net/
Running events: Elite women: 1:25 p.m., elite men: 1:28 p.m.
Cycling events: Elite men: 2 p.m., elite women: 3:20 p.m.
Old photographs from the Red Zinger and Coors Classic bike races, which culminated at the North Boulder Park criterium, show scores of fans stacked 10 rows deep. Some say as many as 300,000 fans turned out to watch the pros zoom by in the 1980s.
Modern-day North Boulder Park Classic criterium organizer Keith Harper doesn't anticipate hundreds of thousands of spectators for Sunday's race, but he said he hopes to bring some of that vintage energy from 20 years ago to 2013.
Harper's father, Barry, raced in one of the early Red Zinger races, and Harper remembers being a kid and watching in awe as the cyclists passed.
Today's North Boulder Park Classic includes both running and cycling events that use the same slightly-larger-than-one-kilometer loop around the park. New to the event this year is a bike swap, organized by Fat Kitty Cycles' Gary Gingras.
The running events are also criterium-style. For cyclists, the course is technical with tight corners and a trip through an alley on each lap.
"It's good for the cagey criterium rider," Harper said.
Last year's female winner, Alison Powers, won't be returning to defend her title, which opens up space for a number of speedy sprinters, including Exergy Twenty16 rider Cari Higgins, who finished second at the race last year. Higgins' teammate and recent University of Colorado grad Christa Ghent will also be racing for the podium, Higgins said.
Frank Pipp, 36, who won the men's pro race in 2012, said he's returning to North Boulder Park once more.
"I travel a lot for racing and do all the national races, but last year it fell on a weekend I wasn't (traveling)," he said. "I had a great time and it was great to win in front of family and friends. I'm excited that I get a chance to do it again."
Young riders like Boulder's Jesse Goodrich, who's coming off a win at the City Park Criterium in Denver last weekend, plan to challenge veteran Pipp.
Goodrich rides for team California Giant Strawberries/Specialized with Boulder brothers Robin and Yannick Eckmann, who have been clicking as a three-man team lately, Goodrich said.
"Last weekend was good, and it gave me some confidence going into this weekend," Goodrich said. "And in addition to that I've got Robin and Yannick, my two teammates, and we really have been getting dialed over the past few weeks."
The Eckmann brothers are also contenders for the win at North Boulder Park, Goodrich said. He really doesn't care who on the team wins, as long as someone does.
Teammate Robin Eckmann said competing at local races -- and racing hard -- will give them much needed training for later in the season.
"If you don't make it hard, the race will not be hard," he said. "For improving for later in the season, we'll just need to race for the win as hard as possible."
Last year's men's running winner Kenyon Neuman will not return to defend his title, leaving the top running spot open in 2013. Harper did not know who would compete in the running events this year, but in the past, the event has drawn big names like CU alum Matt Tebo, Brianne Nelson and Laura Thweatt, who recently competed for Team USA at the 2013 Bolder Boulder. The North Boulder Park crit is a good place to watch former pros in the master's categories, says Boulder-based Rocky Mountain Cancer Center team member CJ Gauss.
"This is the biggest criterium race in Boulder, so I think all the teams that are Boulder-based, you want to win it, you want to do well, you want to represent," Gauss said." There's pride in doing well at North Boulder Park."
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.