Jeremy Papasso
University of Colorado juniors Will Buick, left, and Brett Peters try to catch the cyclist ahead of them on Thursday, March 8, while practicing for the Stazio Criterium at Gerald Stazio Softball Fields in Boulder. Jeremy Papasso/ Camera
If you go
What: Stazio Crit
When: Sunday; men’s A race at 11:20 a.m., women’s A at 12:30 p.m.
Where: Stazio Drive, Boulder
More info:

Road racing returns to Boulder this weekend on familiar grounds for cyclists — the loop at the Stazio ball fields.

But this time, the criterium at Stazio supports the University of Colorado’s cycling team.

“Each school in the conference has to put on one race — it’s mandatory,” said Kris Schoech, of CU’s Club Sports. (Cycling is a club sport at CU.) But, he said: “It’s expensive to put on a race.”

In the past, the team put on its race at the CU Research Park, Schoech said. “We used to have it around the Qwest building, but then Qwest got different management.” So the team sought out a permit from the city for a race on the loop that includes Stazio Drive and 63rd Street.

The move is costing the team. In total, the race at Stazio has burned through about $4,000 of the team’s funds, Scheoch said, which means they’re starting their fundraising to help the team go to regionals and nationals — nationals alone will cost the team $7,500 to $10,000.

But the team’s head coach, Frank Overton, of FasCat Coaching, said that while the course at the Research Park was “plain Jane,” the course at Stazio makes for better racing.

“The Stazio course is exciting, it’s dynamic, it has a hill in it,” Overton said.

The Sunday criterium is a collegiate race, but it’s open to non-collegiate competitors as well, and Overton predicts a good turnout if the weather is nice. The course is a familiar one to longtime Boulder racers. Race promoter Chris Grealish started putting on races at Stazio in the early ’90s — and for several years held a series every Sunday in March. He put on the last race there in 2008.

“The nice thing about that course, and particularly for early season — the hill on every lap has the ability to drop the weaker riders,” Grealish said.

“On this course, you can’t hide out, you have to ride up that hill every lap.”

The CU team should be ready for that, Overton said. The team has been training hard since the start of the semester and he hopes to help the team “build the program up to like it was in the ‘90s, when they were winning nationals at will.”

“Our goal is to win the national championships,” he said. “We have a very strong team, not only just in terms of individual talent, but the depth of our roster. We have a lot of good riders who can support the even faster riders.”

On Sunday, Overton expects to see strong performances from Josh Yeaton, who finished second overall in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference last year for road racing.

“There’s like four or five other guys who could pull off the ‘W,’” though, Overton said.

For the women, Overton cited Christa Ghent — “She’s an ex-ski racer, she’s really fast in crits, that’s kind of her forte,” he said — and Heather Fischer as strong contenders in the race this weekend. Fischer, he said, is a senior with raw talent who hasn’t had time to tap into it.

“For the last three years, she has worked full-time, in addition to going to school full-time and racing full-time,” Overton said. “But this year, she’s not working at all … and that’s encouraging because she’s never really trained before.”

Schoech said he hopes for a good turnout on Sunday for both a successful race and successful fundraising for the team.

“We’re hoping if we get 300 racers out there, at least the riders don’t have to take too much more out of their pockets,” Schoech said. “We fund them a little bit, but our funds cover the coaching stipend and the conference fees to be in the league. The rest of it, the student athletes have to pay out of their own pocket.”

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