1972 was the inaugural year for this event which initially received support from the University and the U.C. bicycle club due to QCW co-founder Les Gesell’s enrollment as a graduate student. The U.C. Criterium, which would eventually become known as the Cincinnati Criterium, was held on the University of Cincinnati Campus somewhere in the vicinity of the law library in its inaugural year of 1972. In 1973 the event moved to a brutally difficult course in Burnet Woods.
The Burnet woods course ran counter clockwise and featured two fast descents with 90 degree turns at the bottoms plus two tough climbs in the 1.3 mile course. The smaller of the two hills involved two-way traffic, with only a row of traffic cones dividing the riders, on a park road too narrow to meet the minimum width requirements of a city street. It’s truly amazing there were no serious incidents in this area when many of the fields were 80+ riders!
The start/finish was located in the bandstand circle at the top of Burnet Woods Drive. The fastest speeds were reached on the descent of Martin Luther King Drive where riders rode in the parking lane, against the flow of traffic, and then made a breathtaking hard left turn back into the park on Burnet Woods Drive. Watching Wayne Stetina and some of the better senior men riders of the day carve this turn provided an excellent primer on proper cornering technique as they would open huge gaps on riders of lesser ability.
Held usually the first week of April the race was often the first Midwest race of the season, long before people were traveling to training camps in Florida during late winter. Riders were competing for bicycle components, no cash prizes allowed, and paid a $2.25 entry fee, 25 cents of which went to the “International Fund” for developing American riders. A Campagnolo equipped pro-bike would be parted out with the first place Senior Men’s winner going home with the frame. This event was almost certainly the first to give away a Teledyne Titan titanium frame, one of the first titanium frames which retailed for $500 in the mid 1970’s.
The race was a favorite of the Stetina dynasty out of Indiana. Papa Roy would drive the “Ark” (a converted bookmobile) into the park and he and his four sons, Wayne, Dale, Troy and Joel would put on a Stetina racing exhibition. Wayne won the Senior Men’s race the first three years and then Dale won it the fourth year.
The start sheets are a veritable “who’s who” of North American big guns with the likes of Tom Schuler, Jocelyn Lovell, Tom Chew, Mac Martin, Davis Phinney, and Rick Denman. There were always a surprising number of Michigan riders and I think it was due to the early April date. A couple truly interesting young northerners are found in 1977 with Mark Gorski racing as a Junior and Frankie Andreau racing in the 8-11 age group, a few years before signing with US Postal.