Fixed gear cyclists race by the Joske's building in Alamo Plaza during the Red Bull Last Stand in 2017.
Fixed gear cyclists race by the Joske's building in Alamo Plaza during the Red Bull Last Stand in 2017. Credit: Courtesy / Red Bull

Every day, people from around the world descend upon San Antonio to visit the Alamo and learn about its famed battle.

This Saturday, hundreds of cyclists will travel to the Alamo City to battle it out in a race around its namesake monument in the third annual Red Bull Last Stand.

Race Director Ravi Rajcoomar said San Antonio’s central location and burgeoning cycle culture make it an ideal host city. And the two race formats offered – fixed gear and geared racing – bring different types of cyclists and fans to one place.

“The geared racing crowd is a bit more urban, diverse – more bike messengers and tattoos and cool guy,” he said. “The fixed gear crowd is more spandex – traditional cyclists. Here, everyone can come together and race in one day.”

Red Bull Last Stand is a criterium race, which consists of multiple laps around a closed circuit. Normally, “crit” races are between one-half mile and one mile in distance, Rajcoomar said; Red Bull Last Stand is three-quarters of a mile. Men will ride 50 laps while women complete 30, he said.

“What makes the race super special is the eliminator format,” Rajcoomar said. “Every lap, the last person is removed. So, the last rider standing is the winner. That’s been really well received. It doesn’t happen often in the world of road racing.”

Austinite Sammi Runnels, who won second place in both the fixed gear and geared women’s races last year, said she likes the eliminator format because it’s rare.

“This is the only race that does it on the street like this, whereas that format of racing originates from track racing, on indoor tracks,” she explained. “Having it in the street makes it a lot more dynamic, and I think that’s another draw for me and other people. It’s a really interesting format to race.”

Runnels has competed in all three years of Red Bull Last Stand around the Alamo. She travels around the country and the world to compete professionally, but said it’s nice to race close to home.

“I love racing in Texas, and I especially love racing against Texas women,” she said. “In Austin we have an amazing community of women, and I’m so excited to see everybody again.”

San Antonio firefighter James Dubois is not a pro, but races regularly. He took up cycling to stay fit after quitting his career as a professional boxer and started a side job as a bike messenger a few years ago. He was later invited to a bike race and loved it.

“I met some incredible people, just amazing athletes and individuals, and had a great time getting to know so many people around the world,” he said.

One of his favorite things about the bike racing community is the blurred lines between professional and amateur riders, Dubois said.

“You race against everyone and then go party afterwards,” he said. “You don’t see that in other sports. Football players that play in college, they don’t get to hang out or play with pro athletes. And we do. Some of the guys that show up, they’re professionals but we race and hang out with them.”

Rajcoomar said he expects around 20,000 people to show up to watch the races on Saturday. Criterium races are spectator-friendly, he said.

“It’s uniquely American because it’s fast-paced, easy to watch, and you can sit in a bar and watch,” he said. “As opposed to the Tour de France, which is 200 miles and in an open field.”

Qualifying races will start at 1 p.m. Saturday. The fixed gear women’s final starts at 5 p.m. and the men’s at 6 p.m. The geared women’s final starts at 7:15 p.m. and the men’s at 8 p.m.

Roads around the Alamo will be closed Saturday from 6 a.m. to Sunday at 3 a.m. There are several other road closures downtown over the weekend due to other events. Check this map to see which streets to avoid this weekend.

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.