The Fourth of July Criterium can legitimately be called a “classic” race — a Northern California institution since 1977. The event features all day racing in downtown Davis for most categories, including a kid’s fun race. This race includes a generous prize list and is known for its technical eight-corner course. The races has attracted notable professional racers and top amateurs, including Greg Lemond, Mike Sayers, Bobby Julich, Antonio Cruz, Eric Wohlberg, Trent Klasna, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Dave McCook, and Nathan Dahlberg.
In the early years, the Fourth of July criterium was held on a 1 km, four corner course in downtown Davis. Racing was extremely fast, up to 30 mph the entire race. The original course featured a nasty corner with a dip near where Cafe Bernardo is now. This corner was a favorite for spectators because of all the crashes. Some called the race the “Davis Carnage.”
In the inaugural 1977 race, a junior named Greg Lemond raced in the category 1/2 race and easily won. Young Greg had just won the Nevada City race a few weeks before. His father was also in the Davis Criterium that same day. The race in 1977 had entry fees of $3.50 for the 1/2/pros, $2.50 for the category 3s and Jrs and $1.50 for women. The prize lists were $1,200 for the 1/2/pros, $600 for the category 3s, $900 for the Juniors and $300 for the women.
The course was changed to it’s current “L” shape in the mid-1980s, partly to make it more technical and offer more excitement in terms of race strategy, but also to make it safer. The 2013 course was expanded another block west to C Street and run clockwise. In the late 80s and early 90s, the race often had very large prize lists. Cellular One sponsored the race for a couple of years and paid out $1,000 for first place in the Pro/1/2 category. The biggest prize list was for the men’s Pro/1/2 race in 2006 when Bistro 33 put up $2,500 for 1st place.