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For the fourth consecutive year, hundreds of cyclists and thousands of spectators are expected to take over the Village of East Davenport on Monday for the largest bicycle race event in the Quad-Cities.

The Kwik Star Criterium — formerly known as the Quad-Cities Criterium — is “bigger and better” this year, said John Harrington, who helps organize the annual Memorial Day festivities for the Quad-Cities Bicycle Club.

Many viewers liken the family-friendly gathering, now in its 52nd year, to the Quad-City Times Bix 7, only on wheels. Vehicles usually begin to pack the surrounding side streets early in the day as hordes of onlookers party on front lawns near every corner of the 7/10-mile race track.

Organizers hope to see between 500 and 600 cyclists pedal the route throughout the day. The first of 13 races begins at 9 a.m., and the day's headliner, the men's pro race, is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m.

For the first time, the top four finishers in both the men's and women's pro races will receive equal prize money, a change that Harrington said already has drawn more female competitors than last year.

The total payout is $10,000. Additionally, the Quad-Cities Bicycle Club will donate $1,000 to Honor Flight of the Quad-Cities. 

Those with fat bikes — bicycles equipped with 4-inch-wide tires — will have the chance to test out the course in the afternoon during the second annual Healthy Habits Faterium. 

To boost accommodations, Harrington said 13 Quad-City individuals and families plan to host about 50 out-of-towners on Sunday night. 

Many of the traveling cyclists will compete Friday in the Burlington Road Race, Saturday in the 35th annual Snake Alley Criterium, also in Burlington, and Sunday in the Melon City Criterium in Muscatine. 

The four area races combine to form the Iowa Memorial Weekend Cycling Classic, which now is part of the Flyover Championship Race Series.

The Midwest series kicked off earlier this month in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In June and July, amateur racers, who earn points at each stop, will head to three other competitions in Kansas City, Missouri, Clear Lake, Iowa, and Minneapolis. 

In Davenport, hills along the course, including the 90-foot climb on Hillcrest Avenue, make for an entertaining show, Harrington said. 

After tackling the slope, which has a 12 percent grade at the steepest portion, riders will fly downhill on Fulton Avenue at speeds of at least 40 mph.

The criterium's former grounds in Moline's Olde Towne (30 years) and The District of Rock Island (17 years) lacked hills. The inaugural Quad-Cities Criterium was held in East Moline. 

Inspecting the current course on Thursday, Harrington credited Davenport Public Works crews for patching potholes and any other uneven surfaces on the roadway.

“It looks safe,” he said. “We just need good weather.”

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Jack Cullen covers health and the outdoors for the Quad-City Times.