CHARLESTON, W.Va. — USA Cycling’s criterium racing on Thursday on the streets of Downtown Charleston was a huge hit and is returning Friday.

Competitors from both Men’s and Women’s Junior and the U-23 Men competed in Thursday’s “crit racing” as part of this week’s schedule of events with the USA Cycling Pro Road National Championships. Women U-23, Elite and Men Elite will hit the roads Friday afternoon for crit racing.

Junior Women kicked things off with a 45 minute looped race that included passes on Court Street, Summers Street and to the start-finish line on Kanawha Boulevard. Landrie McLain was the first to the line in that race against 25 other competitors.

Junior Men followed with a 60 minute run of the downtown course. Alejandro Che came out victorious in a race with over 70 cyclists.

In the nightcap, Men U-23 ran an hour and 15 minutes under the lights with Gavin Hlady finishing ahead of everyone which was also about 70 athletes.

President of the Charleston Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Tim Brady said the atmosphere downtown with the hundreds of fans in attendance to watch the cycling was something special.

“It’s just fun to see the city of Charleston embrace something like this that’s new,” he said.

This is just year one with USA Cycling. The city will have this week of events for the next four years too. Brady said they’re loving what they’re seeing this year so far.

“That’s our goal, to make this bigger and better every year,” said Brady. “You figure out where the kinks are in year one and then make it better for year two and so on.”

Every closed-off street was packed with fans Thursday. Some were there to support certain racers. Others were just Charleston residents excited to be downtown to witness a unique event to the city. Charleston resident Tom Gibbs was one of those.

“I am so happy this is here,” he said while watching from Summers Street.

Tom, a casual biker himself, said he usually watches any and all types of bike races on TV, so to see bike racing in action in his hometown was a joy to him.

Another Charleston local, Rick Hardesin, said he’s no stranger to watching criterium races in person.

“I had seen a criterium years ago and so when I saw that this was coming I thought I better come out,” he said.

Hardesin said he was proud of the city for bringing an event like this to Charleston.

Saturday and Sunday will feature all groups participating in the road race. Men U-23 will be the first to compete on the 148 km course at 7 a.m. Saturday.

The rest of the schedule for the USA Cycling Pro Road Nationals can be found here.