A number one attraction in the town of Burlington is a unique street that draws many visitors. Snake Alley was designed in 1894 to connect the two districts of the town. This street is known as one of the most crooked in the world, and this fact makes it popular. Being just 84 meters (275 feet) long, this one-way downhill street rises to 17.8 meters (58 feet) at a grade of 21% and features five half-curves and two quarter-curves.
Snake Alley is paved with bricks, which were laid at a special angle to give horses better footing when moving downhill. When riding up, the horses often lost their control at the top, and thus the street became one-way only. This rule is still present today. But, only once a year, during the annual bike race, the cyclists race uphill.
The Snake Alley Criterium is held in late spring or early summer. The racing weekend features a 167 km long Burlington Road Race, kids' favourite Cobble Climb and the most exciting top cyclists' race up Snake Alley. As the course goes along the city streets, they are all closed to traffic. A 15-block course features the differences in elevation from 169 m (555 feet) to 206 m (678 feet). One of the climbs is on the historic brick street. That part of the course needs an appropriate gear cluster.
Competitors must be older than ten. There are separate competitions for men, women, beginners, pros and various age groups. The entry fees and prizes also vary, from $50 for Juniors to $5,000 for the Pros. The race is thought to be one of the most physically challenging races in the Midwest. A national cycling magazine has named the Snake Alley Criterium the fifth best in the nation.