Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on August 11th, 2008 at 10:39 am
(Photo Gallery — Photos © J. Maus)
Last Friday night, the Health Net Portland Twilight Criterium succeeded in turning bike racing into top-notch entertainment.
The racers, which included some of the fastest pros in America, blazed through the North Park Blocks mere feet away from appreciative fans. Beer flowed freely in the packed VIP Lounge, which gave local bike luminaries like Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Mr. Chris King, and many others a front-row seat to the action.
Bike lawyer Ray Thomas (who’s no slouch on a bike himself) was on hand to watch his son Chris compete in the Category 3 race (he finished 11th). Notice any resemblance?
But the tight and fast corners that proved thrilling for spectators took their toll on racers. Both of the night’s races were plagued by pile-ups.
Barret Fishner, a member of the local Guinness Cycling Team, had his tire come unglued while rounding a corner. Luckily he wasn’t hurt too bad and he was smiling about it afterwards.
In the night’s main event, even the pros took their share of spills.
For Doug Ollerenshaw, who was going for the win on the second-to-last lap and caught a pedal in a corner, his spill was a tough pill to swallow.
Doug has been a hometown hero for years. A resident of Northwest Portland, the 28 year-old Ollerenshaw has raced at the sport’s highest level and made his living in bike racing for the past four years. He has traveled the world and gone tire-to-tire with the best riders in the biggest races on the domestic circuit.
But Friday was Doug’s final race in Portland. The humble and well-liked star has decided to end his pro racing career and return to school — a place where he also excels — to pursue a Doctorate degree in Biomedical Engineering.
(Photo by Michelle Gee)
To say he wanted to take the win Friday night, in front of his hometown fans, in the city he loves, is a vast understatement. When I didn’t see him come around on the final lap, my heart sank. Here’s Doug a few seconds after his crash (as captured by reader Michelle Gee):
Last October, on the night after the Tracey Sparling tragedy, I went to the fateful intersection at W. Burnside and 14th to try and collect my thoughts. Doug’s apartment is just a few blocks away and we met for drinks and conversation at Ringler’s, in a booth within sight of Tracey’s intersection. In addition to being a big time bike racer, Doug also cares deeply about bike advocacy and about making cities safer for bikes.
forcing a smile.
On Friday, when he came limping through the finish line I knew what happened.
Looking at me through watery eyes, he said, “You don’t know how bad I wanted that.” I told Doug that it was better to go out by giving it everything, than to be hesitant, and not get the win. But even so, my heart went out to him. As a former competitive racer myself, I’ve gone down in similar circumstances, and the pain is far beyond physical.
Doug and his wife Adrienne have already moved to Atlanta, where he’ll attend a joint program at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “The hardest part isn’t leaving racing,” said Doug, “it’s leaving Portland.”
Good luck in your future pursuits Doug. You are a shining example of what a professional athlete should be and it’s been great following your career.
— See more of my photos in the Twilight Criterium Photo Gallery.