Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 6th, 2009 at 10:30 am
Since 2002, the Twilight Criterium has brought professional bike racing to downtown Portland. The event attracts some of America’s fastest riders and thousands of spectators to witness their talents. But this year, when a title sponsor pulled out, it almost didn’t happen.
Health Net had invested over $35,000 annually as the event’s title sponsor since 2005 (that same year, a rider named Tyler Farrar — who had an excellent showing at the Tour de France — took the win). Without Health Net helping foot the bill for the expensive permits, equipment, insurance, prize money, officials, and other costs, organizers said they were on the brink of canceling this year’s event.
According to Tom Knipe with Good Sport Promotion (the company that puts on the race), as of May they were about $15-20,000 away from making budget.
As word spread that this jewel of an event was in danger of not happening, one of its biggest fans — local bike lawyer and racer Ray Thomas — led a charge to bring it back to life. Thomas not only stepped up with sponsorship money, but he urged his friends and colleagues to step up as well. Thomas turned to his network of lawyers (which he sees each week on the Lawyer’s Ride he leads from downtown) to help raise the cash.
local lawyers who stepped up to
save the event, won
the Category 3 race in 2007.
As these racer/lawyers came together to try and save the Twilight — by donating their time and money to the cause — Subaru stepped up as title sponsor and the race was officially saved.
Friday’s event will feature some of the biggest names in U.S. cycling world (guys who might someday stand on a podium in France). I’ve also heard that former Olympian cyclist, author, and Bicycling Magazine columnist Bob Mionske will come out of retirement to compete.
For lawyer Ray Thomas, the night will be special not just because he helped rally the community to save a race he loves, but because both of his sons will be flying around the course.
Head down to the Twilight Criterium, Friday night on the North Park Blocks. In addition to exciting race action, you’ll enjoy food from great local vendors and an expo area that will feature an exhibition of local hand-made bicycles.
The event is also an important fundraiser for Bikes to Rwanda, a Portland-based non-profit that works helps coffee growers in Rwanda become self-sufficient by providing them with cargo bikes and the means to maintain them.
More details on the event at PortlandTwilight.com.