Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 7th, 2009 at 11:36 pm
and Flanders. (As seen from
10th floor roof of North Park Lofts.)
(Photo © J. Maus/iPhone)
The Park Blocks were packed tonight for the Twilight Criterium. From the race course to the VIP area, from the beer garden to the handmade bike expo in the infield — spectators turned out in droves to absorb the spectacle of Portland’s only major downtown bike race of the year.
Organizers may have had some budget troubles a few months ago, but that seemed like a distant memory tonight (yet not too distant to forget to approach lawyer Ray Thomas to give him a hearty handshake and a thank you). The event had all the signs of success.
For the first time in five years, I left my camera and notebook at home. I shared the race with my three and six year old daughters. We cheered on our favorite racers (like the guy in the first race with the purple booties and of course all the racers wearing hot pink) and held our breath as they swooshed through the corners inches away from each other and the pavement.
Speaking of pavement, many riders saw too much of it tonight. In the Category 3 race there was a major crash (which, apparently was caused by a stray tennis ball some kids were playing with) that split the field for the rest of the race. In the pro race, we saw a very high-speed crash after someone either flatted or caught a pedal in a corner that caused 4-5 racers to fly into the crowd.
As for the racing, the lack of a major domestic squad like Health Net made the field seem a bit smaller and not quite as large, high-powered and star-studded as it has been in the past. But wow. It was just as exciting as ever to watch. The wind that blew over us seconds after the pack rolled by; the (unfortunate, yet heart-stopping) crashes; the inspiring solo efforts; the smooth and effortless pedal strokes of the amazing athletes.
The highlight of the evening was watching the pros from the 10th floor rooftop of the North Park Lofts (thanks for the hospitality Karl!).
In the standings, locals made a good go of it in the pro race, but in the end it was a Seattle-based rider with the Hagens-Berman team that took the win.
Thanks to everyone involved in making this event happen. After seeing the huge crowds tonight and hearing them cheer excitedly every lap, I’m convinced that the Twilight Criterium has officially solidified its place as a beloved Portland tradition.