Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Thousands flock to Park Blocks for a memorable Twilight

Posted by on August 7th, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Racers zoom around NW 8th
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.

Check out our previous coverage of this race in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

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14 Comments
  • John Lascurettes August 8, 2009 at 12:19 am

    I saw one bad crash that made me exclaim out loud. It must have been the one where the racers went into the crowd (I couldn’t see all the way around the corner); but I saw one of the racers appear to get run over by another.

    I hadn’t seen a criterium in 20 years or so when my brother was a Cat 3 racer. Pretty fun and amazingly fast.

    I was timing the Cat 1 & 2 racers and their laps were consistently within 1 second over or under 1 minute. I was doing a split timer for the guys that were trying to catch the lead pack. It was pretty exciting.

    I also finally got to see the Renovo wood frames in person. Quite beautiful. I have my heart set on a future Panda. A boy can dream.

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  • Bjorn August 8, 2009 at 1:08 am

    I want to echo the biggest possible thank you to Ray for the event tonight. Over the past 2 years through working together as volunteers for the BTA Ray and I have become friends and he invited me to come down tonight. I ended up having many positive conversations with other bike advocates and people from both government and industry. This was as much an opportunity to connect with other people who are also care about bicycles as transportation in Oregon as it was a chance to see a great race.

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Ray!

    Bjorn

    p.s. also thanks to all the other sponsors!

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  • thefuture August 8, 2009 at 7:44 am

    this was really awesome. great ‘portland’ experience to show the parents who are in town. the crash in the cat 3 race happened right in front of us. it was pretty brutal. did not see a rogue tennis ball but there was a slight bump in the road right before the crash which may have contributed?

    good job keeping the race together. the city should be very appreciative of the effort.

    only one piece of advice is more clear crossing points as there were a few near misses during the races. in particular two drunk fellows who barged past us near corner three (despite my father trying to hold one back). they were staggering across the road as the main pack came around corner 2. luckily they barely got to the other side before the riders got to them. all the more reason i should volunteer next year as a course monitor right?

    anyway, nice work!

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  • isaac August 8, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I was watching the Cat 3 race on Couch and was just a few feet from the crash. I know that people were talking about a tennis ball after, but I didn’t see the tennis ball having anything to do with the crash.

    I was pretty sure it was because one of the riders hit the curb.

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  • PK August 8, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I saw the crash with the tennis ball. I didn’t see the ball actually cause the crash but I saw it bouncing around in the street as it rolled to the curb and a volunteer picked it up as the mass of riders and bikes started to pick themselve up. There was quite a bit of hubbub and a few spectators yelling at some others on a nearby balcony. One of the race organizers (with the red CSC cap) looked pretty perturbed and left his station with the tennis ball in his hand. In summary, the tennis ball may not have caused the crash but there definitely WAS A TENNIS BALL IN THE STREET and people were going pretty crazy in that area (as if they were looking for a culprit). If it’s true that someone intentionally tried to cause a crash (and succeeded), I’d like to know who it was.

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  • Michael M. August 8, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Pretty awesome event, my first time attending a race. I was volunteering, so missed most of the Cat3 race, alas. But the pro race was awesome. (I’m pretty sure that crash was caused when a rider caught a pedal — wasn’t too far from there.) Felt bad for one of the leading pack who fell on that last lap. Agony! Anyway, excellent event!

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  • twistyaction August 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I had one of the best views of the crash for the 3’s. Unfortunately they crashed right into the barrier my girlfriend and I were standing. She was zipping her jacket when it happened and didn’t jump back in time. The barrier, with a couple of guys rapidly decellerating from ~30 m.p.h. pushing behind it, smashed into her knocking her to the ground. Banged her knee up pretty good, she’s limping today. I heard the dry crack of carbon (and at least one collarbone) snapping as the racers piled into each other with nowhere to go. As far as I could tell, and I was watching where it happened as it happened, it was caused by a rider clipping a barrier and then bouncing back into the pack. I saw the guy come around the outside of the line of riders where there just wasn’t room to go. There didn’t seem to be a good reason to go so far to the left of the course that far before the corner and afterwards, they gave the barriers more room. I’m glad the barriers were 6 or so feet from the curb along the middle of the front straight, because had they been right against the curb when that crash happened, the riders would have met with some immovable objects like light and sign posts, and trees. It could’ve been much worse. Crashes happen in racing and I don’t think this one was intentional on anybody’s part. With all that said, pay really close attention to the riders as they pass you!

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  • Steve Pilson August 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    This was my first time watching the Twilight Criterium, and I have to say it was pretty awesome to see cyclists whooshing through the streets of the Park Blocks every minute or so. A big thank you to the organizers and sponsors for making the event happen.

    The crash I saw on Turn 1 of the Pro race (collision caused by a blown tire) was definitely a stark reminder of how risky the sport can be, and the guts the racers show to go out there and do what they do. Those were some tense minutes until the rider got up from where he was recovering on the sidewalk. And some pretty mangled bikes.

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  • rixtir August 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    I’ll second what Bjorn said– Kudos to Ray Thomas for stepping up to the plate and making this happen. Without Ray, it’s unlikely there would have been a Twilight Criterium in Portland this year.

    Thanks Ray!

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  • gabriel amadeus August 8, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    Had a great evening riding my tallbike around, shooting at the archery range, catching a free opera at the rose garden, and then coasting down to my first Twilight Crit. It was way radder that I had anticipated, good job y’alls!

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  • Josh Berezin August 8, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Fun times!

    If you can’t get enough Twilight Criterium, Stephanie Chase wrote about the event for Portland Sportsman here, and I took photos, which are here.

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  • Ashley August 9, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    It was wonderful. I was so distracted by the race, that I forgot to check out the handmade bikes! I’m glad you got to enjoy it as a spectator only, that’s important to do every now and again. 🙂

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  • Laura August 10, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Our group of friends has made it to every Twilight Crit. A huge thank you to Subaru and the Bike Attorneys for helping keep the tradition alive!

    And the Renovo R4 is truly a thing of beauty!!!

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  • justin August 11, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Great event! My lady friend had never seen a bike race live, and after some arm twisting (and a few beers) got her to agree to check it out for a few minutes. We ended up staying til the Cat 1 was over. MAJOR PROPS to #59 in the Cat 1 race.

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