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No ‘Short Track’ series at Portland International Raceway this year

Racers compete at a PIR Short Track race in 2016.(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Racers and fans at a PIR Short Track event in 2011.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic the 2020 bike racing season was nearly wiped out completely. This season has gotten off to a very promising start with huge field sizes and lots of enthusiasm; but this morning we got some bad news. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association has announced that the Portland Short Track Series will not happen.

2021 would have been the 17th season for the beloved, weekday, off-road races that are held at Portland International Raceway (PIR) just north of downtown Kenton. Short Track is a discipline where people use mountain bikes to compete on a course that offers a mix of grassy double-track, tight singletrack through roots and trees, and the big highlight: whoops, berms, and drops on a motocross course. One of the best things about Short Track is how close it is to Portland, which means many people are able to bike to the event after work.

Interestingly, Short Track organizer Tony Kic said the cancellation happened due to a mix of factors (not just Covid). “After a long month of planning and deliberation PIR management has decided not to allow STXC [short track cross country] this summer,” Kic shared in an email to OBRA members. “Various issues and conflicts with the venue and other users have compounded over the years, the pandemic and some changes in leadership prompted new restrictions and priorities that squeeze out our little bike party.”

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“Little” might be selling the event short. At its peak, the seven-race series boasted about 400 racers per week and nearly 3,000 entries every season.

It’s unclear what other specific issues led to PIR management not allowing the races this year. PIR is owned and managed by the City of Portland Parks and Recreation bureau. While its focus is primarily as a venue for car-centric events like drag races, car shows, and its goal to be a “world class racetrack,” PIR has been a crucial venue for bike race organizers for many years. In addition to Short Track, PIR has hosted many major cyclocross and road cycling events.

In his message this morning, Kic said PIR won’t allow them to use the paddock or motocross course, but there is some hope for use of the northern section. “The Heron Lakes side of the track could potentially be utilized after some negotiation and development.” But even that wouldn’t come until next season.

Hopefully this decision isn’t a sign that cycling events are no longer welcome at PIR. That would be a massive blow to our community, especially since we’ve also just lost the Alpenrose site, which was another key, close-in venue. We’ll update this story when he find out more from Kic and Portland Parks.

UPDATE, 5:45 pm: Portland Parks Public Information Officer Mark Ross says:

Portland International Raceway (PIR) engaged the STMB [Short Track MTB] racing series promoter and asked him to consider an alternate race route we proposed, one that would be less impactful to the PIR property. The promoter chose to not pursue this opportunity. However, we are hopeful to have STMB back at the track in 2022.

PIR offered STMB a new location for races on the west end of the park that would be better suited for all parties. It would allow us to clear away any debris to help ensure better safety for other races and events, require less maintenance, and provide a fun racing area. In fact, PIR is looking forward to developing west side of the race track to improve it even more for racers, and is excited for that possibility.

We at PIR know how important the series is, especially after more than a year of challenging times for all of us. PIR values the relationship with the cycling community that we have cherished for many years. We have other bicycle races throughout the summer and fall and are proud to offer these opportunities for participants and spectators.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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