Bike racing will return to downtown Portland, thanks to Mayor Wheeler

Hundreds of fans lined the streets around the North Park Blocks for the 2011 event. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

For the first time in nearly a decade, a major bike race is coming to downtown Portland — and we have the mayor’s office to thank for it.

The Portland Criterium is set for August 20th and organizers say they are being welcomed with open arms by City Hall and Mayor Ted Wheeler.

“I look forward to welcoming the Portland Criterium Bicycle Race after a nearly ten year absence from our city,” Wheeler shared with BikePortland this morning. “This race is an excellent opportunity for all members of the Portland community and beyond to come together… Please join us in celebrating our city’s Park Blocks and love of cycling!”

Why is the mayor so excited about a bike race? It’s a key part of their efforts to activate downtown and bring people back to the businesses and attractions many have given up on after years of crime concerns, negative media coverage, protests and the pandemic.

As Portland continues to rebound from some tough times, this is great news for bike racing fans and anyone who loves our city!

Check a few photos from previous editions of this event to see what a huge draw the event was:

Some of you might recall the Portland Twilight Criterium, which was an annual event from 2002 to 2012 that brought thousands of people to Old Town Chinatown and the Pearl District. I was able to cover it several times (photos above) and it was absolutely amazing. The event always attracted massive crowds to watch top U.S. professional teams duel for wins on a tight course around the North Park Blocks.

If you’re new to bike racing, criteriums (also known as “crits”) are races that last around 45 minutes or so and consist of relatively short laps (less than one-mile). Racers use team strategy, smarts, strength and courage to fly around tight, 90-degree turns while reaching speeds of 30 mph. It’s thrilling to be a part of it — whether you’re racing or watching.

Add in a beer garden, vendors, food carts, music, fun rides, and so on — and you’ve got a big, bikey, block party!

Beardsley winning the 2011 edition.

There were a lot of bummed-out bike lovers when persistent sponsorship and funding woes forced the Twilight Crit to go dark back in 2012. According to organizer (and former Twilight Crit winner) Steven Beardsley (right), conversations about bringing it back started with interest from the City of Portland. People in Mayor Wheeler’s office know that cycling events can draw a big crowd and they reached out to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA, the statewide, regional sanctioning body of competitive events) to see if a race would be possible this summer.

Beardsley and OBRA jumped at the chance and now they’ve added City of Portland as an official sponsor.

Beardsley says the elite-level competitive events will just be one part of the event. There will also be Biketown Street Sprints, a Pedalpalooza Portland Criterium Sportif ride with awards for best non-cycling sporting costume, and more.

Mark your calendar for August 20th and check out PortlandCriterium.com for more information.

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George
George
8 days ago

Will they see who can race out of downtown the fastest? Would be fitting…

PS
PS
8 days ago

This is an interesting response. I wonder if you would react the same way to the employees at the City of Portland, of which 70% of do not want to go to the office downtown more than 1 day a week citing safety concerns as the number one reason for that position? Is their position “committed to making downtown seem as terrible as possible”, is their position unfounded?

Also, do you suppose the armed security guards at the front of just about every retail establishment downtown are there to protect downtown from the opinions of internet commenters, or are they there for something else? Should the Starbucks that recently closed downtown have been forced to stay open, or is just the responsibility of a business to endure any and all situations due to a failure of civic leadership? Is it normal for baristas to have walk-e-talkies with the security guard at a coffee establishment?

It should be completely acceptable to share an opinion of downtown even if (especially if) it is negative, particularly if it is due to a negative experience. Plus, isn’t that the way we do things now, everyone’s life experience gets to dictate how they behave and all the opinions they have, regardless of their basis in reality?

PS
PS
8 days ago

Fair enough, appreciate the clarification and agreed, we don’t need to rehash it all.

Jrdpdx
Jrdpdx
8 days ago

FFS why do George and PS even look at this site? Great news about a fun event that lots of people will want to know about and attend. Thanks for letting me know, I’ll be there w my antifa friends and Al Gore

fishyfishy123
fishyfishy123
7 days ago
Reply to  PS

RE: PS I just get sick of the same posters saying the same thing on every single thread. Jonathan: “Hey there’s a bike race!” Trolls: Downtown stinks! Jonathan: “Hey,” there’s a new bike bridge!” Trolls: Downtown stinks!

On a side note, I’m not sure what you mean by “it should be acceptable.” The comments continue to be posted, but people obviously don’t have to agree with them and can be sick of the same boring commentary repeated ad nauseam.

Sigma
Sigma
7 days ago
Reply to  PS

Go for a walk with me downtown sometime, and I’ll point out at least 6 Starbucks that have closed during the pandemic. Why the latest was news is a mystery to me.

Jamie
Jamie
7 days ago
Reply to  PS

Framing a global phenomenon as a Portland problem is as tedious as it is transparent.

Vox–Why the return to the office isn’t working“I don’t gain anything besides a commute.”

Envoy–5 reasons employees don’t want to return to the office and how to address them.

Newsweek–Don’t Want To Go Back to the Office? Your Boss Might Cut You a Deal.

Inc–Message to Management: Most Workers Don’t Want to Return to the Office.

Matt
Matt
7 days ago

Always quick to come to the defense of failed policed I see. Come on Jonathan there is reason posters like George comment the way they do and you know it.

pbarron
pbarron
8 days ago

Fantastic news!

Steve
Steve
8 days ago

This is great news!!! Taking my kids down there to watch the crit races is still one of their favorite memories. I really hope a sweep of the campers in the area occurs prior to insure the safety of spectators and riders.

ivan
ivan
8 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Historically large sporting events have been key moments when cities displace and/or arrest all their undesirables (see Olympics, the) so I’m sure this will happen although I don’t share your enthusiasm for immiserating others in exchange for spectators’ comfort. The real question is will Ted’s tear gas have cleared by the time the race begins?

A more productive approach focused on actually addressing the challenges downtown might include specifically employing houseless folks at the event and/or using it to raise money to fund affordable housing, rather than simply using it as a mechanism to “sweep” people aside as if they’re just dirt you don’t want to see.

Matt
Matt
7 days ago
Reply to  ivan

Are we still blaming this on the “high cost of rent”? Until we get out of that old tired excuse don’t expect Portland to bounce back anytime soon. And you think nightly assaults on police stations are good thing?

Anon
Anon
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve

The brutality in your comment is staggering–as if the right of people to exist in a space is less important than your right to watch an event just for fun.

This is not to say there aren’t issues around people living on the streets, but sweeps absolutely are not the solution. They do nothing to resolve the underlying issues while being utterly inhumane.

Steve
Steve
7 days ago
Reply to  Anon

I stand by my comment, 100%.

Tall Steve
Tall Steve
8 days ago

I used to live downtown, and never missed the Twilight Criterium. It’s amazing! You feel the whoosh of wind as the peloton races past you, again and again. As darkness falls, you start to notice sparks fly off pedals as riders lean into sharp turns at maximum speed. There’s also obviously a lot of fellowship among the racers – they know each other and like each other. It just feels GOOD to watch. I’m not at all tempted to ride it myself though.

Kelly
Kelly
8 days ago

Marked my calendar, can’t wait to go! I’ve never been to a bike race (got stuck behind one on a mountain road tho so that was exciting in it’s own way) this sounds incredible! I’ve never heard of criteriums before but I’m convinced now this is something I need to see up close. (Plus any excuse to grab a beer downtown is a win!)

I’ve only lived here since last year and I’ve been to more fun parades, festivals, and community events than I ever did before. I love a city that walks and rides and actually ENJOYs it’s outdoors. ^_^

Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
8 days ago

Thanks for letting us know. I’m definitely going.

Mark Remy
Mark Remy
8 days ago

This is fantastic news!

David Hampsten
8 days ago

Winston-Salem has an annual criterium in May that consistently attracts a huge crowd. The nice thing about such events it that it allows cities that are otherwise total failures in bike infrastructure and bike usage to boast about how bike friendly they are, at least for one weekend.

Ernest Fitzgerald
Ernest Fitzgerald
8 days ago

Funny, it was just yesterday (okay, a couple of days ago) that Jonathan was defending his decision not to cover bike racing (specifically, the TDF), and I was supporting that decision too, on the grounds that this is not a website about bike racing. And now, we have coverage about bike racing….

Steve
Steve
8 days ago

There is also crit racing at University of Portland on Sat. Not sure about food and beer availability though.

john thoren
john thoren
8 days ago

Fabulous – these were great to watch in years past 🙂

dwk
dwk
8 days ago

Excellent. I went every year. Great venue in the park blocks.
I miss the promoter Brad? The guy who made Cyclocross fun and famous and put on the original races.

Steven
Steven
8 days ago
Reply to  dwk

Brad always put on great races! He might even be at the race this year.

Jrdpdx
Jrdpdx
8 days ago

Dang can’t wait. Great reason to be downtown at night.

qqq
qqq
7 days ago

I love everything about this. Those photos from previous years are incredible. It’s city life at its best.

Jennie Cambier
7 days ago

Putting in a plug for another crit in the city: the University of Portland x OBRA crit this Saturday August 6 from 10am-6pm in North Portland on our campus. Come check it out! https://offtotheracespromotions.com/obra-criterium-champs

katew
katew
7 days ago

so cool! these events were super fun and excited to cheer racers on again. hoping the gentle lovers will race again and bring back those old kits 🙂

Jonathan Long
5 days ago

Is this a slightly different course? Looks to be counterclockwise on this year’s layout.