Signs of a resurgence in Oregon bike racing are easy to spot these days — a far cry from recent years when the Covid pandemic nearly wiped it out. We got a taste of the action when the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association hosted the 2022 Criterium Championships on the University of Portland campus in north Portland on Saturday.
According to OBRA (the state’s sanctioning body for competitive cycling), 2022 race participation numbers are back to 2019 levels and memberships are up 20% from last year. And as we reported last week, the City of Portland is helping boost the momentum by spearheading a big block party on August 20th focused around the Portland Criterium race.
A criterium, or “crit” is an exciting discipline because — unlike a road race or time trial — it’s easy to get close to the action. In a crit, racers usually compete for a set amount of time (about 45-60 minutes depending on the category) and then officials will add a certain number of laps at the end. The courses are usually under one-mile long. And while the winner is the person who crosses the line first at the end, there’s a game-within-the-game where some laps (called “primes”) offer prizes and bragging rights. It’s all about conserving energy without getting “dropped” at the end.
To crown their champions, OBRA set up a short, tight and technical course that favored strategy and experience over brute strength. There was a sharp hairpin that required riders to brake hard and there were very limited places to make a move or to catch a breakaway.
In the video, I chatted with local race organizer Clint Culpepper to get some insights on the course. He predicted the big winners on the day would be veterans. He was right! There was a bad crash on the final lap of the last big race of the day.
In the Men’s Open 1/2/3 race, 22-year-old Keelan Ontiveros overcooked one of the final turns and crashed hard while in first place. That gave 40-year-old racing vet Jeremy Russell the opportunity he needed to take the big win.
Check out the video for a taste of the racing action and brief interviews with Russell as well as the first and second place finishers of the Women Category 1/2 race, Brenna Wrye-Simpson and Jenna Lingwood.
Thanks to OBRA and Off to the Races Promotions for putting on a great race.
Full photo gallery below:
If this looks like fun to you — to race or watch (or both) — make plans to be at the Portland Criterium on August 20th. See you there!