10th annual Twilight Criterium zooms into town Friday

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Twilight Criterium-25

Friday night is the 10th anniversary of the Twilight Criterium, Portland’s only major downtown bike race, and organizers are pulling out all the stops.

Over the years, the event has morphed from just a bike race into a huge party and mini-festival. Ayleen Crotty with Good Sport Promotions says they’ve made several additions to the event this year that will take things up yet another notch.

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Thousands flock to Park Blocks for a memorable Twilight

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

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.

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After budget scare, Twilight Criterium ready to roll Friday night

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Twilight Criterium 2007-26

The Twilight Crit is a thrill
for riders and spectators.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Since 2002, the Twilight Criterium has brought professional bike racing to downtown Portland. The event attracts some of America’s fastest riders and thousands of spectators to witness their talents. But this year, when a title sponsor pulled out, it almost didn’t happen.

Health Net had invested over $35,000 annually as the event’s title sponsor since 2005 (that same year, a rider named Tyler Farrar — who had an excellent showing at the Tour de France — took the win). Without Health Net helping foot the bill for the expensive permits, equipment, insurance, prize money, officials, and other costs, organizers said they were on the brink of canceling this year’s event.

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Slideshow: Best of the Twilight Criterium

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The annual Twilight Criterium happens tomorrow night at the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland.

I’ve photographed this event for the past three years (watch slideshow below) so I thought I’d go back into my archives and pull a few of the better shots out as a way to (hopefully) inspire you to come check it out.

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Twilight Crit moves to North Park Blocks, adds women’s racet

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Twilight Criterium

Last year’s action.
(File photo)

Bus mall construction has forced Portland’s premiere professional bike race to a new location. After five years of being held at the South Park Blocks (with a start/finish line in front of the Portland Art Museum), The Health Net Twilight Criterium will move to the North Park Blocks this year.

The event, which takes place on August 24th, draws thousands of spectators who watch top bike racers battle shoulder-to-shoulder around tight, dark corners for a shot at victory.

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Twilight Criterium rocks the Park Blocks

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Twilight Criterium, Portland OR

Twilight Criterium, Portland OR

Twilight Criterium, Portland OR

Bikes, beers, bands and burgers. You couldn’t go wrong at last night’s Twilight Criterium at the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland. The racing was all-out and the scene was massive. Thousands of bike-lovers from all over the city converged on the event. They were treated to a great event that featured the best athletes and bike racers in the country.

[Check out all my photos. Also see Shane Young’s photo gallery.]

And when the sun went down, the racing got even crazier. Imagine flying on your bike at 35+ mph, elbow-to-elbow with your competition, then diving into sharp, dark turns full of screaming crowds and live music flowing through the air! The vibe was electric.

The Community Cycling Center was on hand parking bikes. River City Bicycles owner Dave Guettler was jammin’ with his “Six Fingers” band, the OBRA crew were on top of the action, and Widmer brewing couldn’t pour beer fast enough.

It was an amazing night for Portland bike racing and I think this event is destined to become a classic on the racing calendar for years to come. Big props to the promoters and everyone involved. I’m looking forward to next year!

(make sure to see the great photo of local racer and coach, Michael Manning on the front page of today’s Oregonian Sports section)