Vancouver Courthouse Criterium Bicyclists take to the streets

In its ninth year cycling event draws about 200 riders to downtown

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 
photoWomen in Category 4/5 compete in a 30-minute ride on sunday.

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Did you know?

A criterium is a short road race on a circuit — usually city streets closed to traffic.

The Oregon Criterium Championship runs 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Franz Bakery in Portland.

On the Web

Criterium results

Lets Race Bikes

Bicyclists hitting speeds in excess of 30 mph electrified downtown in the ninth Vancouver Courthouse Criterium on Sunday afternoon.

"This is cool. It's crazy how it's the figure-eight thing," said Kristine Kelley, 19, a Clark College student who was skateboarding in downtown and stopped to watch the racers.

"It looks scary going around those corners," said Michelle Craig, as she and her husband, John, watched. "I'm surprised there's not more people (watching)."

The eight-block event offered 11 races for nearly 200 riders, starting with a tandem bicycle event for students from the Washington State School for the Blind. Those classes ranged from riders 6 and younger to those 50 and older. The event was sanctioned by the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association and some proceeds will go the state blind school in Vancouver.

The 1/6th-mile track weaved around downtown streets and the Clark County Courthouse. Traffic in a 12-block area was off-limits, with police tape and barricades.

"The women are doing about a minute-20 a lap," Clark County's Kelli Schauer, the event's chief judge, said about 2:30 p.m. She said the top men riders would "go under a minute a lap."

"It's a good course, you've got to keep your head on a swivel," said 15-year-old Justin Ziehnert of Tigard. "I got seventh. My top speed was 28. … Yeah, there were two crashes."

Justin was there with his parents, Mike and Brooke. His sisters, Amy, 13, and Lauren, 11, also raced. They are a racing family, taking in bicycle events around the Northwest.

"It was tough," Vancouver's Jordan Staples said of his race. "I placed in the back of the pack. We were lucky, there were no crashes."

Staples, 34, was also serving as a race official and he's been a judge, a chief ref and a race promoter. He, like several others, wondered why the crowd wasn't larger.

"Crit racing is a spectator sport and I'd like to get more people out to see what it's all about," Staples said.

Sometimes there's a bump in the road.

"I hit a pothole and got a pinch-flat," said Grayson Bailey, 13, an eighth-grader at Tukes Valley Middle School. He made it about four laps before the mishap. "It's kind of a bummer, but stuff happens."

But he'll be back because he is a member of the Beaverton Bicycle Club.

"By the end of the summer, I'll probably have (done) 30 races," Grayson said. He rides a Motobecane Le Champion bike, a 20 speed. He said it used to be his dad's bike. Dean Bailey of Vancouver was a race official Sunday. Next Sunday, Dean and Grayson will be in Elma for the Rapha Northwest Juniors Stage Race.

Why race?

"Oh, I love it," Grayson said.

"I like the intensity. I've crashed a few times but if you worry about crashes, you're not going to be able to be aggressive enough to win."

Aggression was on display as cyclists jockeyed for position at breakneck speeds. Often, words were exchanged during the maneuvering. There were plenty of thrills.

There were all levels of skill, and one woman said she wants to take her passion into a career.

"I love going fast; it's a rush," said Anna Christiansen, 27, of Portland. In June, she was named the best amateur in the Nature Valley Grand Prix in the Minneapolis, Minn., area. "Some of the fastest women in the world were there."

Christiansen races for the Ironclad Yakima team and her bike is a Veloforma, worth perhaps $5,000. She said she wants to get other women into bike racing and encourages them to visit letsracebikes.com.

Gary Town, 55, of the Lake Shore neighborhood rode his 15-year-old Trek bike to watch the crit.

"It's pretty cool," he said of the crit, noting bicycling is part of the reason he's lost 45 pounds in the last 15 months. "I've been thinking of getting a road bike, but maybe I'll get one that's competitive."

Race promoter Charlie Warner said he was enthused by the participation at the crit. He recruited his mom, Betsy Pearman of Vancouver, to be a corner marshal, ensuring pedestrians stayed off the course.

"It's great fun," Pearman said.

Warner, 37, said the crit will return to the courthouse neighborhood again next year.

"Gotta go for the big 10 (anniversary)," he said. "And then we're an institution."