Baldwin The Baldwin City Stage Race hasn't surpassed the Maple Leaf Festival as Baldwin's biggest tourist attraction, but event emcee Chad Marshall thinks the town can benefit from this weekend's bike race.
"I had always wanted to see a race here," said Marshall, who graduated from Baker in 1993 and earned a master's of business administration degree from Kansas University in 1996. "It's just a beautiful town and makes perfect sense because of the local racing scene in the Kansas City and Lawrence area."
Consider Marshall's mission accomplished. More than 125 riders rode in the first day of the two-day event, which is sponsored by the Kansas City Orthopedic Institute Racing team.
It wasn't just riders from the Sunflower and Show-Me states, either, as cycling enthusiasts from Arkansas, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma took part in Saturday's time trial and criterium events. Today's road race will start at 9 a.m. at Baldwin High.
"We chose Baldwin because of several reasons," race promoter Craig Bissell said. "We needed a location that could host a stage race, that had good roads that weren't heavily traveled. We also needed a venue that could accompany the large number of people that would be participating, yet would be close to a large metropolitan area.
"And this is just such a picturesque downtown area. People enjoy racing on the brick streets, the course is pretty hilly, and it has such a nice small-town feel."
Saturday's criterium races were held near city hall and included races for children up to top Category 1 cyclists.
"It's great to have events like this wherever they are, but especially close to the Lawrence area," Lawrence cyclist Jim Whittaker said.
The event was set up by KCOIR team members, Baldwin's police department and other volunteers.
"I think it's just a great event," Baldwin Police Chief Mike McKenna said as a rider zipped past. "It's a chance for many people to come to our city and learn what Baldwin's all about."
If that comes true, Bissel said, there was no reason this weekend's race couldn't become an annual event.
"We would love to have this race here every year," Bissell said. "It would just make sense."