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Archive for Monday, May 15, 2006

Downtown ‘goes nuts’ for cycling invasion

May 15, 2006

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Collegiate cyclists raced by downtown shops in a blur Sunday, a speeding sight for dedicated bike enthusiasts and passersby alike.

The cyclists - all Division I and II student-athletes from more than 60 schools - raced through a mile-long downtown course as part of the 2006 Collegiate Road National Championships.

By midmorning, the hotly contested Men's Division I individual championship was in full swing, and, for those who couldn't see, the voices of three announcers boomed over loudspeakers.

"Everything is going absolutely nuts here!" a voice yelled.

And for the racers, life on downtown streets must have been a little chaotic, with speedy bikes weaving back and forth between one another like so much NASCAR drafting.

By the end of the day, four riders had been taken by ambulance to Lawrence Memorial Hospital with a variety of road-related injuries - nothing serious though, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Division Chief Jerry Karr said.

Life was less hectic for onlookers watching the more than 400 cyclists do lap after lap around downtown.

Those watching and cheering closest were, for the most part, family and friends of the riders coming in for the biggest road bike race of the year.

Beth Ericksen drove the nine-plus hours from Chicago to cheer on her brother, Russ, a Boston College rider currently circling the streets somewhere in the middle of the pack.

"I just come to the nationals," Ericksen said, explaining why she drove to Lawrence.

She was about to say something else, but the low hum of the pace motorcycle meant that the bikers were coming back around.

So Ericksen and her family, like many of the traveling supporters there, leaned into the white barricades separating the riders from the watchers and yelled, slapped sponsors' posters, rang cowbells and generally made a ruckus whenever the riders passed.

But that scene wasn't duplicated at other parts of the track. In fact, for most of the day, the portions of the track not directly behind or in front of the finish line stood fairly bare.

Volunteer organizer Doug Vance said he thought a good contingent of Lawrence race fans showed up Sunday, although he said attendance waxed and waned throughout the day.

"We didn't survey where people were from, but I did see a lot of people from Lawrence," Vance said. "It's not a sport that's as well-known in the area, but we're hoping it will grow."

This was the second year for the downtown event, and each year has brought a new set of challenges. Last year, rain dampened the Friday event, and some downtown merchants and shoppers frowned on downtown being shut down for hours.

This year, an early Sunday start - and the Mother's Day holiday to boot - may have kept some folks away.

Amber Ashbrook understood it. Standing outside of Milton's, 920 Mass., waiting for breakfast, Ashbrook noticed the lack of local faces.

"There should probably be more Lawrence people here," Ashbrook said. "I didn't know the bike races were here until last night. Then, I didn't care."

It's too bad, Ashbrook said, that the sport doesn't get as much publicity or interest as basketball or football.

But organizers think that will change. The event will be back again next year for sure, and the Lawrence Sports Corp. will lobby to host the event for the next five years.

Which could be exciting news for new fans like Trenton Wilson. The Kansas University student stumbled across the race Sunday, then stood glued to the track, watching the bikes blur past.

"It's cool to see this many bikes up and down Mass," Wilson said. "It sort of sucked me in."

Comments

Moderateguy 8 years, 7 months ago

The Chamber of Commerce really missed the boat on this one. There was really no promotion of this national event. The first I read about the Sunday race was on Saturday morning. Merchants are truly short sighted if they think only of lost access on one day instead of a fantastic event to draw people from far and wide. The downtown race is really exciting. It should have been on Saturday, and have been promoted for the last two months.

aquakej 8 years, 7 months ago

Yes, why did anyone schedule this on mothers' day? Everyone was trying to get to brunch downtown, and had to park a mile away because all the streets were closed. I'm sure businesses weren't thrilled about that. Why can't they do this somewhere out of the way, where they aren't bothering anyone??

lawrencian 8 years, 7 months ago

It seems pretty obvious to me -- they put the race on Sunday because of all the complaints last year by downtown merchants about it being on Friday... If you liked it, you should definitely let everyone know!

xfactor 8 years, 7 months ago

I think its great Lawrence was chosen for the cycling championships. A little more publicity may have helped spectator attendance though. Cylcling is becoming more popular in America and I'm glad Lawrence is involved in this sport. Sign up for one of the sponsored rides this summer and I bet you'll get hooked.

christie 8 years, 7 months ago

Really, Moderate Guy, I agree 100%. Seems like I never hear about anything that happens in this town until I read about it the next day. I had no clue this was going on until I went downtown to grab coffee.

snark 8 years, 7 months ago

Aquakej: I'm pretty sure the businessses that would have benefited from Mother's Day traffic were NOT complaining about the race one bit. There was a half hour wait at Milton's for a table and other food and coffee type joints were also packed. Moving the race to Sunday was the smartest they did, seems like a great solution for all involved.

But yeah, they definitely should have advertised it more!!

bender 8 years, 7 months ago

How many roundabouts were on the race route? Was it still legal for the racers to talk on their cell phones while riding? Did any of them honk for hemp? Just curious.

Nate Poell 8 years, 7 months ago

bender: 0, maybe, doubtful. i witnessed the crash at 10th and mass, and i'm pretty sure i saw a rider gabbing on a phone just before the pile-up.

seriously, was there any news regarding the gal that got carted off on the stretcher? that was a wild crash scene.

great racing. hope to see it again next year.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 8 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like it was kind of cool. Yes, I wonder why this wasn't promoted, as well. It's a national event in a sport that's growing in popularity. They even have crashes!

Curtis Martell 8 years, 7 months ago

Ahh the old Mothers Day problem combined with the Not In My Backyard problem. Well the reason the race is scheduled for that weekend is because it the end of the NCCA racing season, wich happens to coincide with the end of the school year for colleges around the nation.

It turns out the middle weekend of May is a fantastic weekend to have a bike race in most of the country and there were in fact several other large bike races around the region last weekend.

I'm sure it was inconvenient for a few families to have to actually WALK with mom to Miltons or Tellers yesterday. I guess we could eliminate Band Day, the Christams Parade, Art in the Park etc. so as not to inconvenience anyone at anytime. But on the other hand, these events are the type of thing that make Lawrence - or any town -interesting places to live.

Thanks to every one who supported bike racing this weekend. It's a great sport to be invloved with.

A Bike Racer

AlexFenton 8 years, 7 months ago

Marion tried to get pictures of the crowd, but people kept getting in the way.

noodle 8 years, 7 months ago

It was a great event. I'm glad Lawrence had the chance to host it!

snark 8 years, 7 months ago

Hilarious Alex!!!

While we're on the subject of pics, here's a bunch that the boyfriend took on Friday and Sunday in case anyone's interested!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/josh_gray/sets/72057594134887596/

mom_of_three 8 years, 7 months ago

There was publicity for the bike race if you read the volunteer notices, as it was published for several weeks in advance, requesting volunteers.
It was held early on Sunday because of the complaints about parking, etc last year. I believe they are hoping to move it to a different day next year.
But as far as I know, the bike race itself wasn't advertised too much.

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