Cyclists flock to Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The collective hiss of tires spinning on pavement. The buzz of the bicycle chains.
Each was met as music to the ears of local cycling enthusiasts who, at last, saw a big-time race return to the streets of Glenwood Springs.
That race would be the Glenwood Springs Criterium, which invaded downtown streets on Sunday as part of a two-race weekend cycling event dubbed the Western Slope Omnium.
Some 250 riders madly circled the streets surrounding the Colorado Avenue/Ninth Street start-finish line throughout the day, whizzing by at rapid speeds and leaning into perfect lines to tackle the roughly half-mile course’s six corners.
And local junior riders stole the show on a day that saw competitors of virtually every age and ability. There were divisions for 8-year-olds right on up to divisions for category one pro riders.
Benjamin Goff and Olivia Sommers, both racing in the 8- and 9-year-old category and both members of the local Two Rivers Cycling Club junior development team, were each tops among Sunday’s tiniest racers.
Goff, 9, won the first race of his young career on Sunday, outpacing the boys field in 15 minutes of laps.
“It was great,” he said with a good-sized grin. “I thought I wasn’t going to be one of the [top] three, but I kept trying and trying and got first. This is the first bike race that I got a medal.”
Goff, who’s from Glenwood, also finished second overall in his age class in the two-day Western Slope Omnium after taking fourth place in a Saturday road race that kicked off the weekend.
Sommers, a girl of few words who is off to a hot start in 2008 after flourishing in the Tom Danielson Junior Race Series in 2007, took first in both the criterium and road race to take home Omnium gold.
After wrapping up Sunday’s criterium, Sommers wasn’t ready to put her bike away.
“I wish I could have another race,” the Silt youngster said with a smile.
Two Rivers’ Abigail Otis was second overall to Sommers, finishing second in the road race and third in the crit.
New Castle’s Evan Lake also picked up a gold medal on Sunday, winning his 20-minute criterium race. He took fifth in Saturday’s road race, which started at the Glenwood Canyon trailhead near Dotsero and routed through the hills along the Colorado River, placing third overall for the weekend.
Lake, in his second year of competitive racing, enjoys criterium races.
“Yeah, they’re short and fast,” he said.
Rodrigo Leiva, a Belizean who’s in Colorado for the summer to train with Two Rivers, finished second in the criterium and third overall in the Omnium on a weekend that was less about placement and more about getting a cycling race back in Glenwood.
By Omnium organizers’ estimates, it’s been since the early 1990s that a full-fledged race overtook the streets of Glenwood. And it appears those organizers struck a chord with the racing weekend.
Nearly 350 raced in Saturday’s road race and around 250 registered for the criterium – bigger numbers than anyone expected.
“It was a bigger field than we anticipated,” said Two Rivers Cycling Club manager Bill Sommers, who organized the event alongside Mitch Hyra, who co-directs the local Squadra Velocita regional women’s development team. “I had a lot of people come up to say what a great weekend it was coming here.”
While Sommers was primarily responsible for putting together the criterium, Hyra managed road race matters. He had similar feedback.
“Most of them were really happy and liked Glenwood,” he said. “Even with the high cost of gasoline for them to come to us.”
Sommers and Hyra estimate that 90 to 95 percent of the riders traveled from the Front Range for the race. That’s usually where Glenwood riders go to quench their thirst for competition. And while most came from places like Denver or Boulder, a junior team from Australia training in Colorado graced the field.
And while both Sommers and Hyra enjoyed playing host to riders from many walks of life, several nights of sleep lost to organizing left them ready to head home and crash by the time racing wrapped Sunday evening.
“I’m glad it’s done,” Sommers said. “It was eight months of work but it was well worth it.”
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