Just over a month ago, representatives from the USA Cycling organization flew into Spokane to evaluate our fair city as a potential site for the 2009 and 2010 Cyclocross National Championships. The day they came, our city was buried under about two feet of snow, the temperature was hovering around zero, and downtown was dead. Needless to say, we didn’t land the cyclocross event.
Rumor was that if the races were to end up here, Riverfront Park was on the short list of race venues. Imagine that. I can picture a cold November day, with some wispy snow falling on a pack of nervous and jittery racers as they await their names in the pre-race roll call. Maybe start and finish the race at the clock tower. A huge, cowbell-laden, rosy-cheeked crowd would line the course, 3 or 4 people deep. Riverfront Park, with its bridges, long sections of paved path, and grassy fields would provide a perfect pallet for a world-class cyclocross course. All the usual food and beer garden vendors would set up shop, and cyclist spectators would come in from all over the region to hang out and celebrate and watch. There’s no reason such an event couldn’t garner the same kind of recognition and economic impact to Spokane that the Ice Skating Championships provide.
Chatting about the potential for such an event with friends brought out a few other races we’d like to see in Spokane.
MALL RAT CRITERIUM
My buddy Jon told me about an idea that Dave Rier and the late Dave Moffit had: criterium races at the Northtown Mall parking garage. You set this up for a night time race, after all the cars and shoppers are gone. With all the lights on and super smooth long expanses of concrete, you would have a fast race. The ramps and sharp corners that connect the floors would be great spectator spots. And if you kept the races on the bottom floors, you have a covered, year-round track.
HIGH DRIVE TRAILS TIME TRIALS
The trails off High Drive are a blast to ride. I especially like riding the long swoopy trails that run parallel to High Drive. Since these are narrow single track with basically zero opportunity to pass, you can’t really race head-to-head on these trails. But you could set up a course for time trails and see who can complete them the quickest. I think taking the top trail from 37th Ave. to where it pops out on 22nd Ave. would be a great route. It’s a slight downhill grade and requires a wee bit of technical chops to ride fast. Having a fixed gear class for this run would be especially exciting.
THE HANGMAN LOOP ROAD RACE
This race pretty much happens a few times a week at 6 AM during the summer months. But it would be fun to make it official. Who are the king and queen of the Hangman Loop? This race would be in early Fall after the Early Morning Riders pushed all summer long. Putting the finish line at 57th and Hatch would make for a great spectator experience, as any space along Hatch hill would be a great place to watch. Afterwards, maybe have an Oktoberfest/Fall Harvest Dinner type celebration in the church parking lot at the top of the hill.
Ride what you got. The Playfair race track is a mess. There are big divots and washouts. There are soft sandy spots and hard rocky stretches. Running drag-style races on that track would be great: short and fast once around the track. This would be a technical ride. A strong rider on a mountain bike might do OK, but my money would be on the nimble and skillful cyclocross types that are good at bunny hopping and riding lightly. These would be shirt-sleeve races that would run weekly on summer nights: maybe Wednesday, start racing at 8 pm, after the Checkerboard closes.
SPOKANE SCAVENGER SPRINT
My favorite idea is from my buddy Ken. I like this idea because it requires a practical bike to win. In this race, you are given a list of locations. At each location, you must pick up an item and carry it with you. By the end of the race, you’ll be carrying a heavy and awkward load of stuff. So, maybe you start from Riverfront Park, and then you ride to Corbin Park, where you pick up a cinder block. Then you race to Audubon Park, where you pick up a bicycle wheel. From there, you ride to Bowl and Pitcher and pick up a rake. On the way back into town, you stop at Dutch Jake’s Park in West Central and pick up a 15-pound stack of newspapers. This race would run quarterly: to test the mettle of the riders and their bikes in all seasons.
John Speare grew up and lives in Spokane. He rides his bike everywhere. Check out his blog athttp://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com.