Local Road Racing Not Going Gently Into That Good Night

Readers of the January-February edition of Out There were treated to a look back at Spokane’s bicycle racing heyday, courtesy of the “Everyday Cyclist” column and longtime Spokane cyclist Patrick Bulger, host of the Packfiller podcast. While Spokane’s road racing scene is not what it once was, there is plenty to be optimistic about despite the havoc wrought by Covid and the interruption of operations at what is now Qslipé Raceway Park. If there is only one reason that road racing will continue in the Spokane area, it’s found in what motivates Chris Dietz of Inland Empire Racing. For Dietz, and likely every racer in the region, “it’s about the joy of the bike.”

          Local road racers are already committed to that joy. For them, there are several sanctioned races listed in the sidebar to this story. Beyond those events, the goal of the local racing clubs is to share that joy with more race-curious cyclists, particularly younger cyclists, those who will form the next generation of bike racers. Since many junior racers already know the joy of cyclocross and mountain bike racing, the goal is to get them excited for road racing.

          To intrigue those new racers, we need to provide a safe and fun experience. While fun is often in the eye of the beholder, especially the “Type Two Fun” of road racing, safety is not. This is why Baddlands Cycling is working with the Kalispel Tribe to bring racing back to what is now Qslipé Raceway Park, formerly the Spokane County Raceway. Prior to the pandemic, Baddlands had sponsored bicycle races there since 1988.

Baddlands’ Race Director Alex Herr says that Baddlands is working with the Kalispel Tribe to bring back the Twilight Series, which has traditionally been a great place for riders of all skill levels and ages to learn how to race their bike. Inexperienced racers begin with the “C-pack,” racers who are either older with years of experience or younger but new to racing, mixing men and women. More experienced racers race in the A and B packs.

To encourage junior racers, Baddlands will waive entry fees for junior racers, along with providing a racing clinic prior to the first event on April 28, which will be free and open to all racers, with juniors receiving priority. To further ease the entry for racers, the club will provide loaner road wheels and tires for adapting cyclocross bikes for the road.

          Another less intense race for novices is The Festival of Speed, sponsored by North Division Bike Shop. The Festival occurs at the same time as the Tour of Walla Walla (June 2-4), meaning the area’s heavy hitters are out of town.

          Team ODZ is another local club sharing the joy. As John Stoker of Team ODZ says, they want to be known as a club that gives back to the community, and not just with racing. The club wants to “encourage people of all skill levels to ride their bike, whether for recreation or racing.” The River City Cycling Classic (July 15-16), known as the RC3, is the club’s race-focused offering to the community. The RC3’s time trial in particular offers novice racers an opportunity to pin on a number without having to worry about pack dynamics.

For those not yet ready to pin on a number, there is the Thursday Night Throwdown, a drop ride where the gloves come off to provide the closest experience possible to a race. Last year’s TNT left from the Fish Lake Trailhead at 6 p.m. No word yet on this year’s start place and time. If you want to experience a hammerfest, a near-race experience, this is the event. While the ride is unsponsored and unsupported, participants keep it safe and focus on the fun of riding hard.

Road racing in Spokane is not even close to RIP. Still, as Dietz says, “When it comes to riding and racing, we need more people on bikes.”

Regional Road Race Calendar

Baddlands Twilight Series at Qslipé Raceway Park in Spokane

Tentatively scheduled for April 27, May 11 and 25, and June 8, 15, and 22.

Info: Baddlands.org

Tour de Bloom in Wenatchee, WA

May 6: Stage 1: Waterville Road Race

May 7: Stage 2: Malaga Time Trial

May 7: Stage 3: Downtown Criterium

May 8: Stage 4: Plain Road Race

Info: Tourdebloom.com

The Tour of Walla Walla in Walla Walla, WA

June 2: Stage 1: Waitsburg Road Race

June 2: Stage 2: Wilson Hollow Time Trial

June 3: Stage 3: Downtown Criterium

June 4: Stage 4: Kellogg Hollow Road Race

Info: Tourofwallawalla.com

Festival of Speed Bicycle Race at Qslipé Raceway Park in Spokane

June 3. Info: Northdivision.com

Baker City Cycling Classic in Baker City, OR

June 23: Catherine Creek Road Race

June 24: Baker City Time Trial

June 25: Downtown Criterium

June 25: Dooley Mountain Road Race

Info: Bakercitycyclingclassic.com

RC3: River City Cycling Classic in Spokane

July 15: Bob Stoker Memorial Time Trial

July 15: Liberty Road Race

July 16: Buck Knives Criterium

Info: Rivercitycycling.org

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