By SCOTT WEISSER email@example.com
---- — GOSHEN
There they’ll go again — and, soon enough, again.
The annual bicycle criterium in downtown Goshen will be the focus of this week’s First Fridays festival. Cycle races start at 4 p.m.
Local bicycling advocate Evan Bontrager explained that a criterium route is a loop.
“It’s really great for spectators because spectators can stay in one place and they see the same racers every 60 to 90 seconds and can watch them jockey for position every time they go around,” he said. “It’s called a short course, usually less than one mile. It’s always closed off on city streets.”
Downtown Goshen Inc. director Gina Leichty said riders will start off on Main Street by The Goshen Theater, head south to Jefferson Street, east to Fifth Street, north to Lincoln Avenue, and then travel south again on Main. The track, just a two-block loop, is shorter for this year’s event.
“That should be very interesting for spectators because it will be extremely fast,” Leichty said. “...It’ll take the riders probably about a minute to get around the track.”
Leichty pointed out that Friday’s event is a nationally sanctioned race.
“We’ve been part of the Indiana-Kentucky cup, with riders participating for points,” she said. “...This year, we’re also part of the national Graffiti Road series.”
Leichty is anticipating at least 150 riders Friday from at least five states. The event draws cyclists from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and Michigan.
“Sometimes we get folks from Wisconsin,” she added. Last year, there were also participants from Kansas and Pennsylvania.
“There are crits all around,” she said of the event. “(Riders will) go from our crit to a different one on Saturday and spend all weekend competing.”
Leichty said the biking competition was started to elevate the awareness that Goshen is a biking community.
“On a municipal level, our city engineers have done a lot of planning and making pathways available as well as biking trails,” she said. “But we wanted to bring a really different kind of biking event to Goshen that you wouldn’t normally see in a town this size. ...It was just so well received by the community that we’ve been encouraged to keep doing it.”
Crit races begin at 5:15 p.m. with a junior (riders ages 10 to 18) contest. Competitors in various divisions will continue racing until 9 p.m.
A children’s division — two laps for riders ages 3 to 9 — will kick off the racing at 4 p.m. Friday. New this year is the Mayor’s Race Challenge, set to begin at 4:30 p.m., for riders age 13 and older. Registration is $15 in advance, or $20 the day of the ride.
Leichty said proceeds from the Mayor’s Race will help keep summer First Fridays events free of charge. She added that participants can ride for either fun or speed.
“It’ll be 10 laps around the track or 20 minutes, whichever comes first,” she said. Event organizers list the prize as “Glory.”
No parking will be allow on the race course all day Friday. The schedule includes:
• 4 a.m. — Street cleaning
• 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Course set-up
• 2 p.m. — Same-day registration
• 2:30 p.m. — Race course closed
• 3:15 p.m. — Bicycle parade
• 4 p.m. — Races begin
• 9 p.m. — Races end
• 9 to 11 p.m. — Course tear-down
Leichty indicated that Bontrager was one of the people who helped Goshen’s crit race get started. He’s also on the board for Friends of the Pumpkinvine, and has been a proponent of linking local trails into a network.
“It all just syncs together, and we’re getting more and more access to different communities that way,” he said.
With an eye toward biking outside downtown Goshen, Bontrager noted that a Pumpkinvine ride — a fundraiser for the bike/pedestrian trail — is set for June 21. Registration is available at pumpkinvine.org.
Other First Fridays highlights include:
• A “Taste of Goshen” food tent on Washington Street between Main and Fifth streets. Salvadoran, Korean, Palestinian, Puerto Rican, Russian, Ukrainian, Amish and Indian-style food will be available from 5 to 9 p.m. Taste of Goshen is sponsored by the Community Relations Commission.
• A showcase at the Goshen Historical Society Museum, 124 S. Main St., from 5 to 9 p.m. Photos from the 1965 Palm Sunday tornados will be displayed. In addition, author Dale Garber will autograph copies of his Ariel Bicycle Company book, which will be on sale. The musical group Waterbound is also scheduled to perform at the museum.
First Fridays is monthly event highlighting the cultural and commercial offerings of downtown Goshen. For more information, visit the website www.cityonthego.org.