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Friday, May 31, 2002 -- Charleston, WV
17th Annual Charleston Criterium Bicycle Race (iPO Event Id#: 4916)
Story and photos by Ariana Kincaid

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5] [Set 6]

Race Pic
Downtown Charleston gets rolling
The 17th Annual Charleston Criterium Bicycle Race was an education for this reporter. Having largely covered footraces, the two mountain bike races I had covered to date had done nothing to prepare me for a criterium. Instead of individual racers going a specific distance in the shortest amount of time possible, riders do laps for a specified amount of time, plus some laps. Category 1 & 2 riders on Friday did 50 minutes plus 8 laps, and Category 3& 4 riders did 40 minutes plus two laps. Category 5, or the Citizens' race, went for 15 minutes and two laps.

The course started on Kanawha Boulevard behind the City Building, turned right onto Court Street, left onto Virginia between the Courthouse and the Judicial Annex, left on Goshorn, left on the Boulevard, then right downhill through Haddad Riverfront Park, then a 180-degree turn out of the Park, back onto the Boulevard to the start line. Nine-tenths of a mile and eight turns for one lap, with speeds reaching 37 mph as they passed by the radar at the bottom of Riverfront Park!

Race Pic
Hitting the corners at top speed
Sam Brenneman got the festivities off to a fine start with his rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on trumpet. The Elite cyclists (typically former pros or up-and-coming amateurs) got off to a quick start shortly after six p.m., led by a smokin' black Mustang as their pace car. (Ever seen a car take a corner going the wrong way on Virginia Street at 35 mph with only bicycles in hot pursuit? It's quite a sight!)

Team Go-Mart led the way with Paul Martin and Scott Weiss lapping the field with twenty-two minutes to go in the timed portion of the race. With two laps to go, Greg Cook of Team Go-Mart, running in third just ahead of the pack took the 180 out of Haddad a little to sharply, and wiped out when his pedal hit the pavement. He recovered nicely and finished third, after Scott Weiss in first and Paul Martin in second. Team Go-Mart also filled the four and five slots with Pat O'Donnell and Jeff Braumberger.

All the kids were champions
Next was the children's races, which featured some of the cutest little kids around, as well as some serious young cyclists. Also, for a little comic relief, local television news personalities participated in a "training-wheel relay," which featured Samantha Koszey, Scott Sabol, Deborah Linz, April Kaul and Jack Kane vying for victory while riding 16-inch bikes with training wheels. Lots of laughs ensued, with WCHS-TV 8 taking home the honors this year!

The Category 3-4 racers then lined up, and after 40+ hard fought minutes, Nathan Long, David Cockley and Don Loo came in 1-2-3, with Don Loo winning the bottle of wine premium after the specified sprint lap near the end of the race (bikers were admonished by the announcer not to sprint for this premium if they were under 21!).

The Category 5 riders were explained to me as being the true amateurs of the field, without the training, but with all the determination, of the other categories. The trail bike background of Nate Orders (who was most recently seen at "Race the Trace" Memorial Day weekend), along with a daring move on the only downhill of the course, helped him humbly pull out a victory in the final lap of this competition, with Ben Lorenzo and Kevin Fletcher right behind.

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Racing well into the evening
Once the festivities on the Boulevard concluded, everyone headed to Ridge Rider (the primary sponsor of the event) for a celebratory cookout and party for the bikers and their friends. Talk about a group with camaraderie!

Special thanks to Mary Shultz, Ridge Rider, Tyler Mountain Water, McDonalds, Ronald McDonald, Mountain State Wheelers Bicycle Club, and the West Virginia Division of Tourism for the carnival-like atmosphere and fun at the Tour de Charleston!