Bike Race Hits Athens Bricks After 20-Year Hiatus

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB)—People lined the streets Uptown to witness the return of bicycle racing on Athens bricks after a 20-year absence.

The Athens Bike Criterium was founded in 1986 by David Lundberg and went on for 12 years. In the race’s glory days of the late ‘90s,  professional cyclists such as Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond, raced at the Criterium. 

Daniel Brown, who organized the return of the Criterium to Athens, remembers coming to the race as a child. 

 “In 1989, I came to the Athens Brick Criterium,” Brown said. “ I was 10. Those were amazing years.”

Bike races can be difficult to plan and run, according to some of the event’s organizers. 

“Bicycle races are hard to run successfully and they typically do not make much money,” Brown said. “Races that do well break even and then hopefully have some money left over to put toward the next year’s event.”

The lack of funding and the ability to plan a functional bike race are reasons why the Athens Bike Criterium stopped happening. 

But, Athens community members are excited to bring life back to a local and historic event. 

“One of the coolest things was this is a community event,” Brown said. “It took a lot of people, a lot of volunteers, a lot of work.”

The Criterium had competitors from across the U.S., including Ryan Knapp of Bloomington, Indiana, who won first place in the men’s pro-section, and Katy Lobeda of Blacksburg, Virginia, who won first place in the women’s pro section.

Seasoned bikers say it’s rare to have races on city streets. 

“It’s refreshing to see a city that’s embracing [city bike races] again,” said Charlie Huegel of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Out-of-towners also say that the challenging terrain is another reason they came to the Athens Bike Criterium.

“It’s nice to come out and actually get a pretty unique course with some bricks and some elevation changes,” said Eric Serantoni of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Organizers of the event are planning to host the Athens Brick Criterium again in June 2020.