Devaney hosted it through 1997. David Douglas (who organizes the event rides for the Cascade Bicycle Club, and the Seward Park Thursday Night Series) ran it between 1998 through 2007. Second Ascent/Ascent Cycles hosted it between 2008 through 2017. Apex Racing is the current organizer. Last year, the event almost ended because of several factors, but financial support from the cycling community kept it alive. Despite rain showers during the final races, the 2018 edition was a big success. Going forward, the prospects for the event seem to be good.
Gina Kavesh, president of WSBA--Washington's bike racing sanctioning organization--remembers the first race:
"I've lost track how many times I raced Ballard. I do know I lined up for the first race - when I think they only ran 2 fields of men and women with a pretty substantial prize list as to draw folks from BC and Canada. It was one hell of a fast crit. I was succinctly dropped as my handing skills were NOT there yet."
"The race has obviously evolved over the years. It has typically been one of the most aggressive, fast crits on the WSBA calendar likely because of the large audience."
A criterium, also known as a "crit," is a bike race around a closed circuit, usually about 1/2 mi to 1+ mi in length. As far as road cycling races go, crits are considered the most exciting. They are held at easy-access venues, and the action is so close you can feel the doppler rush of the racers as they pass, and hear the unmistakable whir of the racing bike wheels as they roll by. Since the courses are short, the racers fly past every couple minutes or so. Old Ballard is about as good as a crit venue can get.
From the racing perspective, Ballard Ave. is paved with bricks, the corners are technically tricky, and the entire course requires superb high-speed bike handling skills. From a spectator's perspective the bars and restaurants along Ballard Ave., some of which have window seating, are great for hanging out with friends and watching. The Ballard Crit is a bit like watching a street fight on bikes.
Kavesh is a Seattle-area native with this historical perspective:
"The amazing thing about the Ballard Crit is having watched Ballard go from a backwater of nothing to a hub of activity and nightlife. In the 'early' years the race it was obvious that the racing community was an economic benefit to the neighborhood. Though the race still brings economic benefit, it's not nearly as obvious now since Ballard has grown so much and has active weekend and night life. Locally, Ballard and Derby Days (in Redmond) are the only existing events where the general public can get easy access to the excitement of American-style bike racing aka Criterium racing."
Bicycle races are organized into "categories" based on riders' experience, athletic ability, and gender. Category 5 is for new racers; category 1 is for very experienced, athletic racers. Over time, as competitors compete in more and more races they accrue points depending on the races they start, and their placing in each event. As the racers accrue points, they become eligible to upgrade from one category to the next.
1:30 PM--Junior 10-14, Men & Women
1:50 PM--Masters 35+ Cat 3/4, Men
2:30 PM--Cat 4/5, Women
3:10 PM--Cat 5, Men
3:50 PM--Cat 4, Men
4:30 PM--Masters 35+ Cat 1/2/3, Men
5:20 PM--Cat 3, Men
6:15 PM--Pro/Cat 1/2/3, Women
7:30 PM--Pro/Cat 1/2, Men
If you are wondering when to watch, I'd recommend the last two races starting at 6:15.
Pre-Party May 25
To get everyone in the spirit of the event, Rapha and Apex Cycling are hosting a Ballard Criterium Pre-Party on May 25. Bainbridge Island's Heidi Franz, a pro cyclist with Rally UHC Cycling, will be on hand to share the story of her journey to the pros, and how racing in Seattle has taken her to the top level of the sport. She recently won her first pro race, stage two at the Tour de Gila. Rapha be offering raffle prizes, and plenty of food and drink.
Past Winners 1998-2011
1998 – Kenny Williams – Saturn of Bellevue
1999 – Doug Carlton – Saturn of Bellevue
2000 – Kenny Williams – Saturn of Bellevue
2001 – Ian Tubbs – Seattle Super Squadra
2002 – Kenny Williams – Saturn of Bellevue
2003 – Ian Bettinger – Saturn of Bellevue
2004 – Russell Stevenson – Benaroya Research Institute
2005 – Troy Heithecker – Benaroya Research Institute
2006 – Kenny Williams – First Rate Mortgage
2006 – Tricia Bailey – Wines of Washington
2007 – Russell Stevenson – Benaroya Research Institute
2007 – Jadine Riley – Team Group Health
2008 – Grant Boursaw – Gregg’s Lemond
2008 – Tricia Bailey – Wines of Washington
2009 – Steve Beardsley – Unattached
2009 – Tela Crane – Hagens Berman Cycling Team
2010 – Ian Crane – Hagens Berman Cycling Team
2010 – Jadine Rolcik – Team Group Health
2011 – Steve Fisher – Hagens Berman Cycling Team
2011 – Jennifer Triplett – Hagens Berman Cycling Team
Past Winners 2012-2018
2012 – TUBBS, Ian – Audi; Avg speed: 25.3 mph
2012 – SETTER, Jocelyn Keller – Rohrback Cycling Team; Avg speed: 22.7 mph
2013 – CRANE, Ian – Hagens Berman Cycling; Avg speed: 27.8 mph
2013 – SHAW, Rhae – Vanderkitten; Avg speed: 26.1 mph
2014 – RICHTER, David – Herriott Sports Performance; Avg speed: 32.3 mph
2014 – AUDRAIN, Ivy – Keller Rohrback Cycling; Avg speed: 28.9 mph
2015 – SWEDBERG, Benjamin – Audi; Avg speed: 31.9 mph
2015 – NIELSON, Heather – Monster Media Elite Women; Avg speed: 27.8 mph
2016 – BEARDSLEY, Steven – Unaffiliated; Avg speed: 31.7 mph
2016 – CONEY, Sarah – Continental Crit Nasty; Avg speed: 27.7 mph
2017 – ASKERVOLD, Thorsten – Storck CCN; Avg speed: 31.7 mph
2017 – GILLICK, Janna – Glotman Simpson; Avg speed: 28.1 mph
2018 – MURISON, Alexander – Trek Red Truck Racing; Avg speed: 30.6 mph
2018 – GILLICK, Janna – Glotman Simpson; Avg speed: 26.8 mph