We are fortunate to have the Ballard Crit as an ongoing event in the Pacific Northwest cycling race calendar. At the beginning of 2018 there was some question about whether it would continue. The Apex Cycling Team has been managing the event since 2014, and according to team president David McKinnie, they had a savings reserve to accommodate future costs increases. But, in 2018 a larger than anticipated change in the fee structure from the city of Seattle combined with the loss of two major sponsors put the race’s future in jeopardy.
Although the common wisdom is that road racing is experiencing a decline, McKinnie says participation in the Ballard Crit has remained flat at about 300 participants since Apex took over the reins.
Higher costs and lower participation have been a problem for other road races in the Pacific Northwest during the past few years. Thus far, race organizers have attempted to address these problems by requiring competitors to pre-register, then canceling the race if not enough folks sign up. The Ballard Crit is in the unique position that it can leverage its visibility and role as a community event to get neighborhood businesses to sponsor the event.
In 2018 Carter Volkswagen, located in Ballard, stepped up to solve the sponsorship problem.
Amateur road bike racing events in the US are broken up into separate races based on the participant’s rankings, which is based on their race histories. The rankings are called “categories,” and in the US range from category 5 (new racers), to category 1 (very fast, experienced racers). The race day is scheduled so that the races get progressively faster. This year at Ballard, the fastest women raced at 6:15, and the fastest men raced at 7:30.
Although all of this year’s races were fun to watch, the two final races were especially exciting. In the women’s finale pro racer Heidi Franz decisively outsprinted the other contenders down the Ballard Ave. straightaway. In the men’s finale Nigel Kinney broke away from the pack with 18 laps to go and managed to hold a 5+ second advantage the entire time up until the final sprint, which he won.
A Ballard Twilight Mile Run?
For spectators, this event is as much about socializing as watching a bike race. One of the more interesting conversations I had during the day happened before the racing started. I chatted with a member of the Club Northwest running club, which held a 5K fun run on the criterium course. She mentioned that the club is discussing the possibility of hosting one or more mile running races as part of the criterium’s race schedule.
As we chatted, everyone in the conversation got excited about the idea. We talked about a “fast” race with competitors who have race results under (for example) sub 5-minute miles; maybe a beer mile; and a “fun” mile for everyone else. Since the mile runs are relatively short, they could be scheduled in-between the longer cycling races, and provide a fun interlude as each subsequent bike race gets set up.
I’m sure there would be complicated logistics to resolve, but I think the basic concept is brilliant. A multi-disciplinary cycling plus running event would attract the most avid cyclists and runners to Ballard for the afternoon, and I think there could be some interesting “cross pollination” between cyclists and runners. Another aspect of holding a mile run event is that despite all the hype for ultra running events (longer than the marathon distance), there is a growing movement to bring back the mile.
What do you think? Add your feedback in the comments section and I’ll pass it along to Apex and Club Northwest.
Men’s Pro-1-2: Avg. Speed of Winner 32.1 mph
Women’s Pro-1-2: Avg. Speed of Winner 27.8 mph