Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Tour of Walla Walla draws 500 cyclists

Several hundred people stood at the corner of Coville and Main Streets, the adults clapping, kids zealously ringing the yellow cowbells handed out by Allegro Cyclery like they hadn’t been ringing them for the past six hours. And everyone cheered as Ian Tubbs threw his arms in the air as his first place in the men’s pro-1-2 criterium brought a close to the last event of the 2008 Tour of Walla Walla.

Some 200 miles and 47 hours (over eight of which were spent racing) earlier, on a hill outside of Waitsburg, Wash., the same 100 men kicked off the weekend with a windy, 62-mile road race.

In between, approximately 500 cyclists along with dozens of volunteers and hundreds of fans made the 12th annual Tour of Walla Walla a huge success.

“The race was very smooth and the organizers made the race easy to race,” said Whitman sophomore Ben Chaddock, who took third overall in the men’s category three.

“We’re lucky to have really wonderful volunteers,” said Beth Swanson, who was in charge of public relations for the race: a new position for this year’s Tour. “I think a lot of our volunteers came from businesses downtown, and they understand the importance of bringing 500 racers to Walla Walla, only 5 percent of whom are local.”

Swanson also helped to involve the Whitman cycling team more with the race. A spaghetti feed for the racers and a raffle for a bike both benefited the team.

“It’s been a great local tie for us to have the Whitman cycling team,” said Swanson. “One, because Whitman gets to race here locally and we get a chance to raise some money for them, and then it’s been really good for the racers here because they’re supporting a good cause…and it’s a win for Walla Walla too.”

Several Whitman cyclists raced in the tour in a change of pace from collegiate racing.

“The Tour of Walla Walla is really different from collegiate races for a lot of reasons,” said junior cyclist Mia Huth. While all the Whitman cyclists noted that the field was much bigger than in collegiate races, Huth also felt the atmosphere was different.

“I think that collegiate riders are really out there to have fun, and I get the feeling that a lot of these women I was riding with in the tour seemed to be a lot more intensely into it,” said Huth. “Maybe it’s because they had a lot more money invested in it…but I think that at college races the whole atmosphere of the race weekend is a lot more lighthearted than here,” said Huth, who decided to turn Saturday’s road race into a ride when she realized she wasn’t having fun anymore.

The Tour provided a fresh pool of competition for the Whitman racers, according to Chaddock.

“Here we get to see a whole new set of riders and a whole new set of teams so you have no idea where you stand in the first race so you have to use a whole new set of tactics to make sure no one sneaks away who you aren’t familiar with,” said Chaddock.

The Tour breaks up the men into four divisions: categories five through three, and then the top division, which consists of the professionals and the category one and two competitors. The divisions are similar for women but with no category five.

Each category races a different series of times and distances throughout the weekend.

The race consisted of a 35- or 62-mile road race outside of Waitsburg on Friday for some of the racers. Saturday consisted of a seven and a half mile individual time trial and a road race that ranged from 95 to 38 miles in length and finished on a two-mile hill. The weekend ended with a criterium on a half-mile loop in downtown Walla Walla where riders raced for 30 minutes to an hour to get the most laps in on the criterion.

All in all, the Tour went off without any major snafus.

“We had two people come into first aid for road rash, but that’s it. Compared to last year we’re doing really well,” said on-site paramedic Michelle McKee, who has volunteered at the tour for the past two years.

“Category four women and category five men: when they’re done we’re pretty happy,” said McKee, explaining that the majority of the crashes occur with the less experienced riders. However, before she could finish her thought, McKee’s radio buzzed and she ran off to deal with a multi-rider crash in the men’s pro-1-2 criterium.

This year’s Tour filled up extremely quickly with the ride and waitlist full for almost every category long before the race.

“The waitlist was really, really long,” said first-year Chelsea Momany, who raced with the category four women and just found out she got a spot in the race the Thursday before it began. “Apparently at one point it was longer than the actual field.”

“[The Tour] has a very good reputation in the cycling world and with good reason. There are a lot of great volunteers who are really willing to make it happen and in 12 years it’s become a really fun, quality event,” said Swanson.

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