All of Rochester owes the good folks at Full Moon Vista a big round of applause and a few high-fives. The Rochester Omnium, sponsored by the downtown bike shop and steered to victory by FMV owner Scott Page, has already become a local tradition - and an international attraction.
As a commuter and solo/family bike tourist, I've never been involved in bike racing, except marginally, through watching events like the Tour de France on TV - i.e. being a velo-couch-potato. But I took in all three Omnium events this year and loved every minute.
First came the time trials in Charlotte Friday afternoon. I approached the event the right way: biking out St. Paul St., then taking the designated trail through Maplewood Park and the Turning Point, and ending up at the harbor. Things were pretty quiet that morning along the trail, and also along Lake Avenue, which had been cordoned off. (What a contrast to the "other" Lake Avenue, which thunders with beer-powered motorcycles on Boys' Nights Out.) The contestants were amazing: the winning average speed over the 4.4 mile course was, if my calculator doesn't lie, a hair under 36 mph. Damn showoffs. Hell, I probably hit 36 mph for a good twenty seconds as I coasted down the big hill at the southern approach to Turning Point Park. I won't discuss the 3.6 mph I achieved on a notorious short uphill stretch on my way back.
My brother came in from Buffalo Saturday night to join me at the Criterium downtown. He's been riding the Riverwalk in Buffalo and Tonawanda and is showing more and more interest in longer excursions. But he'd never seen a live bike race - and so, as you'd expect, he was blown away. Just like anybody who considers the pure athleticism of the pro riders. Talk about muscle tone and lung capacity.
I had an unusual experience during the Sunday road race, a 101-miler that ended with a few rousing 6-mile loops in and near Genesee Valley Park. There I was on Wilson Boulevard at the north end of the River Campus, innocently minding my own business and trying to get near the action, when I was "drafted" by an RPD officer to monitor an exit from the UR's back parking lot. Actually, I volunteered; I seen my duty and I done it - keeping errant vehicles and pedestrians from wandering onto the closed course. Well, the errant traffic never materialized, so I was left standing there, a solitary sentinel - though I did have a great view of the racers as they flew down the slope toward the boulevard. More showoffs! They ride a hundred miles in a leisurely four hours and then, as if from the ultimate caffeine rush, really pour on the speed.
When things got preternaturally quiet, I figured the race was over. And so it was: I got to the finish line, a half mile from my guardpost, just as the awards ceremony was starting. Too bad I missed the winner crossing the line, but I have no regrets. The event was a success, the weather was cooperative, and the crowd was lively. Actually, that brings up one regret. I wish more people had come out to watch the end of the road race, and I wish the same about the Charlotte time trials. Each of these deserves a crowd of thousands, the kind that swarms downtown for the "Crit." I'll bet the turnout will be better next year, because the Omnium seems to be on a steep upward curve.
This piece first appeared at RocBike.com.