Valley racers will aim to peak in Criterium

OLYMPIA – Here they come.

The thrills of twists and turns – possibly along with a crash or two – will occur Saturday during the 13th annual Capitol Criterium in downtown Olympia.

Hundreds of the Northwest’s best cyclists will race around the scenic, 0.7-mile course on the Capitol Campus for 20 to 60 minutes before one final lap as racers barrel toward the finish line.

The first of 11 criterium races begins at 9:30 a.m., with the final race set to start at 5:30 p.m.

The Valley Athletic Club’s racing team will have 20 to 25 of their 70-plus members racing.

Resurgent is one way to describe one of its teams – the Master’s Men’s squad. The group, which has the most members of any Valley team, had 11 cyclists last year, and now there are 18 ranging from beginner to elite.

They now aim at all levels of cycling instead of focusing on specific categories.

One of the Master’s Men’s members, Ron Jones, competed in his first race just a month ago.

“There seems to be a resurgence of older folks coming back into racing,” said Dan Donahue, team president and Master’s Men’s rider. “Olympia has a lot of those folks in town that have been riding with a group, and the next thing you know, they’re on the team.”

The entire Valley team has seen its numbers nearly double to 74 riders, up from 38 at this time a year ago. The women’s team, which had six riders in 2008, now has 18.

Once word got out that the women’s team was more about everyone working together, rather than a few elite riders, the number of participants spiked.

The teamwork aspect also rubbed off on the men’s team.

“The women definitely used teamwork to get results,” said women’s team member Sarah Clark, a Category 3 rider. “This year, everyone is doing that.”

Clark was a part of the women’s team that had more victories than any other women’s team in the state. Other women’s team members competing in Category 3 are Jennifer Burtner, Michelle Kautzmann and Kerri Duke.

Last weekend, The Valley had 10 top-10 finishes, including Dave Gordon coming in first overall at the 60-mile Ravensdale Road Race. So far on the season, the club has had more than 80 top-10 finishes and five outright wins.

“The volume of people and events has really increased, along with the level of riding,” Donahue said.

The Valley also is presenting Sunday’s Washington State Circuit Race Championships, which starts at 9 a.m. from Boston Harbor Elementary School.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473