I hadn’t been to the Keith Berger Memorial Criterium since 2010, but returned this year as a volunteer and spectator. Today’s race was the kickoff of New England Crit Week.
This race is a memorial to Keith Berger, who was a fixture on the local cycling scene. He was a fierce competitor who I enjoyed battling with. He raced on several area teams during his career, including the Capital Velo Club. Sadly, Keith was a victim of cancer at a very young age. Racing hard is the best thing that many of us can do to remember Keith. CVC used to promote this criterium at Founders Plaza in East Hartford, Connecticut; but this year, the race was taken over by the Horst Engineering Cycling Team and the Expo Wheelmen.
Race Directors Max Accaputo and Trent Sullivan did a fantastic job at marshaling the resources, sponsors, and volunteers necessary to save this race and keep it on the New England cycling calendar. It was in danger of going the way of the dodo, which is the same direction that many of our best road races, circuit races, and criteriums have gone.
Thankfully, with a combination of hard work and teamwork, we pulled this one off. Many volunteers came together, including members of both Team Horst Sports and the Expo Wheelmen, to put on a great show. We had gorgeous June weather for the first full day of summer with brilliant sunshine and beautiful white puffy clouds dotting the bright blue sky. That helped us with a record turnout of 320+ riders in six categories. There were category 4/5, 3/4, 40+, Juniors, Women’s, and 1/2/3 races.
There were some minor crashes, but no terrible incidents. The races were fast, but relatively safe for this four corner rectangular course. My son and I spent the whole day at the race and then Debbie and our daughter joined us in the afternoon. I ended up joining Max and Trent as an official race announcer, which was really cool. I’ve always wanted to be a disc jockey, so this type of gig always suits me well.
The racing was animated throughout the day. Our team had a good showing in the 40+ race with eight team riders in the field. Laura Summers, a former teammate (on Team Horst and the Boston University Cycling Team), had a fantastic finishing sprint to win the women’s race in style. The 45 mile main event, the men’s 1/2/3 race was raced really hard with lots of action. We raised $103 for a halfway prime that really animated the race.
It was great to see so many teammates (Arthur Roti, Wade Summers, Pat Cunningham, Max Accaputo, Trent Sullivan, Wayne Prescott, Paul Nyberg, Thom Reid, Ted D’Onofrio, Matt Domnarski, A. Zane Wenzel) and so many old friends.
I haven’t done much on the road scene is recent years, but it used to be my main endurance sport. I cycled exclusively from 1991 until 2001 with cyclocross and mountain biking mixed in with all of the road riding. It wasn’t until I met Debbie that I returned to running, started adventure racing, and then turned my focus to triathlon.
I’m keen to go back to cycling as my main sport, especially as the impact of running has slowed me with a variety of injuries. After today’s race, I’m pretty fired up to get back on the roads. It will be great training for this fall’s cyclocross season.
Keith Berger was honored with some excellent racing on the streets of East Hartford. Several Berger Family representatives were part of the action, including Keith’s brother, Chris, who did some of the announcing and organize all of the primes. It’s hard to put on road cycling events. The costs are very high. More than half of the costs goes to the police who keep the streets closed and safe. Other major expenses include timing, officials, and supplies. It used to be that every USA Cycling Club was required to promote a race. I don’t know if those rules have loosened, or if it is the option to host a cyclocross race in lieu of a road race, but the number of road races promoted by clubs has dwindled.
Today, I saw how challenging it is to pull off one of these events on public streets, but I also saw how fun it can be. I was also encouraged by the 30 junior boys and girls that competed today. They are the future of the sport. Many of them were racing for CCAP, and organization that I have written about before. That group is doing a lot of good to keep the spirit of junior racing alive in Connecticut.
I’ll do my part to ensure that the Horst Engineering Cycling Team puts on more events like this in the future.