Phoenixville Criterium attracts out-of-towners

Photo by Barry Taglieber/ A scene from the Pro 1/2 Men Race during the Phoenixville Criterium.

PHOENIXVILLE - Last Saturday, hundreds of spectators lined up along Bridge Street, to watch the Phoenixville Criterium of the Chester County Grand Prix bike race. This was the third stop of the race, which began in Oxford on June 28 and will concluded on July 5 in Kennett Square. The race also stopped in Malvern, Coatesville, Unionville and Parkesburg.

Festivities centered around the 100 block of Bridge Street, which was fenced off for the race. The finish line was on Bridge Street, in front of the Colonial Theatre. Upbeat dance music played loudly through large speakers for the crowd to hear. People also watched from outdoor seating and balconies at Bridge Street restaurants and bars. There were several races throughout the day, on all levels of racing, from amateur to masters. There were also four children's races.

Victory Brewing Company supplied a large beer garden tent set up on the corner of Bridge Street and South Main Street.

A manager for Victory Brewing Company and Phoenixville resident Ivy Hunter said Victory was setting up beer gardens on every leg of the race in each town.

'We're a good festival town. There's always really good crowds,' Hunter said of Phoenixville.

Winner of the Men's Cat 5 race was 24 year old Geoff Quinter. Originally from Pennsburg, Quinter is a member of the Sunnybrook racing team based in Pottstown. This was his first year racing.

'I'm limited to the races that have a Category 5,' Quinter said. 'There aren't too many in the Chester County series. This was the one I was really looking forward to.'

As for the course, he said, 'I loved it. I like hills a lot.'

Another Cat 5 racer, Berwyn resident Eric Knight, said the course was, 'Heat and hills. It was a good experience. This was my first real race. This was my big one.'

Knight added, 'It was originally scheduled to be 12 laps. They (organizers) cut it back one because of some safety concerns about a grate at the base of the first hill. They wanted the field to come by and get a feel for where the grate was before they started the racing so they cut it to 11 laps.'

Knight hopes the Grand Prix is annual event.

'As a spectator and a participant, it's a great thing,' he said.

Audubon resident Maria Gaasche, also a member of the Sunnybrook racing team, watched the race.

'We had a nice turn out for our Sunnybrook team today,' Gaasche said. 'All of our team members came up to support our Cat 5 boys and Geoff. Two of our Sunnybrook guys came in the top five today. We're going to stay for a couple more hours and celebrate with Geoff.'

She also hopes the Grand Prix is annual event for Phoenixville.

'I hope next year they have a women's category,' Gaasche added.

Marge Do came to Phoenixville from Lancaster to watch her husband, Sonny, race in the men's Cat 5 race. Her 11-year-old son, David, also participated in the children's 10-12 race.

'This is David's third race,' Do said. 'He rides with us on our bike club rides. He really got into it when he started doing the distances. He can do 37 miles with us. He actually is faster than I am. He has a 16-5 average. He's doing the ACS ride with us on July 8th, which is 65 miles.'

Do plans to return with her family to Phoenixville for other events as well.

'It's really cute. I love it,' she said. 'I'd love to come back for first Fridays.'

Parents Sarah and Luke Allen prepared to watch their two sons, Digges, age 6, and Cooper, age 4, compete in the children's races. The boys planned to participate in every leg of the Grand Prix.

'Wherever this is they want to keep going every day,' Sarah Allen said. 'They started in Oxford and then Malvern. They love it. They think it's great.'

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