A Town That Loves Bikes

Posted on July 6, 2012


There are many instances in the recent past of the City of Northfield’s growing connection with the bicycle community: the bike lanes and share the road signage along Jefferson Drive from Jefferson Parkway to Honeylocust Drive; the beginning of the trail between Northfield and Dundas on the east side of the Cannon River; the Tiger Grant project that will allow west-side cyclists access to the east side of Northfield without having to cross HWY3 (Greenvale Ave. to Water Street).

But this week there was a much more dramatic example of this connection: the 4th of July Northfield Criterium. For the 13th year, Ben Witt (Milltown Cycles) and his merry band of volunteers commandeered the streets of downtown Northfield for this terrific event. Racing began at 9am and continued until after 5pm. There was competition for both men and women from under 15 years to over 50. Given the heat and high humidity, it’s a wonder that the event came off at all. But it did!

Race central was in Bridge Square. The start and finish lines were between Monarch Gifts and the Rare Pair on Division St. at 4th. Races lasted between 15 minutes (<15) to 70 minutes (men’s cat 1/2). The course went north on Division to 3rd St. where everyone needed to climb the hill to Union Street. At Union Street it was a hard right hander and a one block ride to 4th St. with another right hander and a slight descent. At Washington St. there was a hard left hander and then a straightaway to 6th St. Another right hander and one block to Division. A right hand turn and then all you’ve got on the 2 block straitaway to 4th St. and another lap.

Tripp and I were corner marshals at 4th and Union. We had a tent to give us shade and a flag and a whistle to give us authority. Our task was to alert the public when the racers were in our intersection and to direct traffic away from the course between races. The most unusual circumstance we confronted was when Andy Langehough of the Langehough and Benson Funeral Home needed to gain access to his business because he had a body to pick up at the Northfield Hospital. Can’t argue with that very well, can you? We waited for an appropriate moment between races and let him through.

It was hotter than hell and although we had hoped to spend the day, we gave up the ghost after 4 hours. The heat coming off the tarmac was palpable and debilitating. We have no idea how the racers were able to  transcend the heat, but we’re grateful that they did. What a spectacle!