Riverton resident Carlos Rogers goes for the hat trick June 9, 2013, 1:00 p.m., as The Historic Riverton Criterium returns this year for the third time to the gaslamp-lined streets of this near-square mile borough.
In a crit, cyclists race a specified number of laps on a closed course over public roads closed to normal traffic. In this case, athletes pedal 20-50 laps (depending on ability), around an eight-tenths mile fixed loop circuit of the Borough’s thoroughfares during a typical hour-or-so long match.
Capitalizing on the success of the last two competitions, Carlos’ HRC Facebook page has already drawn pro and amateur contenders signing up for the USA Cycling sanctioned series of bicycle races, which includes USAC CATEGORIES 3/4, 45+, and Pro/1/2.
Find out more about registration, race categories, directions, the cash purses and cash premes, lots of photos and results of the past races, and all particulars on that Facebook page.
Contributors have opened their checkbooks, and several sponsors have returned to throw in their support behind this exciting community event that already has a history of giving back to the local area’s groups and organizations. See the HRC Sponsorship Sheet here (Word .doc).
The popular Kids Race returns and you might want to get your cameras ready for the Fireman’s Fun Lap!
Since 2011, the HRC has been committed to supporting Riverton and its surrounding communities by making financial contributions to various organizations to aid and benefit our friends and neighbors. See the HRC Missions Proceeds Sheet here. ( Word .docx) This year’s proceeds benefit the Riverton Fire Company.
Jeannie O’Sullivan, Staff writer for the Burlington County Times, wrote a great color piece on last year’s day at the races, and if you search “criterium” in our search box at the upper right of your screen, you will be directed to several other references to the 2011 and 2012 races as well as Riverton’s vintage bicycle races of the 1890s.
I am ready – I found my cowbell from last year. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor
History may indeed have been made on June 12, 2011, if the recently held Historic Riverton Criterium turns out to become another borough tradition as many hope.
HSR member Mrs. Pat Solin had a ringside seat for the main event from her front door at Fourth and Main .
“…all cars had to be off the streets. Police set up barriers and town maintenance folk cleaned the street of debris to ensure a safe ride for the participants. The weather was beautiful for the race… We could hear a live band, and folks lined the street along the route to cheer for their favorite riders. Our neighbors had company over and made it an ‘event.’ We watched the riders from time to time either from the curb or from within the house because, as you noted, they sped by directly in front of the house.”
I knew that the race was coming because HSR President Gerald Weaber had copied me on an email that he had received. Someone helping with organizing the Historic Riverton Criterium had a question about the age of a house.
In her September GN piece, Pat traces the development of the Riverton Athletic Association from its beginning in July 1865, just after the Civil War, as simply some amateurs playing baseball in Biddle’s apple orchard to its involvement in an array of other popular sports, including bicycling. A highlight of the story is the account of a contest which will probably never again be duplicated, a 150-mile race from the steps of the New York Times building in New York City and culminating at Riverton’s packed to capacity bicycle stadium. Click here to read the whole incredible story.
In any case, I imagine that the information eventually made its way to Jeannie O’Sullivan, staff writer for the Burlington County Times, who wrote a delightful story cleverly contrasting the old and new races. You can find the complete article, photos, and a YouTube video by clicking on this link.
If you’d like to see more New York Times articles of yesteryear, use the advanced search option of the New York Times archive to search issues from 1851-1980 for Riverton related articles. Browse at your own risk, however, as it can not only become addictive, but hours can fly by reading about those times past.
Another place to look for sports news of all sorts related to Riverton is in the pages of The Sporting Life, a weekly sports news publication printed in Philadelphia from 1885-1917, and now found online at the sports research library of the LA84 Foundation. There you can read about the famous Riverton Gun Club, the legendary “Riverton Nines” baseball team, yacht races, football, bicycle races, swimming–even cricket. Here is the link for the LA84 search page.
In addition to enlarging my vocabulary, further investigation into this cycling phenomenon has resulted in finding yet another “Yesterday” column written by Mrs. Betty B. Hahle over thirty years ago for the May 1981 issue of Gaslight News which sheds more light on those bicycle races of the late 19th century. Following is an account of the opening of the Riverton Athletic Association’s new quarter-mile track in 1894. As Betty wished, the re-publication of her work which follows is printed exactly as it originally appeared:
“As bicycling grew in popularity, Wheelmen’s Clubs were formed, and meets became a part of the growing interest in athletic events.
Riverton’s team used a track on Fulton street, below the railroad, and then a larger one above the railroad, whete Lippincott, Thomas, and 7th streets are today. June of 1894 saw the new track completed there, in time for the riders to begin training for the big meet on July 4th. It was the widest 1-4 mile track in the world, designed by O.S. Bunnell of Philadelphia, a much respected cycler who would also be referee on the big day.
And what a day it must have been! Riverton, with a population numbering only a few hundred, had an attendance of nearly 4000, according to the papers. There were 8 class-A events, trick riders, an exhibition ½-mile ride by Harrison Barcus, a 5-year-old, on a 10 lb. wheel, and a 5-mile event that ‘kept spectators at fever heat from start to finish’. Julius Blauberg, a prominant caterer from Philadelphia, had charge of refreshment stands, and prizes–oh, the prizes…5 diamonds, gold and silver medals, jewelry, and many other valuable articles. A.J. Briggs, Riverton’s Athletic Association manager, kept things moving, and was careful that all activities and decisions were fair. Soon color was introduced into the meets by having riders wear brightly colored shirts instead of numbers to identify them–and shortly there followed items of vandals breaking into the athletic building on the grounds and making off with ‘articles of clothing’. Fireworks were held at the bicycle grounds after the races.
In 1894 W.F. Sims was out to break his record of a mile in 2.11. He aimed to do it in 2 minutes–and made it. (Speed on the track was one thing; it was something else along the streets and paths of town, and increasingly there were reports of children being knocked down, teeth being lost in the process, and broken bones of older victims. Tempers grew short with this behavior–even on Sunday–and there were calls for dealing more severely with the culprets.”
Saying, “It makes obvious sense to tie in the racing history and the Historic Riverton Criterium,” Carlos Rogers, a 20 year veteran competitive cyclist whose vision it was to bring the amateur cycling meet to his newly adopted hometown (by marriage to the former Adrienne Gaughn), started planning for the race late last year. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers are owners and operators of the highly regarded Hush Salon in Philadelphia’s Old City District.
The novice promoter acknowledged the first-time challenges of navigating those uncertain waters of borough government and tradition and was, in the end, elated at the result. Taking stock of the event and the public’s reception to it, Carlos remarked, “By all accounts, from borough officials, riders, residents, and spectators, it was a resounding success.”
Let’s hope that history repeats itself in this case, and that the Historic Riverton Criterium returns again next year. In the process we shall add another chapter to the history of cycling in Riverton, NJ. – John McCormick, Gaslight News editor