(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Hundreds of cyclists took to Clarendon and Crystal City streets as part of the Air Force Association Cycling Classic this past weekend.
The two-day event saw professional, amateur and youth cyclists speed up and down Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards and Crystal Drive. The course also featured several tight turns for participants to whip around. The Clarendon Cup had five of these turns, which makes it one of the more difficult courses of its kind in the United States.
“It’s a really fun, local race. It’s one of the best in the area,” said Mattison Brady, a Washington, D.C. resident who placed second in the Amateur race.
The course’s technical challenges only add to the fun, Brady said.
But for some the two courses proved to be anything but fun. The Clarendon Cup’s challenges turned the race into a “race of attrition,” said Christopher Hair, a local cyclist with the United Healthcare/National Capital Velo Club Amateur team.
“It’s about an hour of excruciating pain,” Hair said. “Most people are smiling because it’s over.”
Riders also fell prey to the courses with multiple crashes throughout the two days. Multiple women hit the pavement during an early crash in the Clarendon Cup and at least two riders hit the ground during the men’s professional Crystal Cup causing a small slowdown.
The event was also apparently hazardous to a County Board candidate. Independent Board candidate Audrey Clement said the road closures from the Clarendon Cup hindered her ability to safely bike to Saturday’s Board meeting.
“As you know, I am an avid biker. I’ve biked to work every day for the past 25 years and I’ve biked to virtually every County Board meeting for the past three years,” Clement said in the meeting’s public comment period. “Yet today, I risked my life to bike to this meeting because the bike race… had blocked off all the streets in Clarendon. This represents not just an inconvenience to pedestrians, motorists and other bikers in the county, it constitutes reckless endangerment.”
For Hilton Clarke, a professional cyclist with United Healthcare, the two-day event was something to celebrate. The 35-year-old Australian cyclist won both the Clarendon and Crystal Cups and the Omnium.
“Well, I’ve been here a few times, and I’ve won now yesterdays race three times, and this race I’ve come in second three times, so it’s nice, even though my teammates normally beat me in this race, it’s nice to get a win here in this event so I’m really happy,” Clarke said.
For the women, Lauren Stephens took the Clarendon Cup after a long breakaway, and Coryn Rivera, a nationally-known cyclist, took the Crystal Cup and the Omnium.