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Photo: Christopher Dolan, License: N/A, Created: 2019:08:24 17:46:37

Competitors in the womens’ race of the Electric City Classic ride on Spruce Street in downtown Scranton on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019.Christopher Dolan / Staff Photographer

Photo: Christopher Dolan, License: N/A, Created: 2019:08:24 18:38:03

Competitors in the mens’ race of the Electric City Classic turn onto Spruce Street in downtown Scranton on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019.Christopher Dolan / Staff Photographer


SCRANTON — Clanging cowbells grew louder as cyclists sped closer.


More than 230 athletes from around the world raced around downtown Scranton on Saturday, competing in the inaugural Electric City Classic.


A project of Scranton Tomorrow, downtown streets were emptied of cars and transformed into a professional cycling course. Spectators stood behind orange metal fencing, ringing their cowbells and cheering for the athletes as they reached speeds close to 40 miles per hour.


“It’s amazing,” Scranton Mayor Wayne Evans said as racers flew by. “The energy downtown right now is phenomenal. I think it will get bigger and better every year.”


In the women’s professional race, after 22 laps, New Zealand native Olivia Ray accelerated through the final turn and sprinted down Wyoming Avenue to capture first place.


“It was awesome,” said Ray, who now resides in Savannah, Georgia. “It was fast and dangerous — all the things you want.”


As the sun set during the men’s professional race, Bryan Gomez, from Colombia, South America, crossed the finish line first, his arms in the air. The first and second place finishers had a 30-second lead going into the final lap.


“It was pretty amazing,” Gomez said of the race, his first in the United States after a couple years. “A lot of people were watching.”


With tight corners and high speeds, a fall at turn 4 — Wyoming Avenue and Spruce Street — tangled about 15 men. At a race earlier in the day, a cyclist suffered a broken collarbone.


The classic continues today at 11 a.m. with a hill climb on the steep, bricked part of Olive Street in the city’s Hill Section. Nearly $20,000 in prize money will be awarded throughout the weekend.


On Saturday, spectators gathered down the home stretch on Wyoming Avenue and along the 10 turns throughout the race. Most criterium or “crit” races are designed as rectangles. The 1.1-mile loop through downtown Scranton kept cyclists focused on maneuvering turns, catching drafts with teammates and trying to gain positions.


Organizers hope to make the race an annual event.


“It brought people from outside the region who had never been here,” said Liz Baldi, project coordinator at Scranton Tomorrow, a nonprofit focusing on downtown economic development.


Downtown shops, restaurants and hotels reported increased business for the weekend.


“With a race of this magnitude, we’re focused on economic impact,” Scranton Tomorrow Executive Director Leslie Collins said.


Saturday’s event also featured several other races, including competitions for amateurs, masters, hand cyclists and children.


Christian Watson, 9, of Dickson City, went from BMX tracks to the city streets, as he competed in the kids race. An enthusiastic cyclist, Christian hopes to join the professionals one day.


“You get to explore new things. You get to train, ride and have fun,” he said.


Lazarus Mulrine, 6, of Scranton, pedaled as fast as he could, wearing a Paw Patrol helmet and with training wheels on his bike.


“It was fun because I almost got in front of someone,” he said. “I’ve been practicing for a year.”


Lazarus fell behind the group, but that didn’t matter. He finished the race with a smile on his face.


“He was my little engine that could,” said his mom, Lindsay Powers.


Contact the writer:


shofius@timesshamrock.com


570-348-9133; @hofiushallTT

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