Albany Unchained Weekend attracts 500 bicyclists
May 18, 2015
By Jim West, Albany Herald
ALBANY — The downtown Albany Unchained Bike Race Weekend officially got rolling Saturday with about 500 cyclists from across the country turning out for early time trials and races throughout the day.
While this is the 11th year Albany has hosted the event, it’s only the third year of affiliation with the Southeast Regional Series, serving as the second of four legs in which riders compete in four states in four months.
“It’s a great day for a race,” said Rashelle Beasley, director of the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau, the main sponsor for the event. “It’s nearly noon and we’ve finished category five, which went really really well. We’re well above our registration goal and riders are still coming. They can register right up to the time of their race.”
#On Saturday, cyclists rode west on Pine Ave. from near The Albany Herald building, took a left on Jackson Street then two more lefts on road Avenue and Front Street to complete a circuit back to Pine. The races, known as criterium, began at 11 a.m. with the final race launching around 5:20 p.m.
Both the Saturday races and the longer distance road races in Lee County on Sunday feature separate competition categories, or “cats,” based on gender, age and skill level.
Kenny Gilead made the trip from Atlanta to see what Albany Unchained was all about.
“I heard last year that the course is great and decided to come down and experience it for myself,” Gilead said. “As long I don’t crash out on my bike, I’ll feel like I’ve won.”
Rachel McKinnon, a professor at College of Charleston, won her first 3-4 criterium and planned to compete in the road race on Sunday. Her first love was competitive badminton, she said, which is popular in Canada, where she lived. When she moved south, she settled on cycling as her new sport.
“The is just a great race,” McKinnon said. “It’s big and in a gorgeous city. It’s also well-managed and organized. Fantastic.”
Nate Hatfield, a Marine who lives in Leesburg, was back for his third Albany race, but had to settle for a bit less than what he’d hoped.
“I got into a bike wreck while I was warming up and now I have a partial separation in my shoulder,” Hatfield said. “With the criterium, we ride in a circuit, so there’s a lot of in and out of the saddle type of thing, and pulling the bike back and forth. I can’t risk having a full separation of my shoulder.”
Hatfield said he planned to compete in the road race in Lee County Sunday, where he wouldn’t have to work his shoulders much.
“My doctor doesn’t want me to do this one either,” Hatfield said. “But I’m going to do it anyway.”
According to Kristen Schuette, marketing and communications manager for the CVB, last year’s race made a economic impact of around $109,000 on the city.
“The bike race is another way for us to showcase Albany by bringing an event here,” Schuette said last week. “Most of those cyclists would probably never come here. And while they’re here, they’re staying in our hotels and spending money in our restaurants and stores.”