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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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River City Cycling Classic set to debut next week after pandemic delay

Aug. 5, 2021 Updated Thu., Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:52 p.m.

Ryan Witt, right, and Conner Duppenthaler lead the pack of the Men Cat 4/5 field during the 2018 Liberty Road Race. The River City Cycling Classic is set to debut Aug. 14 after the pandemic canceled last year’s inaugural race.  (Courtesy/Tawny Nettlebeck Strong)
Ryan Witt, right, and Conner Duppenthaler lead the pack of the Men Cat 4/5 field during the 2018 Liberty Road Race. The River City Cycling Classic is set to debut Aug. 14 after the pandemic canceled last year’s inaugural race. (Courtesy/Tawny Nettlebeck Strong)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

John Stoker moved from California to Spokane more than 20 years ago, and since then he has been part of a steadily growing cycling movement in the area.

So in some sense, next week’s River City Cycling Classic is a culmination.

But it also is a beginning.

“Our mission is to really build up the community of cycling in Spokane, in the Inland Northwest area,” Stoker said, “and there’s not many events on the calendar any more. We’re trying to bring people into the competitive cycling scene.”

Stoker is serving as the race director for the omnium, which features a time trial and a road race on Aug. 14 and a criterium on Aug. 15. Stoker is considering this as the classic’s “second inaugural,” seeing that the originally scheduled event in summer 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m learning as I go here,” Stoker said. “I was dubbed the race director, and I’m happy to help coordinate. … Thankfully, I’ve got a fantastic team.”

Mike Sirott, who sits on the board of the Washington State Bicycle Association, is the event’s technical director, and he is optimistic that it will go well.

“It’s gonna be a good event,” Sirott said. “We’re just a group of volunteers who love cycling and want to see competitive bike racing continue in the Spokane area, and to make it better than it has ever been.”

More than 100 people have registered for at least one of the three races in the classic, Stoker said, and his goal is to reach at least 150.

Registration is open in advance and on race day. The entry fee for all three events is $125 through Tuesday and increases to $150 after that. Racers can also register for individual events.

The omnium will open with the Bob Stoker Memorial Time Trial, named after John Stoker’s father, who died from injuries sustained in a cycling accident. The 6.7-mile course follows a favorite trail of his father’s, Stoker said, in the hills along Dishman-Mica Road.

The Liberty Road Race will follow later the same day on a 29-mile loop south of Spokane, and then the omnium will conclude the next day with the Riverbend Criterium in Post Falls. Spectators are welcome at all stages, but Stoker said the criterium is the most fun to watch.

The road race and the criterium were stand-alone events in previous years that the RC3 was able to include this omnium.

Each stage of the River City Cycling Classic is split into various men’s and women’s categories along age and skill level. A USA Cycling license is required to race; one-day licenses for novice men and women are available at the race for $10.

More information about the event is available at rivercitycycling.org.

Long term, Stoker said he could see the omnium growing into a full tour, something like the Tour of Walla Walla or the Tour de Bloom in Wenatchee. But the group is also excited to learn from finally getting to host the event, which comes amid a surge in local interest in cycling, Stoker said.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Stoker said. “(I’ve learned) there are a lot of people outside the area who have recently moved here and are looking to find a good group to ride with. I’m learning a lot of people through COVID got bicycles and want to get out there and find a community of like-minded athletes.”

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