LEWISTON — Cyclists in tight packs raced around Kennedy Park and the downtown Sunday, raising money for the local Boys & Girls Club.

The Criterium, a race that includes several laps around a closed circuit, was put on by the Auburn-Lewiston Rotary Club and Rainbow Bicycle.

“We’re very pleased with the results of the first year at this venue,” said John Grenier, the owner of Rainbow Bicycle on Lisbon Street. “We’ve raised just over $5,000.”

Grenier said locals were excited about the race.“People were lined up on the curb of the street near the finish line, giving high fives. And the diverse population downtown seems to be embracing it.”

Local racers from Lewiston and Portland, and some who traveled from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, seemed to embrace the Lewiston area, Grenier said.

“From the riders, we’re hearing that everyone loves the course,” he said. “The pavement is a little rough, but they are skilled enough to navigate it.”

The riders averaged 26 mph, with 25-40 laps per race, depending on the category and speed, Grenier said.

About 125 racers signed up and registered for the races. Registration fees went toward funding for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Maine’s Auburn/Lewiston Clubhouse.

Peggy Mae, who works at Victor News on Park Street, was walking home when she saw the race. “I’ve never seen one of these before; it’s really cool.” she said. “This is amazing watching it. These people are so in shape.”

“And what a great day for it,” Mae added. “It’s nice and cool and breezy. Although that breeze might have just been the bikers going by.”

A Criterium race is a style of bike race with tight corners and tight pack racing. It’s a shorter and faster course. Sunday’s course was a 0.7-mile, six-corner technical loop around Kennedy Park with a short climb toward the end.

As the difficulty level increased, so did the length of the race. The number of laps depended on the speed of the racers.

Sunday’s event consisted of six races, about an hour each, from 9:30 until 2:30.

The kids’ race was free and a bike raffle was open to all children.

Joe Lynch of Portland nabbed first place in the Master Men 45+ division by finishing nearly a full lap ahead of the other riders.

“On behalf of Downeast (Racing Team) riders, we thank the town of Lewiston for hosting the race and being wonderful about it,” Lynch said.

Lewiston native Angelea Preston took the gold in the Master Women Category 4 race Sunday, and was pretty excited about it.

“It was a good race,” she said. “It’s disappointing that our fields are so small, not a lot of women out racing. But it’s fun.”

Bicycle races are a lot more tactical than most people think, Preston said. It’s not just go fast and turn left. It involves strategy and rules about who and when you can follow and working as a group, she said.

Preston said that once you’re separated from the front of the pack, it’s very difficult to get back. “You have to work really hard.” Quite a few bikers drop out of races if they fall so many seconds or minutes behind, knowing it’s too much of a gap to catch up to the front, she said.

Sam Rosenholtz won the last race of the day, the Men Pro, with a long and fast sprint at the end. “It’s been a great first time here in Lewiston,” he said. “It was a blast.”

Rosenholtz, of Brookline, Massachusetts, said the organizers did a great job of putting on the race. And about winning: “It feels great.”

Jessica Reid, who works for the Rotary, noted that the race brought a lot of different people out. “There’s been a lot more excitement and community knowledge about this race. This kind of stuff will bring more things to Lewiston.”

All of the roads around the course were blocked off and manned by volunteers, but when the traffic light at the intersection of Pine and Bates streets turned red, part of me was surprised that the bikers didn’t stop.

Auburn-Lewiston Rotary Club Criterium winners:

* Category 4/5 Men: Jeremy Marchessault, Rancourt & Co/Rainbow Bicycle Team, 47:20.

*Juniors 10-14: Aiden Simmons, HK2 Team, 27:59.

* Juniors 15-18: Jacob Bucci, 1K2Go Team, 28:29.

* Women Pro Category 1/2/3: Leslie Timm, Sunapee/Continental Paving/Buchikas Team, 47:08.

* Women Category 4: Angelea Preston, Maine Cycling Club Racing Team, 37:35.

* Master Men 45+: Joseph Lynch, Downeast Racing Team, 50:15.

* Men Pro Category 1/2/3: Sam Rosenholtz, Green Line Velo Team, 58:50.

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