PIEDMONT — Curious onlookers gathered downtown early Sunday morning to watch cyclists race in the Piedmont Criterium.
Consisting of eight races, the Piedmont Criterium marked the second day of the Alabama Cycling Classic which had begun on Saturday in Anniston with the Sunny King Criterium.
Piedmont’s modern history with cycling, besides the Chief Ladiga Trail itself, began in earnest in 1992 when the first Cheaha Challenge was held; it began and ended in Piedmont. Since that time the Cheaha Challenge has moved to Jacksonville but the city has been included in various road races over the years.
According to the locals, Sunday’s criterium may have been the city’s first ever organized race of its type to be held in the city.
Outside of Shell’s Downtown Bar & Grill on North Center Avenue patrons watched the cyclists whisk across the backdrop of scenic Dugger Mountain to the south. The cyclists’ bikes made clunking noises as gears were changed to negotiate a left hand turn onto Ladiga Street.
Bobby Carroll from Piedmont said he and his friends were just checking out the bike race, glad that an actual cycling event was scheduled.
Carroll said he believed that the criterium was the first bike race to be held in the city.
“Everything else would leave here and come back here but the race was somewhere else,” Carroll said.
Ashlee Jones, marketing liaison for the Piedmont Arts and Entertainment Committee, said the criterium was a nice event for the city and also believed it was a first for the city.
“I believe this is the first time we’re actually holding the Piedmont Criterium, it was supposed to be last year but because of COVID it had to be rescheduled,” said Jones, “We try to make it hand in hand with our Independence Day celebration for the city.”
Jones said the crowds from the Independence Day celebration held on Saturday along with Sunday’s criterium will show off the town a little bit.
At Elevated Grounds coffee shop, located next to the criterium’s route, the aroma of bagels baking in the oven along with the scents of coffee enticed cyclists. Ashley Ballew, an employee who was making caffeinated concoctions said the uncharacteristically cool morning weather helped sales.
“We’ve had customers on and off just getting some hot coffees, it’s kind of chilly today, cooler than it’s been, luckily,” Ballew said.
The third race of the day was the women's category 3-4-5, which was won by Mel Dorman from Atlanta. She said she just started cycling competitively in April.
Dorman powered ahead of the rest of the riders by strength.
“It was all power, it was big gear and just cranking it out,” she said.
Dorman was elated at her victory.
“It was pretty amazing, it was my first first place,” said Dorman.
Brady Cayet from Memphis said he did not race in Saturday’s event in Anniston but came to Piedmont just for the criterium.
“So far so good, looks like a nice town and people seem really nice too,” said Cayet.