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The inaugural Chester County Grand Prix cycling competition ended with much fanfare Friday night in Kennett Square, with hundreds of cyclists competing and thousands of spectators watching.
The crowd was larger than anticipated because the event coincided with First Friday, when merchants hold special sales.
The half mile circuit through downtown Kennett Square was the shortest course in the eight race Chesco Grand Prix that started in Oxford on June 28.
After 1 hour and 30 minutes of hard, hot racing, 21 year old Ty Magner of Griffin, Georgia, sprinted clear of the three leaders to take the final 30 mile bike race with temperatures in the 90s.
Spectators lined the streets of the race course, a half-mile loop that included State, Union and Linden streets. The field of professional riders included Bobby Lea, a member of the United States 2012 Olympic Cycling Team.
Lea, 29, of Berks County, has won track and road races through the nation and is a multi-national champion. Lea said he competed in the Kennett Square race because he wanted to sharpen his form before he leaves for England for the Olympic games. Lea captained a five-man squad from Pure Energy Cycling-Pro AirHFA.
Mary Hutchins, executive director of Historic Kennett Square, said it was only fitting that the cycling event ended in Kennett Square.
“This is really good for the town,” Hutchins said. “If Kennett Square was to participate, we wanted one of the premier races. I’m really pleased with how well this was run.”
The event started with a celebrity bike race. Three cyclists — Matt Grieco, George Gower and John Sanville, who is superintendent of the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District — crossed the finish line simultaneously. Gower, an avid cyclist and president of the Longwood Rotary Club, declined to comment on reports he held back to ensure a three-way tie.
During that race, Leon Spencer, a Kennett Square councilman and former mayor, suffered a brush burn on his arm as he rounded a hard turn and crashed his bike.
“I think this race is an absolute plus for the borough and for the county for that matter,” Spencer said. “Parking’s at a premium, but that’s a good thing. This is just great for Kennett Square.”
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said one restaurant owner who had set up course-side tables just past the finish line at the Kennett Square Criterium. “But our customers loved it and it was a great attraction to bring people downtown on a summer evening.”
Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick said the race went off without a hitch.
“This is one of the best events we have introduced in a long time,” Fetick said. “I think this helps to bring the town together. It’s not just a parade, but something different. It’s active, something unique, and we have competitors coming to town competing at a high level. We worked with organizers to minimize traffic and parking events, and this was a spectacular event.”
The Chester County Grand Prix featured eight races in nine days and included racing events in many communities, including Oxford, Phoenixville, Parkesburg, Unionville and Kennett Square.
Organizer and race coordinator Rich Ruoff said the event was designed as an economic driver for the Chester Colunty region and was a relatively new concept after last year’s combination road race and tour of Coatesville.
Six of the nine venues hosted a card of multi-lap “criterium” races for amateurs, elite women and pro men with all races held on downtown circuits of 1 to 3 kilometers (0.6 to 1.5 miles). The featured pro races were at distances ranging from 35 to 50 miles with shorter distances for amateurs and women.
The Chester County Grand Prix is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the national governing body for the sport of competitive cycling.
The bike race series ends today with the Chesco Tour, a non-competitive bike ride through the Brandywine Valley that will start and finish in Marshallton at the historic Marshalton Inn and Four Dogs Tavern.
“We haven’t forgotten the area leisure riders,” Wood said. “The county’s back roads are wonderful places to explore by bicycle.”
Cyclists of all abilities and skill levels will be able to choose a 20-, 40- or 75-mile route, starting and finishing in historic Marshallton village, Wood said. “Each route will sample the quiet roads of the Brandywine Valley, ending at the Marshalton Inn and Four Dogs Tavern, where Chef David Cox will serve award-winning food and refreshments.”
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