Patrons cheer as fat tire cyclists race through bar.
Cyclists are applauded by spectators and patrons Sunday as the Tour de Brew races through the Allentown Brew Works. (Kathleen X. Cook, Allentown Morning Call / September 9, 2007)
It was almost a normal Sunday afternoon at the Allentown Brew Works. Patrons occupied every seat at the bar. The Philadelphia Eagles played the Green Bay Packers on two wide-screen TVs. And, shortly after 3 p.m., at least 30 sweating, brightly jerseyed mountain bikers made brief, noisy passes through the brew pub’s first floor, on a course marked by dozens of small, neon-orange cones and twin sets of stacked Firestone racing tires.
The first edition of the Tour de Brew, featuring a 15-lap mountain bike race whose course included nine laps of air-conditioned bar time, was putting a memorable exclamation point on a day of bike racing, one organizers hope will become an annual event.
The brew pub, which opened this summer, and Emmaus-based Bicycling Magazine, co-sponsored the event. The International Cycling Center, a Trexlertown-based group trying to establish a cycling hall of fame, presented the day’s bike racing.
Earlier, seven other races, some for licensed professionals and other, free ”street sprints” for children, took place on the streets surrounding the 800 block of Hamilton Street, where the brew pub is located.
The day’s final event, the Fat Tire Mountain Bike Race, included laps through the brew pub, entering from the facility’s Maple Street side, turning sharply left between a series of booths and a dividing wall and, in a tricky maneuver, slicing a sharp right then a quick left through the brew pub’s main entrance — watch out for that plate glass window, riders!
While there were several crashes on the road bike criterium or ”crit” course outside, including at least one mountain biker who skidded across some vinyl street marking material, there were no crashes in the brew pub.
The riders were instructed to essentially hold their position and stop racing as they pedaled through the pub, but this being a bike race and the participants being mostly bike racers, several appeared to try to put distance between themselves and their competitors during the ”cool-down time” in the pub. More than a few riders, apparently taken by the thrill of riding through a working, crowded, air-conditioned bar, did a small, joyous wheelie at the start of the long straightaway in the bar.
At each lap, the crowd of more than 100 cheered the riders but after several laps, it seemed difficult to figure out what rider was winning and which riders were trying to catch the leader.
The first three and final three laps took place outside, on a course used by the road bike racers earlier in the day. Barriers and Allentown police officers kept motor vehicle traffic off the course.
For the fat tire race, a Gilbertsville, Montgomery County, mountain bike racing specialist, Aaron Snyder, 20, riding for the Emmaus-based South Mountain Cycle, a bike shop and coffee bar, won a sprint finish against Brett Jacoby, an 18-year-old rider from Wind Gap, who led for several laps.
Snyder, who has raced mountain bikes exclusively for eight years — most of the other riders also race the thin-tired road bicycles as well — said the course was difficult.
”The best part was definitely going through the brewery. The air conditioning felt great,” Snyder said. The crowd’s cheers also helped. ”It’s always great, especially when you hear someone yell your name.”
”Riding through the bar was great,” added Selene Yeager, the Fit Chick columnist for Bicycling Magazine, and one of two women to finish the grueling race. Yeager, racing for FitChick Ink, outsprinted six men to claim a personal victory, even if the race had already finished.
Earlier in the day, the Via Lehigh River Marathon Run also started at Ninth and Hamilton Streets and the runners sprinted past the front of the brew pub for the first of their 26 miles.
”It’s been really a great day for sports,” said Allentown Mayor Ed Palowski, who watched the mountain bike race from inside the brew pub. ”We want to bring more and more events like this downtown this year, so people can have a really positive experience.”
Jeff Fegley, who helps run the family-owned Brew Pub in Allentown and a second one in Bethlehem, was already thinking about plans for next year. ”Once word gets out, I think even more people will come and watch. Where else can you see a bike race through a bar?”