David Richter doesn’t live in Redmond, but he knows his way around downtown better than most.
Richter, a former professional cyclist, is the two-time defending elite men’s champion of the Derby Days Criterium, the longest continuously running “crit” in the nation.
Seventy-one years strong, the criterium continues to be one of the premiere events for citizens — and cyclists — at the city’s annual Derby Days Summer Festival.
The Derby Days Criterium is a multi-lap course in downtown Redmond, with a time limit — this year it’s 90 minutes. The racers average around 30 miles an hour and each lap is seven-tenths of a mile. Once the time limit is up, the first one to cross the finish line wins — and lately Richter has owned the elite men’s race.
“I feel like I’m a Redmond citizen with winning the race and loving the race so much,” said Richter, a 42-year-old Seattle resident. “It’s really cool that the city is part of it. This is part of the Redmond community and that’s what makes it special.”
Richter is hoping to add another win to his Redmond resume Saturday night when he competes in the elite men’s race, the finale of a nine-race schedule.
Richter has won the Derby Days Criterium three out of the last four years — he placed second in 2009 — and four times total since he began racing here in the early 1990s.
Richter, who considers himself a history buff, said the Derby Days Criterium is his favorite because of its historical significance and the enthusiasm it generates.
“It’s always been one of the premiere race dates on the calendar because it’s been around for a long time,” he said. “It’s got a lot of history to it. It’s always meant a lot to me.”
AN ‘ANCHOR EVENT’ FOR DERBY DAYS
Lisa Rhodes, the marketing director for the City of Redmond, called the criterium one of “the anchor events” of Derby Days.
“I believe it is popular because no matter how the Derby Days Festival has changed over the years, the criterium has always been consistent,” she said. “Racers can count on a quality race event, no matter what.”
That consistency is what keeps Richter coming back to Redmond every July.
Richter retired from professional cycling about five years ago, but still gets his “crit” fix at local races in the area.
Richter, who raced professionally both on the mountain and road circuits, hung up his pro wheels and now spends most of his time developing his cycling business and spending time with his wife.
But when he puts on that racing jersey — no matter the magnitude of the competition — he is ready to roll.
“I still love doing it, so I take it seriously,” said Richter. “Every time I line up, I count on winning.”
Last Sunday, Richter won the elite men’s state criterium championship in Bellingham. In addition, he crossed the finish line first at both the Walla Walla and Wenatchee criteriums earlier this year.
Joe Holmes, the Derby Days Criterium coordinator, said Richter is definitely one of the favorites at Saturday’s Derby Days Criterium.
“He’s a good sprinter,” said Holmes, who was Richter’s teammate in 2008 when Richter won the Derby Days Criterium. “He’s got a lot of experience and he has a really quick finishing sprint. He’s definitely one to watch.”
PLENTY OF MOTIVATION
Richter will be racing Saturday with his business partner, Todd Harriot and his other teammates from Harriott Sporting Performance, a cycling business in Seattle Richter co-owns with Harriot.
And with more prize money this year — thanks to a new sponsorship with Swedish Medical Center — Richter has added motivation. This year the winning men’s team will get $1,000 and the total prize money for all the races has been raised to $10,000, which is the highest criterium prize pot in the state, according to Holmes, president of the Washington State Cycling Association.
With the increased prize money, Holmes said he is shooting for a total of 500 participants during the nine races, which begin at 1:15 p.m. and conclude at 8:30 p.m.
But there will be even more people watching as the Derby Days Festival draws thousands of people, many of whom line the streets to watch the bike races.
Richter said one of the reasons he does so well racing in Redmond is because of the energetic crowd.
“I like racing around big enthusiastic crowds,” he said. “In this setting, it’s like you are putting on a show.”
Richter never thought he would be bike racing in front of screaming fans nearly 25 years ago when he was drafted out of high school by the Philadelphia Phillies, a Major League Baseball team.
He never did sign with the Phillies and instead became a professional mountain bike racer before switching to road racing. He said his pro career took him all over the world to places he would have never gone to if he wasn’t a cyclist.
But now that he is retired, his home — and heart — remain in the Northwest.
And even though he lives in Seattle, he owns a piece of Redmond history as a four-time champion of the Derby Days Criterium.
For a complete schedule of races and prize lists, visit redmondderbydays.com/criterium.