Friday, May 29 I hopped in my Kia Sportage, threw in a Tom Petty CD, and headed toward Jeff’s Bike Shop. For a moment I was teleported back to 1989, only then I would have been hopping on my smoky purple Diamond Back mountain bike, neon pink water bottle in tow, Full Moon Fever blaring in my head. The destination would be the same. Of course, in the late 80’s I would wheel from Burlington to downtown Huntington to clock in at my first real job.
On this particular Friday in the present I was driving my five year old son down to meet with some other Joys, his grandfather, uncle, cousins, to what I will consider to be his first press conference. Two news stations were there to interview four generations of Joy men that would be racing in the 5th annual McDonald’s Criterium, of which Jeff’s Bike Shop is a founding sponsor. My father represented the oldest member of the Joy clan, while my brother, his son, grandson, and my boy all took part in the festivities. At 3, a full seventy years younger than my father, Levi’s cousin Enzo, was to be the youngest racer.
It was all pretty cool. One of the newscasters referred to it as a family reunion of sorts, and it was. It was also a blast from the past, present, and future, all in one shot of the five riders lined up from youngest to oldest.
My son jumped up and down with excitement when I asked him if he wanted to be in a bike race. He has two Specialized bicycles to choose from and chose the smaller one, not fully comfortable with the weight of his newest yet. We practiced riding up and down the street, his mother and I close by. When it came time to race, he lined up with a dozen or so other three to five year olds, all sweaty and thrilled on the humid May day. The race began, and in a blink of excitement and pride, it was over. Levi’s only complaint was that it didn’t last longer. He was ready to keep going and going.
Beyond the obvious family pride, I was also proud of my community. Huntington is often derided for its lack of focus on fitness, a false ridicule proven wrong by days and events like this. In addition to the focus on fitness such an event brings, it also has a big impact on the downtown economy. Over five hundred racers and spectators packed Pullman Square.
The Criterium is host to tons of local bikers, as well as racers from all over, who descend on Huntington once a year to bring the joy of cycling to our downtown streets. This year’s race was also designated as the West Virginia State Criterium Championship. (And Jeff Joy won the West Virginia Criterium Championship.)
The race is a really bright feather in the Tri-State’s cap, one that I hope to see continue for many years to come. I know Levi Joy is already counting the days until next year’s race.