13 March 2014

Before Portland, There Was Portland

Mention "the history of cycling"--or, in particular, "the history of road (or track) racing", and chances are people would think of Europe--perhaps specifically of France or Italy.

However, in spite of the "Dark Ages" in the post-World War II years, the United States has its own history of bicycle racing.  Most of it is still unwritten and exists--to the extent that it does--in photographs that are fading and becoming brittle as leaves in October.

I have alluded to a few episodes of that history in earlier posts about Nancy Burghart and the Six Day Races, and others in which I mention the annual Tour of Somerville (NJ) and the 1951 tandem race in New Brunswick, NJ.

Now I've come across another interesting piece of that history:  the 1967 National Road Championships in Portland, OR.

American Cycling:  October 1967 issue featuring National Championships held in Portland, OR

Yes, in Portland.  Believe it or not, people cycled there before the first hipsters moved in.  (To be fair, a lot of the newcomers were trying to live the kinds of lives they hoped to live--and couldn't afford--in San Francisco and Seattle.)  Before there were commuters and nude races there were, well, races.

Actually, it's not so surprising when you consider that most of the cycling scene of that time was concentrated on the West Coast and in parts of New England and, inerestingly, the Detroit area.  In 1967, the American racing scene was taking its first pedal strokes on its return to a place among the cycling superpowers.  Tim Mountford, Jackie Simes, Skip Cutting and John Howard--and, of course, Nancy Burghart-- were the stars in that still-limited but growing firmament of American bicycle racing.

Given that Stars and Stripes cycling was drawing the first breaths of its resuscitation, Pete Hoffman's account of the Portland championships makes for a remarkably good read.  And, of course, the photos are not to be missed.


  1. In 1967, Seattle was no more expensive than Portland.

  2. Steve--Thanks. I don't think people were moving from Seattle to Portland in 1967, though.