Bike race takes to the skyway

Tiff Clements

The St. Paul skyway system was filled with the low hum of mountain bikes racing along the tiled and carpeted floor Wednesday night.

The Red Bull Skyride, the first of its kind, turned 50 Minnesota cyclists loose on a one-mile stretch of the St. Paul skyway system. The course wound its way through downtown over varying surfaces; racers were even asked to dismount for a flight of stairs near the RiverCentre.

Racers, aged 15 to 45, were sent individually through the course at one-minute intervals, racing with the clock in two heats for “bragging rights and creative prizes,” according to a news release.

Two members of the University cycling team were invited to participate in the race. The slots went to 2004 graduate Josh Schwantes and art senior Matt Kriegler.

Kriegler has been cycling his whole life and racing for 10 years. He said the invitation-only event was right up his alley.

Graduate student Kristi Olson was the only woman in the race. Olson said she viewed the race as training for an upcoming trip.

“This will be a good warm up for my mountain biking vacation,” she said.

The Skyride is the brainchild of Minneapolis biking enthusiast Adam Buck. Buck said he wanted to put together a cycling event like none he’d seen before.

He said he felt the Twin Cities would be a great place to host this type of race because it’s home to some of the largest skyway systems in the world.

Buck first presented the idea to officials in Minneapolis and received a firm no. He then contacted the sports marketing team at Red Bull for help. Buck had done promotional work with the company in the past.

Together they pitched the idea to St. Paul officials, who thought the idea sounded interesting.

Bill Buth, president of the Greater St. Paul Building Owners and Managers Association, said the event will bring St. Paul some good publicity.

“I’m not crazy,” Buth said. “You only go around once, and if it’s never been done before, we’re going to be the first.”

Buth said the business owners in his association had some concerns about the event. He said they were worried about property damage and the safety of pedestrians in the skyways.

Organizers made sure to schedule the race around other downtown events such as Minnesota Wild hockey games. The race route also was staffed with 40 to 50 marshals, placed at intervals to warn pedestrians about the race and notify them when it was safe to cross the track.

Communication studies senior Bentley Newton and a team of seven other students were allowed to film the race and the events surrounding it. Newton plans to turn the footage into his senior project.

A camera operator working with Newton rode behind a race participant and videotaped the course with a helmet camera.

Newton said most sports videos are “just action shots set to punk music.”

“I wanted to do something different, something that deals with people,” he said.