Portsmouth to hold National Senior Games qualifier for cycling

By Kevin Colley - kcolley@aimmediamidwest.com

Over the years, and even over the past few weeks, the City of Portsmouth has hosted events that have showcased the best of the best, such as the Gene Bennett Baseball Classic among other significant events.

On Saturday morning, Portsmouth will be hosting another standout event that showcases the best of the best, and perhaps the most mentally tough among mentally tough-minded people, when the cycling edition of the Ohio Senior Games gets rolling from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Portsmouth — a event that Wendi Waugh, who is the Southern Ohio Medical Center’s Administrative Director of Cancer Services/Community Health and Wellness simply refers to as a big-time event.

Waugh, who has attended the National Senior Game meetings in Albuquerque, N.M., was sitting alongside several state representatives for the games when she first got wind that the host site of the games, Columbus — who hosted the remaining list of Senior Games — wasn’t going to have a suitable place for cycling aficionados to ride.

“The games have already been held in Columbus, but Portsmouth had been hosting regional games here as a qualifier for the state level,” Waugh said. “Myself, along with a couple of my colleagues, have attended the national game meetings, so we’ve met some of the people from Ohio who coordinate the games. They were telling me that they didn’t have a place to host the cycling races in Columbus this year. They couldn’t identify a place in Columbus where they would be able to close the streets and host the cycling races. My response was, ‘Let me get back with the City of Portsmouth and see if we can formulate a course that we can host in Portsmouth.’”

The result, you ask? A huge opportunity for Portsmouth to showcase the tradition and the present factors that are strong in the city, such as the Portsmouth Murals, Alexandria Point, and Shawnee State University, among other key notes.

“It’s a huge opportunity for our area to showcase some of the natural resources that we have here in the Portsmouth area, from the natural resources to the murals that we have here, as well as the general hospitality that we offer.” Waugh said. “I know that some of the participants have already been in town last week because they wanted to see the course in advance.”

What’s better is the fact that most of the riders will be visiting Portsmouth for the first time in their lives — which gives Portsmouth a chance to showcase some of the finest local businesses and restaurants in the community and will most certainly provide a spark in tourism dollars, with all of the riders staying in local hotels across the county and area.

“The vast majority of these riders are coming from out of town,” Waugh said. “There will be less than 10 local riders participating. Some of the participants will be making their first visit ever to Portsmouth, and all of them will be staying all night in Portsmouth on Friday night because the race begins at 7 a.m.”

The event’s cast of characters has also inspired individuals to come out and help aid the cause. When it’s all said and done, over 60 volunteers will be assisting in the production of the cycling races that will take place throughout Saturday morning and early Saturday afternoon.

“It teaches our local community that they can do this, too,” Waugh said. “We’ve got a 90-year old male competitor with several additional competitors in their 80s, and we have two women that are 79 and 77 years of age that will be participating, so it really says, ‘There’s no reason that I can’t do this, too.’”

The top four finishers in the three cycling races — the 5K, the 10K, and the 20K — qualify for the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque.

The races will begin on Front Street near the Scioto County Welcome Center, and, as a result, the roads on Front, Alexandria Point, Second, Madison, Third, Court, Eighth, and Washington will all be closed from 6:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday in order to accommodate the event. As of late Friday evening, there will also be no street parking at these locations from Friday evening through the race time on Saturday.

By Kevin Colley