Maxatawny Township Board of Supervisors, last month, unanimously voted against approval of the use of its roads in the annual Nicole Reinhart Memorial Tour de FCCC Bike Race.
The board's main concern for disapproving the race was not with the day of the event but with the young cyclists training on the roads during the weeks leading up to the event.
Board members said they have received various complaints in the last two years from residents, that the riders training for the race often fail to obey traffic rules and do not pay attention to traffic, creating a hazard for themselves and motorists.
Township Manager, Justin Yaich, speculated the recent onset of complaints is probably a sign of population growing in the rural areas.
Yaich and Supervisor Heath Wessner also explained that the local roads have deteriorated significantly over the past winter and are in serious need of repair, which could also create a hazard for the cyclists.
Although the board's approval is not required in order for the race to be held, Wendy Houlik, Vice President of the Young Medalists Junior Cycling team did not want to move forward without the board's blessing.
She and members of the Young Medalists Junior Cycling team attended tonight's board of supervisors' meeting to address the safety concerns in an effort to obtain township approval.
"They're giving our race a lot of credit. Whether we had our race or not that is still a very popular bike route," Houlik said of the local rural roads. "I would hate for the actions of other riders to affect our race."
She went on to explain that the route of the race is a very popular and well- publicized cycling route, and that her team trains with a coach and parents so the unsupervised young cyclists that are the cause for complaint may not even have anything to do with this race.
Team members, coaches, officials and parents all spoke on behalf of the race and praised the many safety measures in place.
Young cyclist, David Do, was the first rider to appeal to the board. "Grown-ups are always saying us kids are spending so much time on our electronics and my teammates and I like to spend our time on our bikes and in the outdoors. We like to be able to race against other kids our age and I think this is one of the best races around."
Team member Evelyn Korbich added, "Junior races like this help riders learn how to race and become safer riders. I have enjoyed this race for five years and I hope to see this race continue. I think [Maxatawny] is a gorgeous place to race."
Supervisor Mel Fishburn was the first to respond. "I would certainly reconsider. If it's the only race of its kind in Berks County I would be proud to have it here in Maxatawny Township."
He recognized that when the first vote was cast there were no positive comments made about the race, only negative responses from some of the residents in attendance that night.
Manager Yaich assured the crowd that he believed in their cause, and that the board was only concerned about everyone’s safety.
"I don't think this deliberation has anything to do with not believing that what these kids are doing is great, this is simply about safety."
Fishburn made a motion to approve the race, which was unanimously agreed upon under the stipulation that each rider sign a release exempting the township from any responsibility for injuries incurred during the race.
The decision was met with wild applause.
The race is hosted by the LWA Junior Cycling Club, and is the only juniors-only stage cycling race on the east coast, and one of few in the country.
The race is exclusively for young riders, allowing them the opportunity to compete only against riders in their age group, the age range being 9 to 18 years.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the junior stage race and the 14th year the race will be held in remembrance of Nicole Reinhart, a championship junior cyclist who was tragically killed in a stage race in Boston on September 18, 2000.
The race was first held in 1989, and was initially run in Reading at the Pagoda. It has changed locations a few times in its 25 years, moving to Maxatawny Township in 2005.
The race will be held Saturday, July 26th, starting at the Rodale Institute and proceeding through a predetermined route through Maxatawny Township.