SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake Downtown Criterium cycling race won't return for a fifth year next summer.
Organizers decided to pull the plug after village officials asked them to propose alternate courses for the event, which took place June 11 on sections of Main Street, Broadway, Dorsey Street and LaPan Highway. It drew between 150 and 200 competitors.
In a July 24 letter to village Community Development Director Jeremy Evans, race co-directors Hal Schmidt and Jim Walker of Team Placid Planet said they had considered other possible courses before they brought the race to the village in 2009, and again several times after receiving complaints from downtown merchants.
"We believe that all possible alternative courses are vastly inferior from a bike-racing and spectating standpoint, yet all pose substantial problems in terms of street closure, whether regarding merchants or residents or traffic flow through the community, or all three," the letter reads. "It seems apparent to us that there is not consensus on the part of the mayor and board that our event brings substantial enough benefit to the village and surrounding community to justify allowing it to continue on the present course, which all racers agree is superb."
Schmidt and Walker also said they don't want to spend another fall and winter coming up with and justifying a new, "inferior" course, with no guarantee that it will meet the village's approval.
"We've really enjoyed holding the race in your village these four years, and regret that it won't be continuing," their letter reads.
The letter was included in the village board's agenda packet Monday night, but the subject didn't come up during the meeting.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau told the Enterprise after the meeting that the village asked organizers to change the route of the race so it only went through part of the downtown. He said he competed in a criterium race in Saranac Lake 30 years ago that followed a circuit on Petrova Avenue, LaPan Highway, Main Street and Lake Street.
"We thought we could have the best of both worlds," Rabideau said. "Right now it really takes a lot of effort and a lot of sacrifice from village employees and from downtown business people to accommodate a criterium that really doesn't bring a lot of people in."
Rabideau said the response from downtown business owners to the event has been "tolerant to lukewarm.
"Nobody was head-over-heels in love with it," he said. "It really hasn't panned out in four years."
In their letter, Schmidt and Walker thanked and commended village staff for their help with putting on the criterium. They also commended the village's merchants.
"We believe our event benefited a good many of them, and we hope that any detriment felt by others was not great," the letter reads.