In stark contrast to the reported throngs of spectators, who, according to newspaper accounts, were in Carroll County for a "great Bicycle Race Meet under the supervision of the Cycling Ramblers of Westminster" more than 100 years ago, my wife and I were the only persons on Main Street at the railroad tracks when an internationally known cyclist came through town at 10:48 p.m. on a Friday last month.
Philippa Charlotte "Pippa" Middleton, the sister of Kate Middleton, the duchess of Cambridge, and the sister-in-law of Prince William, duke of Cambridge and an heir to the British throne, joined a long and storied history of bicycling in Carroll County when she came through Westminster in a cross-country bicycle race.
Middleton was part of an eight-person team, the Michael Matthews Foundation, that included her brother, James Middleton. The team raised money for the foundation, which was established following the death while descending from the summit of Mount Everest of the youngest Briton to have summited the mountain.
From Oceanside, Calif., on June 14, Middleton, along with approximately 300 other bicyclists, began what many consider one of the world's toughest sporting events, the 33rd Race Across America (RAAM). They reached the finish line in Annapolis early in the morning of June 21.
When spotted in Westminster, Middleton was riding in the team car behind a teammate who was taking a turn on the bike.
We called to her attention the British phone booth behind us at Johansson's as we exchanged pleasantries while she and her teammates were stopped at the traffic light.
Although time will tell as to whether or not Middleton's appearance in town will go down as an historic event, the June 25, 1898, edition of the American Sentinel proclaimed the 1898 bicycling event "the greatest day among cyclists in Carroll County that has ever occurred in its history …," according to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Mary Ann Ashcraft.
"Every place of business in Westminster will promptly close at 12 o'clock noon … and the city will be put in holiday attire in honor of the event."
Pippa and her teammates took part in an unforgiving 3,020-mile ocean-to-ocean endurance trek across America that took them through Westminster on their way to their final destination in Susan Campbell Park at the Annapolis harbor.
The first RAAM took place in 1982. The race has trekked through Westminster since 2008.
"Racers must traverse 3000 miles across 12 states," according to the RAAM website.
"Team racers have a maximum of nine days and most finish in about seven and a half days. Teams will ride 350-500 miles a day, racing non-stop. Solo racers have a maximum of 12 days to complete the race, with the fastest finishing in just over eight days. Solo racers will ride 250-350 miles a day, balancing speed and the need for sleep. …"
In 1898, the newspaper reported, "No records were broken that afternoon, perhaps because of the 'extreme heat' reported later. The best time turned in was for the mile tandem, amateur, for Carroll County riders — just over 2.14 minutes. First prize for the winner of the twenty-five mile paced open race was a diamond ring valued at $35.00."