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Cyclists race through town

July 07, 2002|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Spectators were sparse on Saturday as 300 to 400 cyclists raced through the Hagerstown's North End in The Hagerstown Trust/Clifbar 2-Day Challenge.

The cyclists and spectators who showed up to watch the races said they hoped support would build as the race becomes more established.

"This is a great course. We were all just amazed that they could get enough support to shut down the roads," said Bill Luecke, racing in the men's 40 and older competition.

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The cyclists often find themselves racing by warehouses in business parks so they were pleased to have such a pretty residential neighborhood to race through, Luecke said.

"I think the course is great. You have a little of everything," said cyclist Roger St. Paul, 27, of Lanham, Md.

There was a slight downhill at the start of the lap, smooth areas, a railroad crossing at Forest Drive and a slight uphill toward the finish.

There also were lots of curves. Bales of hay were tied to road sign posts near the curves in case a rider wiped out.

Races varied from 15 to 30 miles as racers lapped the 1.1-mile course. Cyclists in Saturday's main event - the men's 1,2,3 Race - were expected to average 27 mph on their 27 laps to 30 miles, said Joseph Jefferson, race promoter and director of the Antietam Velo Club.

As the main event started, cyclists in colorful uniforms took off as a pack around the first bend. As they rounded that turn a lap later they had spread out to single file, the bikes racing by sounding like a dulled swarm of bees.

"I wouldn't describe it as a particularly pleasurable experience," said Luecke, who had already finished his race.

"I was maximum heart rate the whole way," he said.

For three laps, the men in his competition raced single file, "nose to stem," he said.

"It's competition," said Luecke, 40, of Falls Church, Va. "After you're done, it's great."

While Luecke doesn't focus on spectators when racing and St. Paul doesn't hear them on the course, both said they hoped the event would draw more people in the future.

Clint Wiley and his family only had to walk out their front door on The Terrace to watch the race. They were yards from the start/finish line.

"I think it's fantastic," said Wiley, 32. "I think the city should support this kind of thing. We'd hate to lose it."

The race has been held in Frederick, Md., the past two years after being held for years on a similar course in Hagerstown's North End, Jefferson said.

Andrea Dudrow, 30, of New York City, was watching two Washington area friends compete from a blanket on a sloped lawn. Dudrow said it was "pretty cool" to watch a bike race through a residential setting.

Cycling enthusiasts Chad and Lori Bittenbender came out to support the local amateur race after having seen professional bicycle races in Southern California and Colorado.

"We felt it was important to come support this because it's a local event and a chance to meet other cyclists," said Lori Bittenbender, 27, who lives on the St. James School campus.

Bittenbender's husband, Chad, is trying to get into amateur races for road racing or mountain bikes, maybe even a biathlon with running and cycling.

The couple said they were surprised more people didn't come out to watch.

Jefferson said he expected a bigger crowd for today's championship races for District 20, which encompasses Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Washington.

While Saturday was about prize money for the cyclists, today's championship races at Hagerstown Community College's campus will be about prizes, medals and "bragging rights," Jefferson said.

There should be more spectators as the race becomes more established in the area, Jefferson said.

"We want it to become a tradition. This course provides us with a perfect location for spectators. People can walk here," he said.

Jefferson said he hopes the race will build enough support to move downtown so cyclists can race through Public Square.

"We have the racers. We just need the spectators," he said.

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