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Cyclists race through Smithsburg

June 30, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

SMITHSBURG - Although it looked like a treacherous way to finish, the final hill of the 2007 Smithsburg Road Race was a piece of cake for Stephen Koelbl.

"It wasn't that bad. I've finished on worse hills," Koelbl said minutes after he crossed the finish line to win the Juniors 15-18 division in the race Saturday morning.

Koelbl, who was a national champion two years ago, fared better than most on the course's steep final stretch, which led up Main Street toward Smithsburg and finished at Smithsburg High School.

Dan Freel, 62, of Germantown, Md., grimaced as he crossed the finish line.

"It's a cruel way to finish, especially for us old guys," Freel said.

More than 270 bicyclists competed Saturday in eight races, which were staged at different times for different age levels. The event served as the Age Graded Road Race Championship for the Antietam Velo Club, and attracted riders from Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Delaware, race promoter Joe Jefferson said.

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"It's a big event," said Jefferson, who said that the event kicked off the club's race promotion in Washington County.

The crowd cheered the bicyclists as they crossed the finish line and turned into Smithsburg High School's parking lot.

Smithsburg residents, including Jane Meyer and her 5-year-old son, Brandon, said they enjoyed watching the race from their own backyard.

"He's been really excited all week," Meyer said of Brandon. "He likes to watch the bikers fly by."

The first race began at 8 a.m., and the last was expected to finish around 5:30 p.m.

Carol Reffell of Washington, D.C., said she was there to watch her 63-year-old husband, Grahame, who has been racing off and on for 30 years.

"He's gotten back into it of late," Reffell said. "This is a kind of trial to see how he's doing these days."

Reffell said the couple have been all across the country for bicycle races.

"But this is nice," said Reffell as she sat in a folding chair beneath a large oak tree. "It's a beautiful town for a race."

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