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County set to host its own cycling Tour

June 20, 2008|By Chris Carter

The Washington County cycling scene is set to undergo a sort of a French invasion this weekend.

It shall be Le Tour de Washington County.

"Basically what we've done is combined three races into one weekend event," said race promoter Joe Jefferson. "You have to compete in all three events in order to be eligible for the grand prize. It's just like the Tour de France, only in a smaller fashion."

The first Tour of Washington County combines three annual cycling races into a two-day, three-stage race held in Smithsburg, Boonsboro and Williamsport.

The individual races are normally held at different times throughout the year, but in an effort to elevate tourism they were merged into a weekend event.

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"We've always had races to promote tourism in Washington County. It's just harder to do at three different times because of hotels and travel expenses," Jefferson said. "This is the first time we've had a stage race promoted by local organizations using only Washington County-based stages."

Racing begins Saturday at 8 a.m. with the Smithsburg road race, starting at Smithsburg High School. The course measures about 6.1 miles and, depending on the event category, the race measures from 18 to 50 miles.

All cyclists will ride the same distance when racing picks up Sunday morning in Boonsboro for time trials. The course is located on Route 67, covering 20 kilometers (12.4 miles).

The weekend wraps up with a criterium in Williamsport. The 0.7-mile course covers about seven square blocks and starts and finishes at the town post office on West Salisbury Street. Once again, the elite cyclists will cover the most ground (25 miles).

"The racing courses are identical, just some of the distances have changed," Jefferson said.

Many of the cyclists that are expected to compete for the top spots in the Senior I, II, III event are from the Mid-Atlantic region.

Jefferson pointed out two-time national time-trial champion Josh Frick, of Washington, D.C., and national road race champion Ramon Benitez, of Glenwood, Md.

Dave Fuentes, also of Washington, D.C., will compete after winning the elite race at the Lehigh Valley Classic in Allentown, Pa., just two weeks earlier.

"One thing people don't realize is our region is one of the most talented cycling regions in the nation," Jefferson said. "I can name about 10 people racing at the pro level that started locally."

Jefferson said that Dave Bozak and Ken Young could also compete well, along with local standout Brian Fouche, of Hagerstown. Fouche is the lone cyclist from locally sponsored Antietam Velo Club/Team Hagerstown-Washington County Tourism who will participate in the elite events.

Fouche said that could be good or bad, depending on the situation.

"If I'm on a breakaway, I don't have any responsibility," Fouche said. "But if a break happens, I might get left behind."

Fouche, 25, said he expects to do well in the road race Saturday because it's hilly. He is somewhat worried about the criterium because it favors sprinters.

"I'm not a great sprinter," he said. "If I can finish in the top 10 in (general classification), I'd be happy with that."

Mike Spinnler, of Hagerstown, has also questioned how he will fare in the criterium, which features four right-hand turns and one sweeping left turn.

Spinnler, competing in his first stage race, will represent AVC/Team Hagerstown-Washington County Tourism in the Master's 50+ event category.

"I've done all three courses in separate events, but the three events in a 30-hour span is what will be new for me," Spinnler said. "I'm very excited because it's a 37-mile road race Saturday morning in Smithsburg, then a 20-kilometer time trial that I think I can do well in.

"I enjoy criterium racing, but it's just not my thing. I'm not afraid to stick my nose in there and see what happens, though."

There are eight event categories - Senior I, II, III; Senior III; Senior IV; Senior V; Masters 40+; Masters 50+; Women's Open; Women's IV.

Beth Leasure, of Saint James, is the only female entrant from AVC/Team Hagerstown-Washington County Tourism and will participate in the Women's Open general classification.

"She is a national criterium champion but she will have her hands full in the road race," Jefferson said. "She might not win, but she could do well."

To compete for the general classification grand prize, cyclists in each event category must start and finish all three stages. However, other cyclists can compete in the individual races and remain eligible for the prizes in their races.

For the general classification series: 27 points are awarded for first place, 24 points for second place, 21 for third, 19 for fourth and 17 for fifth; one point less is given to places 6-20.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 350 confirmed riders, but that number could grow to more than 400.

More information on the weekend races can be found at www.bikecvcc.com/avc.

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