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250 bicyclists compete in Hagerstown Cycling Challenge

July 12, 2008|By MARIE GILBERT

They are road warriors who straddle a fine line between recreation and risk taking.

Speed is their weapon, skinned knees and scars are their badges of honor.

Throttling down straightaways at 40 mph and letting physics take over in the curves, they thrive on the adrenaline rush.

Bike to bike, rider to rider, they swerve and glide, eyes always focused on the finish line.

This is the tightly tuned world of bicycle racing, a sport that tests the grit, as well as the lung and leg power, of its competitors.

It's not for the faint of heart, as witnessed Saturday on the streets of Hagerstown's North End.

One wrong move and a crash quickly can domino into multiple spills.

About 250 cyclists from across the mid-Atlantic region competed in the Hagerstown Cycling Challenge, one of several Washington County races promoted this year by the Antietam Velo Club/Team Hagerstown-Washington County.

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The event was a criterium, or a short-course race, which featured multiple laps at high speeds, said Joe Jefferson, club member and co-promoter of the challenge with Tim Lung.

The race began and ended at the intersection of Woodland Way and West Hillcrest Road. Racers followed a roughly 0.7-mile course that led, in part, down Park Lane, The Terrace and West Irvin Avenue.

Saturday's competition consisted of races staged for various skill levels, Jefferson said. Racers competed for medals, cash and merchandise prizes.

Hagerstown has hosted the race for more than 20 years, Jefferson said.

"It's become a summer tradition," he said. "Our club is sponsored by a lot of local businesses, plus the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. So we think this event is a great way to showcase the city."

Jefferson said holding a cycling race in a neighborhood is a unique experience for both racers and residents.

"A lot of races like this are held in business parks. This is a much nicer atmosphere," he said. "Spectators can sit on their front porch with a cup of coffee and watch the race go by."

Jefferson said bicycle racing always has been a popular sport, "but new people are always filtering in."

"A lot of runners have become interested in cycling," Lung said. "They come into it with good fitness backgrounds. It's the tactical part they have to learn."

Lung, 52, said he has been involved in cycling since he was 18.

"I really wasn't an athletic person, but I liked to ride a bike," he said.

Lung then discovered racing.

"It's been in my blood ever since," he said.

While it's fun to be a participant, Jefferson said it also is fun to be a spectator.

That's why he likes to take racing to a neighborhood.

"A lot of people watching today's race probably wouldn't be exposed to the sport if it didn't go by their front door," he said. "It's a great opportunity to watch some talented athletes in action -- and it's free."

Among those cheering on the racers was Shelly Staley of Hagerstown.

"I have two friends who are in today's race," she said. "I really wanted to come out to support them. Hopefully, they'll both come home winners."

Darryl Webster was accompanied by his 3-year-old son, Ethan, who rode his tricycle to the race.

"We live nearby, so I thought this would be a great experience for both of us," he said.

Jefferson, who raced Saturday, admitted bicycle racing isn't for everyone.

"Cycling is all about who can suffer the most," he said. "He who suffers the most wins the race."




Race winners

The following were the winners of Saturday's races at the Hagerstown Cycling Challenge.

  • Women's I, II, III -- Sarah Caravella, Richmond, Va.,

  • Women's III -- Elizabeth Harlow, Baltimore

  • Women's IV -- Ainhoa Perez-Diez, Rockville, Md.

  • Men's Senior I, II, III -- Dave Fuentes, Ashburn, Va.

  • Men's Senior III -- Brandon Lumm, Washington, D.C.

  • Men's Senior IV -- Greg Strimbo, Washington, D.C.

  • Men's Senior V -- Matt Nowak, Washington, D.C.

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