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Cyclists tour county

June 21, 2009|By CONNER GILBERT

WILLIAMSPORT -- It's not every day that a person can simply walk out of his or her front door to watch athletes competing in a sport centered on speed, stamina and precision.

But some Williamsport residents had to look no further than their own streets to find this, as the town hosted the third and final stage of the 2009 Tour of Washington County cycling event Sunday.

"The people who live here can sit on their porches and watch a race," said event promoter Joe Jefferson. "You don't have to pay anything."

The two-day, three-stage event hosted approximately 300 riders, mostly from the Mid-Atlantic region. The competition was done in Tour de France style, meaning that the rider with the lowest cumulative time after the three stages is the winner.

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The first stage of the tour was a road race in Smithsburg on Saturday, while the final stages on Sunday were a time trial in Boonsboro and a criterium in Williamsport.

Jefferson said the participants enjoy racing in a setting a town like Williamsport offers.

"The riders love being able to be in the center of a town," said Jefferson. "It's a very technical course."

For many of the riders, racing in a small town is a much-welcome break from competing in a more urban environment.

"Most of these folks are from metropolitan areas," said promoter Tim Lung. "Ninety percent of their races are in office or industrial parks."

Washington County was represented in the tour by several members of the Antietam Velo Club who participated in the Senior V and Masters 50+ events. Jefferson and Lung are both members of the club.

But with the club assisting in the promotions of the event, Lung said some members were unable to race.

"With us being the promoters, there is a lot of work to do," said Lung. "A lot of people would love to race, but there was too much to do."

Another Washington County cyclist who participated was Brian Fouche, a Category II rider and the top racer in the county. Fouche, who lives in Hagerstown, competed in the Senior I, II, III event, the most elite event in the tour.

Lung said the success and publicity of professional cyclists has helped give credibility to smaller, local bike races.

"People like Lance Armstrong have definitely raised the level of awareness of cycling as a legitimate sport," said Lung. "People are more apt to come out."

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