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Cyclists test endurance in Hagerstown race

July 10, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Bicycle racers round curve from The Terrace onto West Irvin Drive Saturday during the Hagerstown Challenge Criterium.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- It's a sport that values the ability to suffer.

Blistered hands, bloody knees and heaving lungs -- cycling is a test of human endurance.

Wedged shoulder to shoulder and bursting through hairpin turns, crashes come without warning and riders can topple like a house of cards.

Fatigue takes over, legs and spirit start to wobble and thoughts begin to seep through -- quit.

But they don't.

Both man and machine seem to be made of iron.

This is the world of competitive cycling -- adrenaline-charged athletes rolling like a juggernaut, struggling for position, hoping to snatch victory in a contest where hesitation won't win the race.

The color and excitement of the sport came to the streets of Hagerstown's North End on Saturday as 300 cyclists competed in the Hagerstown Challenge Criterium, a short-course race that featured multiple laps at high speeds.

The Antietam Velo Club/Team Hagerstown-Washington County served as promoters of the event. Sponsors included the City of Hagerstown and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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According to Joe Jefferson, a member of the local cycling club, Saturday's race was a championship competition, featuring elite riders from across the mid-Atlantic region.

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

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

Jefferson said Hagerstown has been hosting the criterium for more than 20 years.

"Racers really like this location," he said. "They would rather race in a neighborhood than a business park."

Jefferson said the race also is an opportunity to spotlight Washington County, which has "the best scenery and the best roads for cycling."

Each year, a portion of the challenge's proceeds benefits local charities, Jefferson said. One of this year's recipients will be the Hagerstown City Fire Police.

Amy Ruthhauser of Frederick, Md., found a spot along the course to cheer for a friend who was among the competitors.

A college student majoring in fine arts, she took time during the race to practice her photography skills.

"With all of the color and action, you can get some great shots," she said.

Ben Clancey, who lives on Oak Hill Avenue, brought his 6-year-old son, Trey, to watch some of the race.

"I think it's neat that something like this is offered in a residential setting," he said. "It's quite a sight. You read about events like this. But to see it in person, it's really something."

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