Tour of Washington County: Stage 1 goes to Wilson

June 16, 2012|By BRETT NIEVES | Staff Correspondent

SMITHSBURG — Stage 1 of the 2012 Tour of Washington County got rolling Saturday afternoon as cyclists in the Pro I, II, III category competed in a 64-mile road race around the hinterlands of Smithsburg.

Ryan McKinney pushed Nathan Wilson for the lead as the two crested the final hill, but Wilson hung on to claim the victory.

“It was close,” Wilson said. “Ryan’s strong, but it was nice to come out with the win.”

Wilson, 21, rides for California Giant Berry Farms and is familiar with the three-stage race.

“I’ve been coming to this race for a while now,” he said. “I grew up in Arlington (Va.), which isn’t too far away. So it was nice to win, can’t be disappointed.”

After Wilson edged out McKinney by a tire’s length, the other cyclists were pedaling towards the finish line when a motorist got out in front of the group and promptly stopped at a red light at the finish the line. Ignoring the authorities’ gestures to proceed, the motorist provided an unexpected obstacle for the riders.

The stopped vehicle didn’t impede any competitors or cause any accidents at the finish, but it was a bizarre finish to an overall smooth race.

“It’s always a challenge controlling the traffic when you really can’t promote the race,” race director Joe Jefferson said. “I think the driver didn’t really know what to do and froze up. It’s understandable.”

The race began and ended at the entrance of Smithsburg High School. The mob of elite cyclists pedaled down Leitersburg/Smithsburg Road before starting their 10, 6-mile laps around Old Forge, Beck and Unger roads.

“My aggressive start played to my advantage,” said Wilson. “I thought my fitness was pretty good and I saw an opportunity to get away on the third lap and stayed with it. There was maybe a little luck involved, too.”

Jefferson spoke highly of Wilson after his victory and labeled him as one of the best riders in the race.

“Nathan’s a strong rider,” he said. “He has the ability to dictate what’s going to happen and was able to position himself in the lead at the top of the hill.”

Stage 2 of the tour begins Sunday morning at 7 with time trials in Boonsboro.

The third and final stage — the Williamsport Criterium — begins at 11:15 a.m. Sunday and will be capped off with a 30-mile race in the Pro, I, II, III category that starts at 3 p.m.

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