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Kick-Off Criterium bike race in Washington County 'love at first bike'

June 14, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Women racers Kick-Off Criterium racing Friday in City Center Hagerstown.
By Kevin G. Gilbert / Staff Photographer

The crowd lining South Potomac Street in Hagerstown grew anxious Friday night awaiting the first of a series of bike races to begin the three-day Tour of Washington County.

Rhythmically pounding on the metal gates that separated them from a .0.8-mile course through downtown streets, the spectators produced a sound that would soon not be heeded by the cyclists in the women’s open race.

At least according to the cyclists.

“Some people say it’s like tunnel vision — I guess that’s the best way to describe it,” said cyclist Rik Lee, noting the focus a race requires that causes a rider’s surroundings to fade away.

A member of Team Integrity Cycling, based out of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, Lee, of Keedysville, Md., watched from the sidelines along with teammate Sarah Bunting during the Kick-Off Criterium that featured 45-minute stage races.

Both Lee, 53, and Bunting, 33, were recently hit by vehicles while training.

Her lower arm in a fluorescent cast, Bunting, of Martinsburg, W.Va., hopes to be back on her bike in September for the West Virginia State Championship time trails to compete in the sport she said was “love at first bike.”

Race Director Joe Jefferson of the Antietam Velo Club, which is hosting the event, said 191 cyclists were registered for Friday’s night of racing.

Co-sponsored by SRAM, a bicycle component manufacturer, the racing event can generate between $350,000 and $500,000 for the area, said Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is a sponsor of the Velo Club and the event.

“This is an exciting event for Hagerstown and Washington County ... it brings a lot of people here and a lot of families. Not just the individuals who are competing, but sort of the support team of husbands and wives and kids, and that kind of thing,” Riford said.

About 300 cyclists are expected to race throughout the weekend, Riford said.

Friday’s event began with a parade, in which bicyclists not participating in the Criterium were invited to ride.

“Cycling is really, really easy to understand,” Jefferson said as the women’s race was under way in an 18-lap run. “If you do not have a rider in the lead breakaway, you’ve got to chase,”

And “chase” was what Ted Dorsey was hoping teammate Michelle Miller would do.

Representing team Artemis, based in the Washington D.C. area, Dorsey was cheering for Miller who was about 10 spots back during lap 13, after which she gained speed.

While Miller and other cyclists were sometimes cruising within inches of each other at speeds of up to 30 mph, Dorsey, 47, said the rapport riders develop with each other eases the fear.

Dorsey of Jessup, Md., said cycling leads to “revelation.”

“You get to push yourself,” he said. “You get to surprise yourself.”

The races continue Saturday in Smithsburg, and on Sunday, in Williamsport.

Local sponsors include the city of Hagerstown, Bowman Hospitality, Conservit  Inc., Hagerstown Advance, Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Hub City Cycles, State Farm Insurance, Wantz Distributing-Victory Beer, First United Bank, Abeles Investment Consulting Group, Volvo Group, Drs. Toothman and Barra Invisalign, El Paso Mexican Restaurant, 28 South, the Flying Pie Co., The Maryland Theatre and RockStar Energy Drink, according to a release from the club.

Race results will be posted at www.avcracing.com.

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