I'm talking to Dieter: "What's the plan?"
"Try not to get dropped, keep the wheels on the ground."
Usually at work I write about government, politics and crime in Saratoga Springs. On Mondays, I also get to write about cycling, for my weekly sports column. Below is my column for Tuesday's paper. I was hoping to include new and exciting photos from the race (I know they're out there somewhere, I talked to one of the photographers today), but none have surfaced so far. Anyhow, enjoy my words:
WILMINGTON — This weekend saw about 130 bike racers venture deep into the heart of the land of the triathletes.
While perhaps appearing similar to the uninitiated, bicycle racers — AKA “roadies,” — and triathletes are inherently different.
So it was with a little trepidation that I got in the car to drive up to this remote Adirondack hamlet for a road race, mere miles away from where thousands will compete in July’s Ironman triathlon.
Sure enough, on my way to the start line, I saw hundreds of triathletes out training on the roads around Lake Placid.
Jim Walker, co-founder of Team Placid Planet, and promoter of Saturday’s Wilmington-Whiteface Road Race, seems to have found a way for the two sports to happily coexist.
“The club was founded by myself and several other road racers. But we’re in a small community, and we have a very strong tri contingent, so we thought it would be silly not to include them,” Walker said, and added that several members of his club who focus on triathlons turned out to volunteer as course marshals on Saturday.
Although racer turnout was less than Walker and his co-promoter, Bill McGreevy, had hoped, Walker said he was happy with his club’s first attempt at race promotion.
“We were hoping for 200, but based on gas prices, which have affected all the races that aren’t really well established, and the threatening weather, it was lower,” Walker said.
He added that while small fields might have been disappointing to some racers, it gave his team of 61 volunteers a chance to run the race smoothly.
“All the feedback has been really positive. A lot of people came up to us and said it was a great race,” he said.
And it was a great race. It had everything: fast, steep descents, gut-busting climbs, sharp turns, and a steep climb to the finish high up on the flank of Whiteface Mountain — and all held on quiet country roads where we saw only a few cars.
So why was such a great race poorly attended? Gas prices certainly played a role, but the buzz on Monday was that the trip to the Adirondacks was just too far for day-trippers coming from major population centers in New York City and Boston.
To make the travel worth their while, Walker said he wants to turn the race into a two-day event in 2009.
“We’re trying to figure out how to offer some other kind of race on Sunday, a criterium or circuit race to compliment the Saturday race. We knew right from the start that it was going to be hard for people to drive up here for one race, so we’re looking for ways to increase the draw,” he said.
He added that he and other organizers had looked for a way to include a second event this year, but met resistance from the government in Lake Placid, which is perhaps weary from other events closing down street in the village, including the Ironman.
“It was a red-tape battle we didn’t want to fight,” said Walker, but said he was hard at work to find a venue for 2009.
In addition to adding a second event for 2009, Walker said he hoped the race would help spur interest in junior racing, and to that end, convinced the Cambridge-based junior club, Farm Team Cycling to come up in numbers.
Farm Team rider competed in four junior categories and the Pro/1/2/3 event, winning all four junior races.
Brittany Sumner, of Clifton Park, won the Girl’s 10 to 12 division, Keane Brennan, of Cambridge, won the boy’s 10 to 12 division, Jack McClarence, of Loudonville, won the boy’s 13 to 14 division, and Nathan Piche, of Hoosik Falls, won the boy’s 15 to 18 division.
Other local standouts included Mark Sumner, of Clifton Park and racing for Battenkill-United, who took second in the men’s 35+ division, Jenny Ives, of Gloversville, and racing for the Capital Bicycle Racing Club, who won the women’s Pro/1/2/3 event, and Kevin Mosher of Voorhesville, who took third in the category 5 event.
Matthew Purdy, of Albany, and racing for North Atlantic Velo took sixth in a pro/1/2/3 event that saw heavy hitters from the northeast and Canada tackling the difficult course.
Yann Deville, of Montreal, and racing for CIBC/Wood-Gundy, took the day’s premier prize, winning the 68-mile pro race.