Subscribe

Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic: Still Riding for the Dogs (and Cats)

By James Fish
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 2, 2013 Last Updated: March 12, 2013
Related articles: Sports » Cycling
Print E-mail to a friend Give feedback

Mateo Sanchez, racing for LCTrainSmart/BurgerFI, accelerates at the start of his run on Saturday afternoon at the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic time trial. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Mateo Sanchez, racing for LCTrainSmart/BurgerFI, accelerates at the start of his run on Saturday afternoon at the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic time trial. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

ALTURAS, Fla.—For the fifth straight year Cycling Classics Inc. is presenting the two-day Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic in Central Florida, attracting the best bicyclists in the Southeast to compete on behalf of the Polk County Humane Society.
 
Those five years saw economic downturn, ugly political games among cycling promoters trying to keep groups of riders for their own events, and a sanctioning body trying to make more money off the event than the event could raise for donations but none of that daunted Cycling Classics organizers. The group, founded in 2008, has never strayed from its core principles: Community, Charity, Cycling.

Cycling Classics still puts on one of the most popular events in the state, despite not offering fat purses and bonus championship points. The event is popular because the Cycling Classics crew—100 percent volunteer—work hard to make sure the weekend offers an exceptional experience for riders, spectators, and sponsors alike.

Cycling Classics was incorporated as a non-profit in 2008 by Bill Cundiff, Dan Rooney, Bob Rayburn, Scott Miller, and Howard King, riding buddies who wanted to give back to their sport and their city, and to support charity; specifically, helping the Polk County Humane Society in its quest to keep abandoned or abused pets alive.

The Polk Humane Society operates a no-kill shelter—the only one in the area. Despite the cost, the staff keeps unwanted and abused pets alive and cared for until suitable owners adopt them.

In 2009 Cycling Classics Inc. successfully staged its first two-day event, and every year since its reputation has grown.

The Chain of Lakes Classic’s has not changed much since its inception. Saturday is devoted to road racing in Fort Meade, while Sunday is reserved for Criterium races in downtown Winter Haven, punctuated by the always popular Kids’ Race, where riders from toddlers to the age of ten get a chance join the excitement.

The action moves to the park in Downtown Winter Haven on Sunday. The event is open to the public and free of charge. Check it out!

In the event’s second year the organizers experimented with adding a time trial event on Saturday afternoon, after the road races; this proved so popular it has become a permanent part of the program.

Cycling Classics still puts on one of the most popular events in the state, despite not offering fat purses and bonus championship points. The event is popular because the Cycling Classics crew—100 percent volunteer—work hard to make sure the weekend offers an exceptional experience for riders, spectators, and sponsors alike.

For a while, the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic carried special status as a Florida Cup or Florida Crown event, which gave professional riders extra championship points. The elevated status was supposed to attract more riders, but also cost the organizers a higher sanction fee. Eventually the organizers decided that the event had enough appeal on its own merits, and this year’s event proves their wisdom. All the region’s best cyclists showed up not for bonus points, but to compete in a superior event.

This young lady, Nadia Latzgo racing for Exergy2016, is focused on the finish line as she completes her time trial run. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

This young lady, Nadia Latzgo racing for Exergy2016, is focused on the finish line as she completes her time trial run. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Twenty-two year cycling veteran Ken Vida, winner of the 35+ A Time Trial and a four-time Chain of Lakes participant, said he comes back because of “the competition, the organization of the race. What’s nice about this race is it’s a three race event—we have a road race in the morning, and a time trial in the afternoon and then tomorrow, in Downtown Winter Haven, we have a Criterium, so you get a lot of racing over the course of a weekend.”

The road course is both scenic and challenging, with a long, slightly uphill finish which forces riders to plan their finishing sprints carefully. The Criterium course is both challenging and interesting for riders—it is a pair of linked squares where riders have to turn both ways instead of a boring box. Add to that the races run smoothly and on schedule, and that all the proceeds—one hundred percent—go to charity, and it is easy to see why the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic has earned its place on Southeastern cyclists’ calendars.

Samantha Heinrich won the Women's Cat1-3 by an astounding five minutes. She was already over a minute ahead with one 14-mile lap to go, when she turned up the volume and buried the field. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Samantha Heinrich won the Women's Cat1-3 by an astounding five minutes. She was already over a minute ahead with one 14-mile lap to go, when she turned up the volume and buried the field. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Saturday’s Races

On Saturday, March second, several hundred riders showed up at Lake Buffem Road in Fort Meade, ready for a day of competition in a dozen classes.

Teen classes, ages ten through 18, started in the morning before the wind picked up. Throughout the day the temperatures dropped and the wind increased, making the course a little tougher for each more advanced class of riders. About half the 86 entrants of the Pro 1–2 and Cat 3 race dropped out, beaten down by both the wind and the intense pace—the winner averaged 28 mph through the 70-mile race.

The riders were out of sight for most of the lap, but the announcer kept the crown in touch with the action by passing on radio reports from out on the course. That way when the peloton came into view at the end of the long, long front straight, fans already knew who was leading the breakaway and which riders were in pursuit.

In the Pro 1–2 race, Thomas Gibbons and Callixto Bello opened a big lead through the first three laps of the five-lap race. Steven Perezluh and Bello’s team leader David Guttenplan bridged across to the leading pair by the start of the fourth lap. Guttenplan outsprinted the others to take the win.

Samantha Heinrich in the Cat 1–2 Women’s race put in one the most amazing rides of the day. She attacked alone on the first lap and by the end of the second lap had a one minute, twenty second lead. She simply scorched the road in her third lap and came home five-and-a-half minutes ahead of the field—and the rest of the field wasn’t slow by any means. Ambre Levy and Dawn Decimada took second and third.

Dan Rooney, Cycling Classics co-founder and an avid competitor, pushes hard through the final yard of his time trial. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

Dan Rooney, Cycling Classics co-founder and an avid competitor, pushes hard through the final yard of his time trial. (James Fish/The Epoch Times)

The time trial course was a simple eight-mile out-and back but it started downhill with a tailwind, which meant that the riders had to finish fighting a block headwind while climbing that long slope. The riders were truly tested in this event.

Thomas Gibbons and Steven Perezluha finished 1–2 in the Pro Time Trial; David Guttenplan, probably spent from his effort in the road race, still managed seventh.

Rebecca Clark took the win in the Women’s 1–2 TT, followed by Ambre Levy and Dawn Decaminada, who also took second and third in the road race. Samantha Heinrich came in sixth. Full results can be found online at FloridaCycling.com.

The action moves to the park in Downtown Winter Haven on Sunday, with the first race beginning at 8 a.m., the Kids’ Race at 12:15 and the final race of the day wrapping up around 4:30.

The event is open to the public and absolutely free of charge. Visit www.cyclingclassicsinc.com for more information.

The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 21 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.

 




GET THE FREE DAILY E-NEWSLETTER


Selected Topics from The Epoch Times

ET Videos