FORT MEADE, Fla.—For three years now, spring in Central Florida has been a glorious time for bicycle racers, race fans, and … pets.
Each year since 2009, non-profit Cycling Classic Inc. has brought cyclists and pet lovers together at the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic bicycle races, with all proceeds benefitting the Polk County Human Society.
From 2009’s two-race event, to 2010’s three-stage, Florida Cup event, to 2011’s premier Florida Crown-designated Road Race, Time Trial and Criterium, the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic has expanded and improved.
The first two events of 2011, the road race and time trial in Fort Meade, enjoyed the best possible weather and a sizeable turnout Saturday. After high winds and heavy rains tore through the area on preceding days, bright sun and mild breezes graced race day.
The morning and early afternoon saw eight separate races leave the starting line encompassing 17 different classes of riders, from ten-year0olds to Masters 65+. The youngest riders completed a single lap of the 14-mile course, while the Pro 1-2 riders finished five laps.
Late afternoon was reserved for the seven-mile time trial, where each rider went out solo to race the clock. Sometimes called “The Race of Truth,” the time trial tests each rider’s endurance, pacing, and motivation. The time trial this year featured a gradual uphill finish into the wind, which really tested the riders through the final quarter mile.
Cycling Classics provided not just first-class electronic timing and scoring for the riders, but also food, in the form of a vendor favored by the cyclists, and free water and energy drinks.
As was the case with the other Chain of Lakes events, this year’s races were superbly run. Carrie Willis, an official with USA Cycling, said “I really like coming to these events because they are so well organized. The first year was goods, and each year has been better than the last.”
The 2011 Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic is not over. Sunday brings the crown jewel of the event, the Criterium through downtown Winter Haven. Like the race, the Criterium features races all day, from 8 a.m. until late afternoon, in many different classes, plus a Bicycle Safety Rodeo for the children, Kids’ Races for 4–6 and 7–9 year-olds—all absolutely free of charge.
There will be several food vendors for al fresco dining plus sit-down snacks and meals at local restaurants and cafés, and of course, the racing … packs of cyclists thundering by at thirty miles an hour three feet away, the wind of their passing enough to snatch the hat of your head, only to return from the other direction half-a-minute later … all day long.
Bicycling Magazine has called the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic Criterium one of the best in America. You owe it to yourself and your family to come down and see why.
Directions and details for the Winter Haven Criterium are available at the Cycling Classics website.
Full results for the Road Race and Time Trial are available at Florida Cycling.com.
These space-age sculptures are Time Trial bikes—ridiculously light and ultimately aerodynamic, to give the riders maximum speed with minimum impediment. Only vaguely related to the steel Schwinn you used for your paper route, the aluminum or carbon-fiber exotics were built for one purpose only—to go very quickly for half-an-hour. (All photos: James Fish/The Epoch Times)
The Time Trial pits a rider, against the clock against the course, and against him- or herself. Riders’ faces show the effort, the agony, the exhilaration of almost competing this grueling race. (All photos: James Fish/The Epoch Times)
The young riders push themselves as hard as the adults. These younger riders use the same seven-mile course as the adults, and it takes just as much out of them. (All photos: James Fish/The Epoch Times)
Competitive cycling is great for all ages—riders at the Chain of Lakes Classic spanned six decades. The young riders here could be the Lance Armstrong or Greg LeMond. (All photos: James Fish/The Epoch Times)
Time Trial Podiums (All photos: James Fish/The Epoch Times)