WINTER HAVEN, Fla.—For the ninth straight year, the Chain of Lakes Cycling Classic has brought some of the fastest cyclists from the Southeast to two tiny towns in Central Florida to put on two big days of high-speed racing. Held in Alturas and Winter Haven on March 5–6, this year’s event continued the tradition of offering great competition for a great cause.
With three stages of racing over two days, the Cycling Classic provides fans and competitors with a chance to experience every aspect of bicycle road-racing, from the very fast and the challenging road race and time trial route used on Saturday to the very technical Criterium course on Sunday.
As always, this year’s Cycling Classic drew praise from both competitors and fans. The event is well-organized and easily accessible for spectators, and challenging for the racers.
The best part of all is that absolutely all the proceeds go directly to the Polk County Humane Society, which, aided in part by donations from Cycling Classics through the years, has just opened a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly no-kill shelter in Winter Haven.
The Road Race
After last year’s torrential rains and the high winds which increased the difficulty of past events, fans and racers alike welcomed absolutely perfect racing weather for Saturday’s road races and time trial—mid-70s with no wind and light clouds to keep the heat down. The race follows a 14-mile route through cow pastures and orange groves, with a couple of tight turns and a long uphill finish to the lap.
Though admittedly not as spectator friendly as the Criterium racing, the road races still offer a chance to see competitive cycling up close. Still, the Saturday races are more for the riders; the Sunday event is tailor-made for fans.
The racing started at 8 a.m. with 50+-60+ Masters, 35+ Masters, and Under-14 kids, and progressed through the various categories including a pair of women-only races to culminate with the Pro 1-2s., Cat 3-4, and 15–18 Juniors. Pretty much any rider from age ten up could find a class in which to compete.
Groups of three or four races started at five-minute intervals, so there were always several groups of riders on the course. The stronger classes did more laps, with the Pro 1-2 riders racing 70 miles.
The end of the day was reserved for the Time Trial where riders race individually, competing against the clock on a simple seven-mile out-and-back course.
Next: Deceptively Difficult Time Trial