2006-10-05 / About Town

Jamestown Classic is the largest bicycle road race in Rhode Island

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown Rotary Club kicks off its 31st annual bike race this Monday, Columbus Day, Oct. 9, at 8:30 a.m. Novice racers and professionals will come from all over the country to compete in the state's largest road race and one of the nation's top three qualifying Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Racer Series.

According to Stephen Mecca, the organizing committee chairman, close to 700 challengers are expected to enter the competition, and a minimum of 100 volunteers will lend their services to the event. "And we're always looking for more," he added, referring to participants as well as volunteers.

Events begin with novice children, followed by the BankNewport 'Round the Island Race for novice men and women ranging in age from early teens to over 70. Medals will be awarded in all categories. Racers licensed with the United States Cycling Federation will enter the USCFsanctioned series starting at 11:30 a.m., competing for over $4,000 in prize money and recognition.

Mecca, a member of the Jamestown Rotary Club that sponsors and organizes the event, expects the race to be very exciting, "especially with three current USCF title holders attending," he said. "We even have an international level rider from Brazil," he added.

Mecca also said that the LAJORS-qualifying event attracts top young competitors from the Northeast and beyond. "Some of the kids participating will go on to be Olympians in the next Olympic Games," he noted. "We like to promote healthy options for kids," he said.

Mecca said this race is different from a charity ride, which would focus mainly on fund-raising. A large portion of the participants pay their entry fee and focus on the race, "and any donations beyond that are considered extra," he said.

The price tag of putting on such a prestigious race is not cheap, either. "We have a whole army of professional race officials, and a professional race finisher, not to mention the fee to the USCF. All that cost money," Mecca explained.

Nevertheless, Mecca continued that the strong community support has helped the Rotary Club turn a competitive event into a positive fundraising effort.

"It's grown from raising only $700 or $800 in the beginning to raising close to $18,000 now," he said, noting, "The Rotary's whole objective is to raise money for humanitarian efforts." Mecca credited all the local

sponsors and volunteers who contribute to make the day a success. With contributions from the local to state level, "it's a huge community effort," he said.

According to news on the Jamestown Classic's Web site, proceeds from the race will help pay for wheelchairs to be shipped to Nicaragua through the Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. "We contribute toward many community projects. We've invested over $20,000 for the wheelchairs, and helped to raise money for 23 homes in India. The list of community projects goes on and on," Mecca noted.

Town Councilman Michael Schnack, who is also on the organizing committee, praised the race and encouraged all to step outside and see some of the top cyclists in the world perform on Conanicut Island. "It's an exciting event for us to have here," he said.

For those who would like to register, volunteer, or learn more about the race, go online to www. jamestownclassic.org or call Stephen Mecca at 423-3342 or Nick Morenzi at 423-2407.

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