Local racers strong performers at bike classic
The weather was ominous and participants in the kids' races, which started at 8:15 a.m., returned with their clothes a little wetter than they would have preferred.
"It was wet, but we still had a great time," Emily Kallfelz, who finished first in the girls 8 to 12 division, said.
The rain did give most of the race a respite, but the early races, especially the Men's Category 5 race, faced slippery road conditions which caused riders to go out a bit more cautiously than normal.
Islander Chris Brown said he narrowly avoided being involved in a mass crash caused by the wet conditions. "I still am not sure how I didn't end up in it. I skidded, but I didn't lose my balance," he said.
With the Citizen's Race eliminated on race day and incorporated into the Rides and Strides event which took place a day earlier, some racers, like Brown, moved up into the Category 5 race for the first time.
Abigail Anthony, who finished third in the Women's Category 4 race, was not surprised at Brown's performance. "I ride with him. Don't let him fool you, he is wicked fast," she pointed out.
Anthony, who won the race last year, was glad to see some more competition this year.
"Sometimes the problem with Cat 4 races is that no one wants to really push it or challenge anyone else," she said. "This year it was different. Three of us broke hard starting at Eldred Avenue and East Shore Road. We were able to stay way out in front until a chase group caught up with us around the landfill. This caused the rest of the pack to have to keep up."
After rejoining the pack, Anthony positioned herself on the outside of the peloton so she would be poised to make her move.
"The downhill finish always makes me a little nervous, so I knew I wanted to be up front at the top of the hill on Hamilton. When we got there, I just put my head down and sprinted to the finish," she said.
The finish did not cause problems for most of the field, but one rider was badly injured when another rider finishing well behind her group was caught up in the sprint group from another race. The sprinter went down just shy of the finish line and was transported to the hospital by ambulance.
Jamestowner Lisa Lawless finished fourth in her age group in the Women's Category 4 race. This was the first time she raced in the pro category.
"It was such a blast," she said. "It was a great help to have Abby (Anthony) there because I just stayed close to her."
The most notable difference this year was the absence of professional Mark McCormack, who was a first-place fixture at the race for years. McCormack is now semi-retired and this year's winner, Chris Jones, said the race did have a different dynamic without him.
"With Mark here, most people just followed him around. He was usually so far out in front that no one was really going to spend the energy and wear themselves out to chase him down," Jones said. "This year, guys were a lot more aggressive, everyone kind of went for it."
Jones, who finished ninth in the nation this year, stayed with the pack for the first lap of the race and then was part of a chase group that reeled in the breakaway on the second lap. He was leading the race going into the Beavertail turn around on the final lap, but knew he could not just sit back and cruise for the rest of the race.
"Coming up the climb, myself and the guy from Kinder Velo were pretty close together. I was looking over my shoulder thinking that I had to go really soon, but I had to time it right," he said. "I ended up timing it just right because another 200 meters and the pack may have started to close on me."
Jones has raced in the Classic for the past three years and said knowing the course helped him.
"I am a climber, so the hill on the front part of the course and on the back part going out towards to Beavertail definitely played to my strengths. I kind of knew that from previous races and used it to my advantage. If it had come down to a field sprint, there were some pretty fast sprinters in the race today."
For many racers, the common theme of their post-race speeches was the beauty and quality of the Jamestown race.
One rider from the Master's division summed up the competition by saying, "This is such a great event, and I know I speak for a lot of people when I say I look forward to it every year. It is a great thing for the charities that benefit and is a staple for New England."
Coordinator Steve Mecca had no sooner given out the final awards when the rain began to fall again.
"It was a successful race and there were a lot of happy people," Mecca said. "Tomorrow the work begins for next year's race."