Hundreds of bikers prepare for island race on Columbus Day
On Monday, Oct. 10, the 36th edition of the Jamestown Classic bicycle race will wind through the streets of Jamestown. Between 500 and 550 riders are expected to participate in a race that has become one of the most important events on the New England cycling calendar.
According to Rep. Deb Ruggiero, a member of the Jamestown Rotary Club, “The Jamestown Classic is the largest bike race in Rhode Island and it’s a major fundraiser for Jamestown Rotary. The money we raise supports the Jamestown schools, Boy Scouts, as well as international projects such as a literacy program in Ghana, and the purchase of wheelchairs for underprivileged in Nicaragua. Anyone who bikes on this island knows how beautiful it is.”
Initially the race was just an opportunity for people living in Jamestown to ride their bikes once around the island. It started as a family and youth event. It was informal and without any prizes. In the last 10 to 15 years the event has grown significantly. Cyclists come from all over New England, New York and New Jersey, and many of the riders are active with various cycling organizations and maintain records of their competitive times. A number of the competitors are considered professional riders, and the racing is highly competitive.
The Jamestown Classic is the last competition of the racing year for many racers, and many of them are anxious to end their season on a positive note.
Jim Traer, president of the Rotary Club of Jamestown, has been on the island for 10 years. During that time, the weather has always cooperated on race day. “We have never had a rainy day,” he said. “It’s always been one of those perfect New England days with sun and some breeze. People like it very much. It’s become popular on the island. We’re drawing more and more people. We see more women racing now than formerly, and that’s good. It’s just a very enjoyable athletic event.”
Racers are divided into categories based on characteristics like gender, age and competitive level. They set off on the 19.5-mile course around the island in staggered starts. The most competitive racers ride two laps around the island, with the balance of the field taking one. Lap times can range from 10 to 15 minutes. Each group of riders is preceded by a car to help ensure the safety of the riders, and there is a followcar as well.
The start and finish line for the Jamestown Classic is at the recreation center on Conanicus Avenue. Racing begins at 8 a.m.
“We have been really blessed with the cooperation from all kinds of folks,” Traer said. “We will have police stationed at possibly seven, but at least five locations. The Fire Department and EMS will supply a rescue vehicle, and will have first aid available. We have good cooperation from the rec center, and I think we’ll have some student volunteers.
Traer points to the Route 138 ramps that bring cars onto the island as areas that will definitely have a police presence for the classic.
The Rotary Club expects to bring in about $20,000 from the event as a result of entry fees. Payments made to race officials, the cost of providing a T-shirt to every participant and volunteer (there will also be T-shirts for sale to spectators), and other expense items should result in a net of $12,000 to $14,000. Those funds are used only for charitable purposes.
The Rotary Club spends 50 percent of its income on local charitable causes, such as contributing to a playing field for the public schools. Scholarships are provided to high school students who want to study abroad, and for unpaid internships. Gifts have also been made to music and arts activities.
International charitable donations account for 30 to 40 percent of the Rotary Club’s giving programs. Among these is Polio Plus, an effort to eliminate polio from parts of the world where the disease remains a problem. Rotary also helps to defray the costs of sending doctors to Latin America where they run clinics.
Dr. Steve Mecca, a member of the Jamestown Rotary Club, became associated with a university in Ghana. At the time he began his association there was no university library. Subsequently, many Rotary Clubs and school systems have been sending books to Ghana. Mecca was active in the growth of the Jamestown Classic prior to his involvement in Ghana.
The Rotary Club is still seeking volunteers to help out with the event. Traer says that 15 to 18 marshals are placed at strategic points around the island. Their prime responsibilities are to point competitors in the right direction (there will also be signs on the course), and to be available in the event of an accident.
“People don’t volunteer as readily as they did 10 or 20 years ago, partly because they’re busy or have family responsibilities,” Traer said. “We can use more volunteers than we presently have.” Anyone interested in being a volunteer can call Traer at 423-9199, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, Oct. 6, is the last day for online registration for the race.