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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 1, 2009

Rain holds up for Annual Altamont Circuit Race

By Jordan J. Michael

ALTAMONT –– The Annual Altamont Circuit Race on Sept. 27 pleased everyone from a hardcore cyclist to a community caregiver.

Over 100 bikers came to Altamont on Sunday to race on the 3.8-mile course despite the threat of rain. The event featured kids’ races in the morning, all the way up to a pro race at the end.

“There was an overwhelming chance for rain today, so we lucked out,” said Judith Wines, director of the Altamont Free Library, for which the Circuit Race was raising money. “I lost sleep because I thought it would rain all day.”

The races would have gone on as planned even if it had rained, but the course would have been a lot less safe for the riders. “It’s comforting that the rain held off,” Wines said.

Dieter Drake, the race creator with Wines, has promoted numerous races over the past couple of years, but has never seen a drop of rain on race day. “It was raining on my way here, but it stopped when I arrived in Altamont,” said the Altamont native.

The race course started in front of Hungerford Market on Main Street and took a left onto Route 156 at the corner of Stewart’s and continued until Brandle Road, where competitors turned left and followed that road all the way back to Main Street.

Scott Hodder, a cyclist from Oceanport, N.J., won the 50-60 race with a time of 1:10:45 and continued to ride in the Pro race, which was the next race. He went on to finish fifth in the pro heat. (See picture page at the center of the newspaper.)

“Bike racing is a big part of my life and that is why I’m here today,” said Hodder between races, barely winded. “I’ve been doing it for 30 years. I used to race as a pro.”

“These men and women are quite fit,” said Drake at the finish line. “With short tracks like this, they can afford to race more than once.”

According to Bob Pavelec, an official USA Cycling timer who was on hand at the races, every participant on Sunday had to have a bike license. “Everyone starts as a Category 5 and then you move up accordingly,” he said. Bikers can move all the way up to Category 1. “It’s all about experience,” he said.

Also, riders had to stay between the lead and the trailing pace car to technically be counted in any race.

The hardest part about getting the race together was finding enough volunteers. Plenty of people showed up at a meeting hosted by Drake and Wines on Sept. 22, but most of them knew nothing about a circuit bike race.

“It was cool watching the people file in to the meeting and learn how a bike race works,” Wines said. “They learned the trade and we may have made a few new fans.”

“We expected 30 people and 60 showed up. It’s always a struggle to find volunteers, but that was not the case,” said Drake. “I explained to them that they have to be very aware on a short track. Bike racing is fast and there is so much happening on a short circuit.”

Ryan Serbel of Benton, Pa. won the pro race with a time of 1:38:56. Andrew Ruiz of Albany finished in 1:28:55 to place first in the 30-40 heat. Keane Brennan of Cambridge finished first in the juniors race with a time of 0:37:30. The Category 4/5 race was the biggest of the day and Ben Dolva, an exchange student from Norway, won it in a time of 1:06:41. Johnathan Sussman of Slingerlands finished the 5C heat in 0:28:40 to take first. The women’s field was led by Lori Foster of Kingston.

“This was a very successful day,” Drake said. “Usually, people are thinking of packing in the bike in late September, but they came on out.”

Another big concern for Sunday’s Circuit Race was the traffic situation. The finish line was at the intersection of two main roads and there was some congestion. Volunteers were constantly directing traffic.

“We never had a problem with this idea for a bike race in Altamont. We made it work,” said Public Safety Commissioner Anthony Salerno. “It’s important to have cooperation from everyone –– the riders, the drivers, the volunteers, and the spectators. Eveything seems to be working.”

Kristin Casey, an Altamont resident who helped coordinate the Annual Circuit Race, told The Enterprise that the whole community pulled together to make the event happen since its induction in March. “The feedback is very positive and people seem to be really excited,” she said. “We’re looking forward to this every year now.”

Andrew Williams of Binghamton and Pete Hoag of Dansville made the drive to compete on Sunday and were impressed with the turnout.

“We had a lot of fun, so it was worth the drive,” said Hoag. “The course was good, but not hard climbing, and it had good pace. This event was well organized. I think we’ll come back.”

After promoting a race in the Catskills the weekend before, Drake may have acquired a new idea for the Altamont Circuit. “That one in the Catskills was a road race over three days,” he said. “We could do a long road race with the hills that we have around here. It’s just something to think about.”

Drake told The Enterprise that Sunday’s race was impressive for an annual event. “Usually, first-year races are in the middle of nowhere and not many people show up,” he said. “But, Altamont is a great place with great business and helpful people.

“Altamont made this happen.”

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