Riding Round And Around: Claremont Bike Races Draw Riders From All Skill Levels
Michael Lovell, of Croydon. N.H., rides up the parking lot with his dog Milo, after the race at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H. on Aug. 20, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
While the rules of the race are announced, Michael Lovell, of Croydon, N.H., looks down the line before the start of the race at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H. on Aug. 20, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Cyclists race around the track for the Claremont Cycle Depot Bike Club's weekly race at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., on Aug. 20, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
After the race, cyclist Richard Sealey, of Enfield, N.H. congratulates Chris Watt, of Auburn, N.H., for placing in the weekly race in Claremont, N.H., on Aug. 20, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Race organizer John Lambert rings a bell to alert racers the next lap will be a sprint during the weekly bicycle races held at Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H., on Aug. 20, 2013. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Bicyclist race around the track at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, N.H. on Aug. 20, 2013. Claremont N.H., for the Claremont Cycle Depot Bike Club weekly race.
Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »
Claremont — The summer bicycle races at Twin State Speedway attract all sorts of riders — from pros who just want to stay in competition mode to talented young cyclists from Killington Mountain School. The Claremont Points Race Series draws some fast not-so young riders, as well.
On a recent Tuesday evening, Richard Sealey, 67, won top points in his group. The Enfield resident wore a black jersey with the image of a pirate on it, small black hoops in both ears, and the wild grin of a guy who really loves to ride.
“Not bad for an old man!” he shouted, crossing the finish line after 55 laps of the asphalt track.
The training series, sponsored by Claremont Cycle Depot Bike Club, is sanctioned by USA Cycling.
As many as 40 cyclists have turned out for a race, but because of the iffy weather, numbers were down somewhat this year, said John Lambert, race organizer and owner of Claremont Cycle Depot.
The weekly events, which have been taking place for decades, usually feature two races — one for the B group, for “everyone from up-and-coming Juniors to Master 65+ racers,” according to the club’s website, and another for the “A” group, which includes former NCAA and master national champions. But that evening, the field was small at just 11 riders, so they rode together.
Perched in the back of Lambert’s truck, Emily Putnam, Lambert’s 13-year-old granddaughter, kept track of the laps, flipping plastic cards with numbers printed on them as the riders whizzed by. Lambert stood on the edge of the track, ringing a heavy metal bell before each “points” lap — points are awarded to the top riders every five laps, with double points halfway through the race and at the finish. The “A” group averages 24-28 mph, with sprints as fast as 36 mph, Lambert said.
Because of how the races are scored, it’s possible to win by focusing primarily on the points laps.
“The really good racers know the strategies,” said rider Frank Thum, who travels from Manchester, Vt., to compete. “They know they don’t have to win every time.”
Chris Watt, of Auburn, N.H., made his debut in Claremont that night. New to the sport, he took up riding a few years ago to keep in shape for motorcycle racing. Before long, he was hooked — he hasn’t ridden a motorcycle in a year or two.
“I needed something to get my adrenaline going, and this definitely does it,” he said.
As the riders circled around and around, the sun slipped down, leaving half of the 1∕ 3-mile-long track in shade.
But for the bell, clicking freewheels and an occasional conversation, the place was quiet.
Twin State Speedway, which is up for sale, has been home to the races for decades.
This year’s series is over, Lambert said, but “hopefully, providing the track isn’t sold, we’ll be doing this again next May.”
Sealey, who’s been taking part for the past quarter century, is among the most loyal participants.
“If you stay in shape, everything is better,” said Sealey, who encourages others to get out on two wheels, even if only for a casual cruise.
“Ride with your grandkids,” he said. “Just ride.”