By John Bassetti
YOUNGSTOWN — Watching website video of the first stage of the Tour of the Valley induces dizziness.
On tourofthevalley.com, the filming through a car windshield shows the Ellsworth Township route starting along Newton Falls Road, then Palmyra Road, then South Duck Creek Road and finally Ellsworth Road
On a bicycle, however, the four-turn 5.53-mile course will be less of a strain on the eyes and much more demanding on the legs and respiratory system for riders daring enough to indulge.
Rather than watch from a seat in front of a computer monitor, bring a chair and sit on-site starting Friday morning.
The weather forecast looks good, but, regardless, rain or shine, the core objective of this weekend’s Tour of the Valley won’t change: a competitive multi-stage event that is expected to attract 300 pro and elite amateur riders from across the Midwest and beyond.
Friday morning’s time trial is just the beginning. A criterium in Canfield takes place in the afternoon and the weekend’s bread-and-butter event — a 33-mile road race in Columbiana that becomes 66 for pros — is scheduled on Saturday.
So as not to get countryside overload, even downtown Youngstown gets a piece of the action with a criterium through city streets on Sunday.
Carbon Racing of Greenford is the local organizer while the Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau is lending its assistance and putting out the welcome mat.
Although patterned after the three week-long Tour de France, the Mahoning Valley’s scaled-down version distinguishes itself in another way.
Carbon Racing has incorporated its “carbon neutral” mantra into the event with emphasis on the Tour of the Valley’s secondary objective: the omission of emissions.
Carbon Racing, a non-profit competitive cycling team, has made its mission to be the leader in offsetting the carbon produced in cycling events and in daily routines.
“There is a need to educate the cycling community on the impact of our energy usage to the environment when we attend these races,” Carbon Racing founder Dan Quinlan says. “This occurs when we commute to races, looking for lodging and places to eat.”
He spoke about the importance of proper trash disposal.
“An example,” Quinlan said, “is using refillable containers in place of more convenient throwaway water bottles that are popular at sporting events.”
Quinlan says that Carbon Racing is the first team to promote the carbon neutrality in Ohio cycling events.
Carbon Racing co-founder Erin Quinlan described the various venues, starting with the time trial in Ellsworth.
“We tried to pick an area with nice, quiet roads and bring attention to a local business [Mastropietro’s Winery] that is growing and trying to attract people traveling from Cleveland and Akron.
“The 5-mile loop around the winery is mostly flat. Riders compete against the clock and the one to go the fastest is the winner. The time trial is very special and unique.”
The criterium in Canfield is a shorter race, about a mile loop that usually has about six sharp turns, but is very fast.
“Some pro riders usually get up to 40 mph,” Quinlan said. “Spectators make the event by cheering riders on and give them an adrenaline rush.”
Saturday’s road race is one of the decisive parts of the tour.
“It starts in the center of the city of Columbiana and goes to New Waterford, Negley and Rogers and back into Columbiana.”
She said that the 33-mile course will be 66 miles for pros (Men 1, 2 and Cat 3).
“It’s a real hilly course with a mile-and-half climb at one point.”
Those reaching the top first are designated King and Queen of the Mountain.
Sunday’s criterium will be a mile loop downtown starting at Federal Plaza.
“It’s fast with approximately six turns at speeds of 30 to 40 mph. Riders take corners real tight.
“It’s very spectator-friendly. We want the streets to be lined with spectators and looking to get businesses to open doors because cyclists will eat all weekend long. They need their energy, they need their pasta. Restaurants are going to be a hot spot.”
SEE ALSO: Tour of the Valley courses and Tour Stages Events.