Tour of the Valley gets off to a hot, fast start

Tour of the Valley

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Three day Bike race rolls into the valley

By John Bassetti

Paul Martin of suburban Cleveland holds the overall lead after the first two events.

ELLSWORTH — Imagine listening to the soft sounds of Enya from loudspeakers erected near a road at the entrance to a vineyard.

It’s 8 a.m. and the sun is already radiating its mid-July heat.

A lightning bug is happily crawling on your shirt.

That was the setting prior to the start of the Tour of the Valley near the Mastropietro Winery Friday morning.

Riders were lining up for the Tour’s first event: a time trial over a 5.6-mile route beginning on Ellsworth Rd.

Paul Martin of North Royalton, in the Pro 1-2 category, was the fastest cyclist in 11 minutes, 7 seconds. He later captured the yellow jersey as the day’s overall leader following a runner-up finish in the afternoon’s criterium in Canfield.

Martin, 36, a former amateur national champion in 1997 and 2007, was riding for the Panther RGF Cycling Team.

“It was a nice, four-corner, relatively flat course,” Martin said of the actual prologue following an earlier pre-ride to check out wind direction, rollers and the corners.

“I was able to go really hard into the section where there was a little headwind, so I could have a little tailwind to recover. In cycling, that’s a good strategy.”

The rollers are the ups and downs, if any.

“A lot of time trials are generally pretty flat, so any little roller you get, you’ve got to gauge your effort.”

Martin succeeded in his plan to push on the hills, then resume his pace on the downhill.

“A lot of guys can go about the same speed on a downhill or a tailwind, so it seems like most of the time is made on the uphills or headwinds.”

That’s where Martin (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) shaved off seconds and reached speeds of 33-34 mph.

“It’s a lot of fun to be able to go that fast on a bike. We don’t ride these [special bikes] very often because the way the handlebars are set up; they’re not safe for riding in a big group. It’s kind of a thrill to be out on a fast course.”

Martin described the course venue, starting at the winery.

“It’s beautiful,” said Martin, a financial advisor. “It’s better than a day at work.”

He was effusive in his praise of promoter/organizer Dan Quinlan of Carbon Racing of Salem.

“It’s difficult to organize a race and a first-year event in the Mahoning Valley. It’s great and I hope it continues to grow.”

During Friday’s second event, a criterium in the afternoon in Canfield, Jacob McCrea of Pittsburgh won men’s Cat 4 race.

The 31-year-old led the whole way.

“Yeah, I spent a lot of time on the front. It was a really enjoyable race. I’m not too strong on the straightaways, but I like the corners a lot. So I tried to go a little bit high in the corners, just to keep the pace whipped up and fast and moving.

“I knew that if I got bogged down on the straightaways, I’d get beat, so I kind of kept the corner speeds high.”

McCrea, an attorney who said he does construction litigation, handles construction lawsuits and drafts construction contracts and other miscellaneous legal work, has motocross experience.

“I’ve done a lot of motocross and supercross riding and racing superbikes on the road, so I can turn OK, but it doesn’t help me down the straightaways.”

Like Martin, McCrea was complimentary of the course in Canfield.

“This is a beautiful town. I’m just glad to be here racing on a Friday afternoon.”

Joey Rosskopf, a 19-year-old out of Atlanta, Ga., won the criterium’s Pro 1-2 by narrowly beating Martin.

Rosskopf, a sophomore-to-be at Georgia State in downtown Atlanta in the fall, said he and Martin were leading the last 6-7 laps of the approximately 90-minute race.

Rosskopf and Martin were first off the front in the criterium, but the pair broke away.

“Then the two of us went ahead of everyone else the remainder,” said Rosskopf, whose affiliation is Jittery Joe’s Cycling Team from Athens, Ga.

Rosskopf passed Martin on the final short straightaway down S. Broad St.

“Coming out of the last corner, I didn’t have more than a half-bike length edge,” said Rosskopf.

Overall, Rosskopf trails Martin heading into today’s road race in Columbiana.

Rosskopf said he was in Ohio a few weeks ago for the Tour of Ohio.

Jittery’s Joe’s has a house in Kutztown, Pa. for the summer, so the team has been traveling the Northeast and Midwest.

Rosskopf said he’ll compete in the U-23 nationals in Oregon at the end of the month.

Ron Garrett of Xenia was the chief referee as one of five officials with USA Cycling, the sport’s governing body.

The object of the time trial or prologue is to emerge with a rider with the fastest time heading into other races to follow.

“It’s to establish a leader going into the first race,” Garrett said of the prologue’s purpose.

Paul Martin earned 10 points for his top finish in the time trial.

“If a guy who is three points back after the time trial gets eight points in the criterium, then he could be the leader with the yellow jersey,” Garrett said.

“It’s called the ‘race of truth’ because no one is drafting or anything like that. In a road race or criterium, everybody drafts and then tries to go for the final sprint and win the race — like race car drafting.”

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