It’s not easy to come up with the right words, if any, after an 81/2-mile bicycle race.
Crossing the finish line at the entrance of the Mastropietro Winery on Friday, many racers in the fourth annual Tour of the Valley grunted, sighed, or simply looked like they were in pain.
One, however, let out a yell for the more than 300 competitors as he coasted through the end.
“Pain cave!” Daniel Antoon exclaimed.
Drawing laughs from the crowd and blank stares from some confused onlookers, Antoon explained what it meant.
And clarified that he wasn’t saying “pancakes.”
“No, no,” he laughed. “Somebody started it on the Ohio State triathlon team. You have to bury yourself in the pain cave during time trials like this.”
Friday’s stage was the time trial where racers were released one-by-one in 30 second intervals. Separated in five categories, Antoon was part of Category 5. He’s a Columbus native who recently graduated from OSU. This was his first time at the Tour of the Valley and his first stage-style race of the summer.
“Hopefully my legs hold up all weekend,” Antoon said. “This is a pretty cool course. It was gnarly in the backstretch and the wind made it very fast.”
Many riders here for the weekend are Ohio residents. Some like the United Healthcare team, are globetrotters.
United Healthcare came up from Athens, Ga. A small town in Northeast Ohio is just a normal stop on the road for them. They’re out every weekend from the end of February until October in places such as California, Michigan, New York and even exotic locations like Jamaica and South America.
“We got here on Wednesday,” Andy Scaranna said from the backseat of a sedan. The white Hyundai was part of a two-car fleet that stores bikes, helmets, pads, bags of clothes, and of course, five determined riders. “It’s tight,” Scaranna said. “It was a rough 10-hour drive, but we love it. It’s nothing new.”
Even for someone based in the area, the travel is all part of the sport.
Brian Batke, part of the Carbon Racing team that hosts the Tour, participates in more than 60 races each summer. Most recently, he was in Vermont and plans on heading to Wisconsin next week.
“Yes, I do have a regular job,” Batke said with a grin, “but it’s not as fun as this.”
An engineer in Cleveland, Batke always has this event circled on his calendar. It’s not often that he finds himself at a challenging stage weekend.
“This is hard and always challenging which is why I love it,” Batke said. “Stage races are tough and a lot of good guys come out for this.”
Jon Card called it “a deeper field than last year.”
It’s the former professional racer’s second time at the Tour and after placing eighth in the time trial a year ago, he was prepared.
“That headwind all the way home was good,” Card said. “I think I measured it pretty well.”
Like most riders, Card competes with a team. Although his is more unique — like his black jersey with a big white spade in the middle.
“The insigna’s on all my gear,” he said of the playing card-type attire. “It’s pretty neat branding.”
He’s the only competitor on his team, but really, there are three other members of Team Card — his wife, Sarah, and daughters Alena and Trina.
“Although I’m getting older I still love doing it, this is team Card,” he said with his arms around the family. “I couldn’t be racing at my age anymore if it wasn’t for the support of these guys. They keep me going and we’re still having fun.”
Card was born in Columbus, but lived in Youngstown when he was 7. After three years, he moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., attended Eastern Michigan on a cross country and track scholarship and eventually found his way to Arizona where he was a professional rider for much of the 90s. He now lives in Toledo.
“I’ve always had a predisposition to be successful,” Card said. “I came from a BMX background, I loved that as a kid, and took on the mountain bike craze 20 years ago. I won my first mountain bike race back then, went from there, and always tried my best.”