Mill Mountain and Downtown Roanoke played host to some of the best cycling the Commonwealth has seen this year. Three events kicked off the 2009 edition of the Independence Day Races, or “ID3” as it’s known, that is part of the 2009 Coventry Commonwealth Games.
Friday evening, the Jefferson Surgical Clinic Hill Climb kicked off with 162 participants trying their best to be the fastest up Mill Mountain. All were racing towards hopes of becoming the Oakey’s Challenge winner. The Oakey’s Challenge was an opportunity to break the course record of 8:29. A special participant with ties to one of cycling’s greatest, Lance Armstrong, was in attendance. Ben King, who rides for Lance Armstrong’s handpicked team of “under 23 years of age professionals,” was in Roanoke for the ID3 races. The Virginia native and former Virginia Tech student tried his best but couldn’t manage to break the record as he posted a time of 9:04. Local female rider Emily Painter easily climbed past other competitors and posted a 12:19 to lead the ladies competition.
Day two riders were greeted with warm, pleasant weather, making the SKY-PIX criterium perfect for the crowds that lined the streets in the heart of downtown Roanoke. Intersections on Church Ave., Jefferson St. and Franklin Rd. were lined deep with spectators who were treated to fast and furious cornering and accelerations on the straight-a-ways. Very few crashes allowed racers to dive hard into the corners and fly out the other side as they hit full sprints through the Texas Tavern finishing area. King’s tremendous abilities were on prominent display and he gave fans a great show by lapping the field and winning big in the “LiveStrong” style.
Day three, riders braved the wet conditions for the East Coasters criterium. Excellent “kid races” were held and the young boys seemed to especially like the fun pace cars, such as the Hummer donated for the day by Crossroads Luxury Automotive. Over 125 prizes were offered by a variety of Roanoke area businesses and a special prize fund was set up to raise money for the next days’ races.
Roanoke is one of the only locations within the state, and surrounding states, to host three consecutive days of road racing. With 428 participants this year, organizers are confident they can grow the event even more. As 2010 approaches, additional events will likely be added to the cycling calendar and connections with larger tours will mean Roanoke will continue to become an even a bigger gear – rather than a spoke in the wheel – of cycling events for Virginia. For all final results and more details visit http://www.id3race.com.
By Bob Bowman