by Bill Turner
A trio of bicycle races highlighted the Fourth of July weekend in Roanoke in the annual prelude to the main weekend of the Coventry Commonwealth Games which run Friday through Sunday, July 15-17.
On Saturday, riders tackled the Mill Mountain Time Trial, a 1.87 mile uphill struggle that tests even the most experienced of riders. The course, with a total elevation climb of 900 feet, began near the Walnut Avenue Bridge. After a series of subtle inclines and plateaus on Walnut Avenue, riders turn right on Prospect Road and ‘game is on’. The course continues on the old automobile road up the face of Mill Mountain, through the toll gate and several switchbacks, before ending near the base of the Mill Mountain Star.
World-class rider Bernie Sanders has called the Mill Mountain course one of the best in the state of Virginia.
As the riders crossed the finish line, most were gasping for breath as they were cheered on by cycling teammates and spectators. Cave Spring resident, Ellen Sortore, looking more collected than most, placed her bicycle against a guard rail before consenting to a post-race interview beside the star.
For Sortore, a mother of five, it was her second time in the event. “I rode in this one time many years ago,” Sortore noted. “It took me many years to try it again.”
“This ride is very painful,” she added. “It’s unrelenting and mentally hard. It’s all uphill with no flats.”
Things were put on flatter ground Sunday in the first of two criterium races in downtown. The five-corner, 1/4 mile course with long straight-aways and cobblestone was a spectator-friendly route along Salem and Norfolk Avenues. This event included classifications for all age groups and levels of experience. On Monday, the third race, a six-corner, 3/4 mile criterium, traversed the other side of downtown along Church Avenue, Franklin Rd. and Jefferson Street. Commonwealth Games medals were awarded in all three races.