• Tue May 27 2008
  • Posted May 27, 2008
Young riders honed their racing savvy early Monday morning at the junior races of the Quad-Cities Criterium in the District of downtown Rock Island. Workers swept debris and rain water from overnight storms off the three-quarter mile, hourglass-shaped course before the Memorial Day races kicked off. The Criterium is a Quad-City tradition that dates back to 1965, and the youth races and Big Wheel and tricycle races give children an opportunity to participate in the cycling event. Monday’s junior races are included in the USA Cycling’s Lance Armstrong Juniors Olympic Road Race Series. “OK, we’ve got the pace car here. The juniors are getting lined up for the first race of the day,” race founder Roger DeLanghe said at the beginning of the first junior race for children ages 10-14. “I don’t know, but the riders might be looking out for any stray ducks.” Steve Eppel, chief referee, gave racers their final instructions before the whistle blew and they took off on a five-lap race. Juniors 15-18 rode 14 laps for the second event. Individual participants and youth racing clubs came from all over the Midwest and as far away as Florida. “For juniors, it’s very difficult to get into the sport and stay in the sport if you don’t have a sponsor,” said Mike Murdock, president of Prochain Cycling/Team Turner of Cincinnati. “The Criterium (and related races in Burlington and Muscatine, Iowa) is a great event. This attracts the best amateur riders around.” The six Pro-Chain racers ages 15-18 will travel to events in California and Canada later this year. Bicycle racing is an expensive sport with bicycles costing about $6,000 each and additional expenses for clothing, fees, hotel stays and travel, he said. “It’s great group of boys. Some of them eat, drink and breath cycling. My only son is on the team and (I have) my ‘adopted’ five,” he said. Brothers Alexey, 14, and Nikolaas “Rem,” 12, Vermeulen of Pinckney, Mich., came in second and fifth respectively in the first junior race. Both go on training rides with their father to prepare for races. Eating is an important part of bulking up for upcoming events. “The night before I try to pack in a lot of carbs. In the morning, I try to have a full breakfast and get ready for the race,” Alexey said. “It’s a Lance Armstrong race, and I wanted to do it,” Rem said after the race. “The turns are kind of rocky. The guy who was right behind was sprinting around the turns (and slid).” The opening race proved to be a learning experience for Dane Bressert, 14, of Bettendorf. He completed the ride before discovering that his gearing didn’t meet the requirements for youth racers 10-18. “First of all, I need to fix the gearing, and then I need to train a lot more. The criteriums are a little faster than a difficult road race. You’re grouped really close together,” he said. Those lessons will prove valuable in the long run for the young cyclists who stay the course. “Without these young people, we wouldn’t have racing in the next 10 years, DeLanghe said. “It’s amazing how much more aggressive those juniors are then the racers in the past.” The city desk can be contacted at (563) 383-2450 or

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