News: Pedal to the medal: Criterium Bike Race Series hits MCB Hawaii
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Hawaii - Under sunny skies on the warm pavement of the Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay flight line, competitors assembled their bicycles and pulled on their racing gloves in preparation for the first race in the Criterium Bike Race Series, Jan. 16, 2011.
The race, hosted by Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit division, was open to the public and drew approximately 50 competitors from around the island. It was the first race of a four-race series that concludes in March, and is part of the Commanding Officer’s Fitness Series.
Set on a 1.1-mile loop of closed runway, the race featured two wide 90-degree turns and one sweeping 180-degree turn. But the closed course was unlike those on most other races, said competitor Maj. Armando Espinoza, aviation safety officer, MCAS.
“The great thing about the Criterium races is that you can see the course,” said the Tucson, Ariz., native, who competed in his third Criterium race. “There is more bike handling than other races, and riders need to know when to go hard and when to ease up.”
In remembrance of the victims of the recent shooting in his hometown of Tucson, Espinoza wore the jersey of his alma mater — the University of Arizona.
He competed in the Masters Category, which pitted men age 35 and over against a daunting time of 45 minutes of racing. Other racers filled the ranks of the Elite (60 minutes), Women (40 minutes), and Juniors or Open (30 minutes).
“All of the Criterium races are usually challenging because of the pace and tempo, but as the year moves on and we move through the races, the riders get in better shape,” Espinoza said. “It’s a good starter for the season because it’s not really an endurance ride — it’s more of a gut check.”
This first race helped riders make an assessment of their training and make adjustments for the remainder of the year, Espinoza said.
Kunia native Alika Chee, who placed second in Sunday’s Elite Category race behind his Boca Hawaii teammate, Ray Brust, said he has “been racing Criterium long enough to feel old.”
In past years, Chee participated in Bike the Base races on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, before participating in the first Criterium race on the base in 2009. Last year, he won the Elite Category race. He said the course runway course is what has kept him coming back.
“The roads are open on the course here,” Chee said. “It’s tough to get a course with both left and right turns. Otherwise we’d have to close down a whole city block. The road quality is good here. It’s nice and smooth on the airfield.”
While the smooth course was familiar to some, it was refreshingly new for others. Manoa native Oliver Donkervoet, 17, said he was inspired by Lance Armstrong’s performance in the Tour de France last summer, and he began racing shortly after. He decided to see how he would fare among the professionals in the Elite Category.
His coaching from Chee, also a teacher at his high school, paid off. Donkervoet placed sixth among the Elites and first in the Juniors.
“I’ve never been more motivated in my life to become a better cyclist,” Donkervoet said. “I do other school sports, but there’s just something else about cycling that I love. The speed, the wind — it’s amazing.”
The remaining three races in the Criterium Bike Race Series are slated to be held on the MCAS flight line Feb. 6, March 13 and March 27. Racers can register online at http://www.mccshawaii.com/cgfit.shtml up until the Wednesday prior to the race day.