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  • Tue April 04 2006
  • Posted Apr 3, 2006
By Bret Hayworth, Journal staff writer There are the seasoned guys with tens of thousands of miles under their belt. Some newbies are involved as well. They're all out on the roads and trails around Sioux City, putting in mileage galore in order to perform well in the sport of competitive cycling, where average speeds of 27 mph can be maintained for lengthy races and the mileage for a road race can top 100. And for the first time in about a dozen years, the mountain bike and road cyclists are formed in a team, Sioux City Velo. A core of Velo is comprised of men who have been bike racers in Siouxland going back roughly 15 years, but Samuel Johnson, 19, of Sioux City is among a few amping the youth factor. Johnson works two jobs and attends Western Iowa Tech Community College, yet finds roughly eight to 12 hours weekly to climb on a bike. Johnson has come a long way from the first time he got on a bike in his mid-teens, when in 2001 he rode on the trans-Iowa RAGBRAI with his father when it originated in Sioux City. "That was the first time I had sat my butt on a bike," he said. "The first three days sucked, because my brake was dragging." But once the brake on the borrowed bicycle was fixed, the enjoyment skyrocketed for Johnson. He was hooked on seeing what he could achieve on two wheels. On the opposite side of the longevity scale is Jay Chesterman of Sioux City who (along with Jon "Woody" Nelson and Erik Peterson) was on last organized Sioux City team. Team Coca-Cola lasted about three years before petering out. Chesterman, 33, said Team Coca-Cola "dematerialized" since "guys weren't into racing so much. Woody took some time off at that point, and I took some time off." With the perspective of that prior team experience, Chesterman is looking for good things from Sioux City Velo. "I think it really brings the core group of racers, who have always raced, together," he said. "This year, I see some of the more veteran guys being more willing to coach the younger guys" and "a more unified group of racers, and I think that is just going to grow, and grow cycling in Sioux City." Chesterman said biking is a good sport. "I like the lifestyle. It's something you do that is good and healthy. But in the racing aspect of it, it provides a good challenge," he said. "There is always continuous improvement you can do, that is what is neat about it." Last weekend some members put in nine hours of training, covering 175 miles those two days. Many of the riders now in Velo didn't give up racing. They just did it via teams in other cities or competed unattached. Sioux City Velo president is Cody McCullough, a 36-year-old Sioux City attorney who has been competing in cycling half his life. McCullough said a high-water mark came in 1994 when he raced with an Iowa City team, which had rider Jason McCartney, now one of the top riders for Lance Armstrong's Team Discovery. "Part of the reason for us doing this team was, for years, if you wanted to race with a racing team, you would have to go to Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines or Iowa City," said McCullough, who has lived in Sioux City since 1996. "There was no organized racing team in Sioux City, so guys like me would race with a team in Lincoln." McCullough, who has more than 2,000 miles outdoors so far this year, said a key team goal is to develop new racers, like "that person who likes riding his or her bike and maybe has entered a couple races, but not with the experience to train or race. Our goal is to promote bicycle racing and provide a means for new people to enter the sport." With Sioux City Velo, he said, there is a vehicle "for promoting racing in the Sioux City area, which is what is really special about doing this." The last certified race in town dates back about a dozen years, and McCullough said one of the requirements in creating a team is to host a race. This year, Velo will hold a mountain bike race in Ponca State Park on June 10, but a race could soon come to Sioux City proper, McCullough reported. The Ponca race is one of several in the Psycowpath Mountain Bike Series races in Iowa and Nebraska. With weeks of bad weather, the club wasn't able to race in March, and the first races were Saturday and today in Des Moines and Omaha. One of the most prestigious races for Team Velo will be the SuperWeek Race Series in Wisconsin, which will draw national and international level riders. There are 11 riders, including one female, Molly Mize of Sioux City. The youngest member is Jon Nelson's son, Geoff, 14. The biking competitions are divided into contests based on ability, with the road highest categories (Category 1-2) the domain of Jon Nelson and McCullough, and guys like Johnson at Cat 5's in 2006. Said McCullough, "The team has riders on it of all levels, from introductory racers who are Cat 5 to folks like myself and Jon Nelson. It is a team that is intended to be open to people of all levels, as long as they can demonstrate a commitment to racing." "I was in 'sport' last year," said Johnson, explaining the mountain bike race classifications. "I did pretty good last year racing 'sport.' I pretty much won every race I touched last year, so I moved up to 'expert.'" He plans to focus on mountain bike races, and has plans to race in 17 through the late fall, "but I'm sure I'll do more." McCullough said most of the Velo members will race two or three weekends per month, generally within about a five-hour radius of Sioux City, and some could hit about 30 races. Johnson, who has put in 1,300 miles thus far in 2006, said he has seen the benefits of riding with Sioux City Velo. "It is really a good year, I am up on my game a lot," he said. Chesterman said training on the roads together is helpful, since there are strategies that can be honed for the competitions, like how to work together and reel in opponents. McCullough said having a team is good for having "others to help you with training, race tactics, diet. It is like any sport, there are a lot of things you need to become a competitive athlete." Added McCullough, "The team element makes training more fun." That camaraderie is beneficial, he added, when it's 28 degrees and 80 miles will be covered. Chesterman, who bikes 16 to 18 hours at the peak of his training, said the advanced age of some of the team members isn't a downside: "With cycling, you are always building on last year, your previous year's base, you get better and better as time goes on." The team is far from financially flush like the teams that dominate nationally and internationally. But Sioux City Velo has two primary sponsors in PowerAde sports drinks and Independent Fabrication (a custom bicycle frame company), along with other sponsors in Albrecht Cycle Shop of Sioux City, Shimano components, Rudy Project (a helmet and sunglass company) and Northwest Iowa Oral Surgery Associates, which has given a contribution to cover clothing and other costs. As the team develops, McCullough is hoping for more community support and sponsorships, since a successful club "requires financial assistance." McCullough said he's unconcerned about the collapse of the last team in Sioux City; he figures Velo will have long legs. "I am sure it will," Johnson said. "A lot of these guys are serious about it. Cody did a ton of work, and I think we are really established." Chesterman said Johnson is just the type of member Sioux City Velo needs: "Younger guys who are newer into cycling who can hopefully hold the torch." Bret Hayworth may be reached at (712) 293.4203 or brethayworth@siouxcityjournal.com

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