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  • Thu August 07 2008
  • Posted Aug 7, 2008
by Jake Krob · July 30, 2008 When Jimmy Carrico first started racing bicycles, he admits, “I had no idea what it was all about.” Today, the Mount Vernon 17-year-old is finding so much success that he’s off to a nationals race next week. And he’s become so passionate about the sport that he’s on a mission to help grow junior cycling – for those under 18 years old – in Iowa. The son of Matt and Debbie Carrico, Jimmy started racing three years ago as a 14-year-old. Today, he trains constantly, loves bicycling so much he uses his road bike to get to school from the family’s home about two miles out of town, and competes in around 30 races a year. Jimmy said he and his dad went on five to 10-mile rides when Jimmy first had a “two wheeler,” a bike without training wheels. As a 14-year-old, he wanted a machine that provided more speed, and got his first road bike. Hanging out with friend Jonah Greenstein one day, Jonah’s dad asked Jimmy if he’d like to join him and a group of other men on regular weekend rides. “I was the young guy in the group,” Jimmy said. But he stuck with them, and soon needed more. He searched the Internet, found a road race near West Branch, and decided to join. Jimmy said that first 27-mile race – where he finished 19th among 30 – showed him the culture of bicycle racing in Iowa. “I could tell everybody knew each other,” Jimmy said. “I really wanted to get in.” He yearned to connect with someone who could help him train for more races and discovered an Iowa City resident who not only e-mailed him training possibilities but asked him to consider joining Mercy Specialized, an Iowa City bicycle racing team that’s one of the largest in the state. By the following year, Jimmy took to race courses nearly 30 times. Decked out in spandex shorts and a team jersey, Jimmy explains that there are five categories in bicycle racing – from Cat (category) 5 as a beginner to Cat 1. Points earned through successes at races move bicyclists from one category to the next. Memorial Day weekend of this year, Jimmy reached Cat 3. It automatically qualifies him for nationals this coming week in Anaheim, Calif. Jimmy said Mercy Specialized consists of about 60 members. About a dozen of them are Cat 3s and higher, the rest are Cat 4s and 5s. They race in three different types of competitions – criteriums, road races and time trials. Criteriums are short races – usually less than five miles – often held in cities’ downtowns and marked with sharp curves and throngs of spectators. Road races are on the open road – most for Cat 3s like Jimmy are 70-90 miles. Participants start as a group, akin to the Tour de France. Time trials are individual races – 25-30 miles – in which bicyclists take off individually and are timed. Jimmy has found success in all of them. In a circuit race at Kent Park, he finished first among the 20 Cat 4 cyclists; all categories of racers were in the same race, from 1-5, and Jimmy came in sixth overall. An Old Capitol criterium in Iowa City found Jimmy take fourth among Cat 4s; at a road race associated with the event, he finished second. Jimmy said his favorite race is a time trial. At nationals, he’ll compete in all three types of races. This Saturday, he’ll jump on his bike for the state road race, held near West Branch. Jimmy said he’ll likely be helping his teammate, Cat 1 cyclist Dewey Dickey. He explained, for instance, that often with a road race there’s a break-a-way of a few cyclists. If that happens, Jimmy said his role could be to “go to the front and pick up the pace for them.” At nationals, Jimmy will compete in the juniors category, for those 18 and under. Racing in Iowa, he usually competes against other adults in his category as there aren’t many juniors who compete. Because of that, he said he hopes to use his story to get other youngsters to compete in the sport. “It’s not just racing,” he said. “I’d love to see more biking altogether. I see it all the time where the kids get into the car, the parents drive them two blocks, the kids get out and the parents drive home.” He also sees the trend in high school, where he says other bikes will join his on the bike rack for a couple of years, then disappear. “They must have their license now,” Jimmy realizes when a bike disappears for good. Jimmy recognizes that it’s not an easy sport. There aren’t many opportunities for mentorship. Training is strenuous. (A fellow team member, Paul Deninger of Iowa City, helped Jimmy set up a training program. He often sets his wheels into a training device indoors to compete.) And the sport can be dangerous, particularly out on the open road with motorists. But it’s worth it, Jimmy said. “There’s nothing like it,” he said. As he enters his senior year, he says he’ll keep competing. He’d like to attend college in a warmer climate – like Arizona – for more training opportunities. Given his academic goals – he’d like to study engineering or architecture – Jimmy said he realizes he might not compete as often as he does now. “But I’ll always bike,” he said.

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