Vinnie DePalma, Steve Kurpiewski and Andy Seitz started strong in the second annual Mount Davis Challenge Bike Race Aug. 4 and finished the same way.
They each finished in 1:52:27 after pedaling up, over and down the 3,123-foot summit that is the highest point in Pennsylvania. Their time was 14 minutes faster than that of the winner of the USA Cycling-sanctioned event last year.
The 40-mile race began in the Community Park in Confluence in southern Somerset County, headed out Route 523 to Fort Hill Road and started the 1 1/2-mile climb up the winding, twisting two-lane road. They made the sharp right on to Pumpkin Center Road and headed for the hills.
And there were plenty of hills to conquer as 127 racers roller-coasted their way to the Y, where they began a series of steeper climbs to the wooded and rocky peak. They came from Arizona, California, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
DePalma, 22, of Lawrenceville, a health-care treasury-management analyst at PNC; Kurpiewski, 27, of Morningside, a bike mechanic for Big Bang Bicycles in West Mifflin; and Seitz, 26, of the Mexican War Streets, a project engineer for Schroeder Industries in Leetsdale have raced against each other before.
"I race against them almost every week throughout the summer at the Bud Harris Cycling Track [along Washington Boulevard in the East End] or at other regional or local events," Seitz said. "They are both good friends of mine."
"Vinnie and I set the pace early on the Mount Davis ascent. By the halfway point, it was down to the three of us. We worked well together until the end, where it was pretty much a three-person sprint."
"I loved the course," Seitz said. "It's very rare for any race course in the region to feature extended climbs of 20-plus minutes, and I really enjoy that type of terrain."
"I thought it was a great course," DePalma said. "Challenging, yet had a great flow."
"I thought the roads were beautiful," Kurpiewski said. "I kept telling my breakaway companions that the scenery was gorgeous. I think it was a perfect combination of good roads and a clear day."
The trio nearly missed a sharp right-hand turn back onto Pumpkin Center Road when the lead car missed the turn. Volunteer course marshal Bill Somers of Severna Park, Md., ran out and redirected them.
"It happens in races often enough that I can't say anything bad about it," Kurpiewski said. "We all agreed it would have been a different story if it had changed the outcome."
The efforts of the volunteer course marshals who staffed key intersections and handled traffic control drew unanimous praise. They were described as "awesome," "great" and "super-friendly."
"[They] helped to keep us safe and moving along," Seitz said.
The water stops staffed by the Rev. Dean Hay Jr. and members of Boy Scout Troop 150 and Cub Scout Pack 155.
"It was awesome to have neutral water provided, [but] paper cups at speed don't translate well to getting the water inside of you rather than on you," said Kurpiewski, who used the water to cool down because he carried enough water to drink.
"The start area was perfect for pre- and post-race," Seitz added. "Available bathroom, water and [Confluence Cyclery] right there."
DePalma, Kurpiewski and Seitz praised the Confluence Tourism Association and organizer Jim Sota of Rockwood for "a well run race."
"We'll be back next year," they said.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.