Larry Walsh on biking: Hilly race attracts top road racers

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In the city, the most challenging bicycling event is the Dirty Dozen, an annual assault on 12 -- and sometimes 13 -- of the steepest and toughest hills in and around Pittsburgh.

Its country cousin is the Mount Davis Challenge, a 40-mile road race over the highest point -- 3,213 feet -- in Pennsylvania. The annual event attracts top racers from Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

The challenge, which is sanctioned by USA Cycling, the official governing body of amateur bicycle racing in the United States, will be Aug. 3. The total climb is almost 5,000 feet.

The rain-or-shine race, hosted by the Confluence Tourism Association, will begin at 11 a.m. in that southern Somerset County town, head out Route 523, up Fort Hill Road and then roller coaster over two-lane roads toward Mount Davis.

After reaching the rocky and wooded peak, the riders will loop around the back side of the mountain and make their way back to Confluence on the same roads they used to reach the summit.

"Prolonged climbs, fast descents and some rough road surfaces make this event a true challenge," said race director Jim Sota of Rockwood. The scenic course includes extended climbs.

Men and women riders will compete in both ability and age categories for a total of $1,500 in cash prizes as well as some merchandise prizes. The award ceremony will be in the gazebo in the town park.

The entry fee is $25 before July 30 and $35 on race day. All riders are required to have a USA Cycling license and a one-day license will be available on race day for $15 for non-licensed riders.

Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the community center next to the town park in Confluence. All riders must wear a helmet and no rider is permitted to cross the center line of any road.

Traffic will be controlled at intersections and the Somerset County Amateur Radio Club will provide radio support.

Sota expects the fastest riders to complete the course in less than 2 hours. Vinnie DePalma, Steve Kurpiewski and Andy Seitz, all of Pittsburgh, crossed the finish line together last year in 1:52:27, 14 minutes faster than the winner of the 2012 race.

Sota encouraged spectators to "come out and view the action and cheer on the racers." He said volunteers are needed to control traffic, provide support at a water stations and help at the finish.

Anyone wishing to volunteer should contact Sota at mtdavischallenge@gmail.com or call (814)926-2840.

Maps, race schedule and further details can be found at www.visitconfluence.info/mtdavischallenge. Registration at https://www.bikereg.com/mt-davis-challenge. Link to race video.

Confident cycling

Bike Pittsburgh's Confident City Cycling class, a three-hour, on-the-bike course that teaches riders the skills necessary to ride safely and comfortably on Pittsburgh's hills, bridges and narrow streets, will be from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. today at the East Liberty branch of the Carnegie Library.

It will be taught by Bruce Woods, a certified League Cycling Instructor (LCI) and president of the Major Taylor Cycling Club. There also will be classes in August and September that Dan Yablonsky, a BikePGH staff member and certified LCI, and Karen Brooks, an International Mountain Bicycling Association certified instructor, will teach.

Bike Pittsburgh also offers classes in the Fundamentals of City Cycling at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Wheel Mill. Brooks and Harry Geyer will be the instructors.

Bicyclists are invited to take one or both classes and repeat as necessary. They are presented by Edgar Snyder & Associates, The Wheel Mill and ALCO Parking.

Information: www.bike-pgh.org

Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.


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