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Central Valley Classic brings world-class cycling to Fresno
This weekend, cyclists will finally have the right of way in Fresno.
The fifth annual Central Valley Classic kicks off on Friday, and will bring nearly 300 cyclists from around the globe to race and train in Fresno. Some are olympic hopefuls, some have served on their countries' national teams, and some bike just for fun. These professional and amateur athletes will climb up mountain roads in Tollhouse, speed through 15 miles of track at Kearney Park, and face sharp turns and spills at the Tower District Criterium.
It's a special event for local cyclists like Felicia Greer, who get to share their hometown with fellow professional athletes. Greer has two full time jobs: one as a kinesiology professor at Fresno State, and one as a professional cyclist with the Webcor-Platnum Women's Cycling team, one of the world's best women's teams, and the Canadian National Team.
"It's been really tough. Working full time as a profressor in academia is more than a full time job in and of itself, and then racing full time is more than a full time job as well."
The professional racing season runs from March to October, and athletes see a lot of each other on the circuit. Greer says it's great to be able to show her colleagues and teammates her hometown, not to mention the hometown crowd that cheers her on.
"The support that CVC has given me and the ability to race in Fresno is really special for me." Greer has some of her students working as course marshals for the Kearney Park race.
"This race really puts us on the map as a premier place."
As a member of one of the elite women's team, the Olympic question is always hanging in the air. "It's been in the back of my mind," Greer said coyly. "I'm taking it a year at a time right now." Greer estimates that she spends 17 - 22 hours a week on her bike, riding and training.
While Lance Armstrong is a household name, Greer says women's cycling hasn't received the public attention it deserves.
"I think within the world of cycling we do but not in the public eye. The public doesn't know about women's cycling like they do about men's."
You'll have a chance to catch Greer and her Webcor-Platinum teammates at three races this weekend.
Organized by Central Valley Cycling, the Classic is sanctioned by USA Cycling, this country's governing body for the sport. Event organizers say it will attract more 20 professional teams, and an estimated 7,000 spectators over the three days.
The event begins Friday with the new "race of truth." Cyclists will face a 6 and a half mile trek up the mountain roads to Tollhouse, climbing 2,300 feet to the finish. On Saturday the Kearney Park Circuit Race pits team against team as they complete the 15-mile circuit. Teams ride together to support their team leader- giving up a jacket or bumping elbows to ensure the best performance.
On Sunday the Tower District Crierium cyclists will navigate a five-corner course, from Olive to Broadway, to Elizabeth, over to Wishon, and back to Olive. This is the style of race that's face-paced and filled with crashes and tumbles.
For more information, visit www.centralvalleyclassic.com