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Sanctioned bike races coming to Ottawa County

Becky Vargo • Jun 2, 2017 at 3:00 PM

West Michigan native Jim Klapthor thinks there’s “some wildly attractive things (here) we take for granted.”

That’s one of the reasons he moved back to the area from California to orchestrate a series of bike races for everyone from the novice to the expert.

“This is where I grew up,” he said. “I’ve been all around the nation. Other areas are really nice, but West Michigan is super attractive.”

The USA Cycling race director is promoting a series of races that start with the Vuelta a Puerto Sheldon (Tour of Port Sheldon) on June 18, the Great Lakes State Classic Race and State Games of America Time Trials on Aug. 6, and the second annual Strade Bianche Road Races and Chrono Strade Bianche Time Trials in Polkton Township on Aug. 20.

Klapthor said that last year’s Strade drew almost 60 riders from three states.

“It was a small race, but good for an inaugural event,” he said.

Registrations are up for this year’s race and he expects more than 100 participants in the Aug. 6 time trials, which start at the Berlin Raceway in Marne.

Klapthor said he is putting on the races to give people an opportunity to participate in a USA-licensed race, as well as to provide a chance for cyclists to explore racing in a safe environment with consistent officiating.

The USA Cycling races pit novice against novice, women race women and expert against expert. Because of this, the racing goes on all day, with 5-6 minutes between each group’s start times.

USA Cycling races are also run in circuits of 5-15 miles.

“You race around it multiple times,” Klapthor said. “This is good from a fan perspective. You can set up a tailgate and every 5-6 minutes another race is going by. It ends up being a festive occasion wherever you want to watch the race.”

These are open races, meaning cars are on the course, but police officers or course marshals will be posted at appropriate intersections to direct traffic, Klapthor said.

Novice racers will travel generally about 20 miles, while the elite racers will do about 63 miles. A good portion of the Strade Bianche is run on gravel roads.

Klapthor said the speed of the racers would be determined by the caliber of the races, the terrain and where they are in the race, probably up to 35-40 mph.

The race director said cyclists shouldn’t be afraid to try racing.

“People think they can’t do things they absolutely can do,” he said.

These sanctioned races are good places to learn skills, he added.

Klapthor said he is also working with local governments and bike clubs to promote the addition of 4-foot-wide shoulders for cyclists. This means the motor vehicle driver is less inconvenience and the bicyclist has a safer area to ride.

Klapthor also wants to raise awareness about the bike trail/non-motorized pathway, which will soon link Grand Rapids to the Lakeshore.

Race and registration information can be found at the following links:

— Vuelta a Puerto Sheldon (Tour of Port Sheldon), June 18. Online registration closes June 15. Start is at the Church of God, 6934 152nd Ave., West Olive. Go to https://www.usacycling.org/events/getflyer.php?permit=2017-829.

— State Games of America Time Trials & Great Lakes State Classic Road Races, Berlin Raceway, Marne, Aug. 6. Registration closes 45 minutes prior to start of race flight’s posted time. Go to https://www.usacycling.org/events/getflyer.php?permit=2017-1586.

— Strade Bianche Road Races, Aug. 27. St. Michael’s Church, 17150 88th Ave., Coopersville. Online registration closes Aug. 24. Go to https://www.usacycling.org/events/getflyer.php?permit=2017-508.

Klapthor said he is also looking into the possibility of running a Cycle Cross race sometime in the fall at the Evergreen School House on Leonard Road in Polkton Township.

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