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Bike Racers to Take Over Town Center

Early on Sunday morning, June 30, bike riders will start filling the Reston Town Center's empty parking lot, along Library Street. Their bikes will be state of the art, made of lightweight steel titanium, carbon fiber or aluminum alloy, with price tags between $2,000 and $7,000. Each rider will circle the parking lot for around one hour, warming his or her muscles as race time approaches.

Then, at 7:30, competitors will line up across Market Street, adjacent to Equity Office Pavilion, for the first of six races in the first annual Reston Town Center Grand Prix.

By the end of the day, many of the expensive bicycles will be scratched.

"There will be crashes. That's part of the game, unfortunately," said Reston resident Jim DeGoey, a member of the Evolution Cycling Club, which organized the event.

DeGoey said most of the crashes will come on turn five of the Town Center loop, at the corner of New Dominion Parkway and Explorer Street. The three-quarter mile loop includes six turns, making it a particularly tricky course. Most courses are set in a four corner rectangle shape, or a two corner "D" shape.

Since the riders form into a large pack, called a peloton, bicycles on the inside of a corner can easily become entangled. As racers gain experience, they are better able to navigate the corners. But novice competitors will still have trouble, DeGoey said.

Most of the racers at the event will be amateurs, but they will be divided into groups depending on age and experience. The most elite races are scheduled for the end of the day with the premier race, featuring category one, two and three riders, going off at 12:30 p.m.

Each race will run from 30 to 90 minutes, and spectators will be able to watch from the Town Center sidewalks. Riders will average around 20 miles per hour during the race, increasing to 40 miles per hour in the home stretch. But Randa Mendenhall, marketing director with Equity Office, the company that manages the Town Center, said pedestrians don't have to worry about being hit. There will be motorcycles leading the race and motorcycles following behind at the end of the race. There will also be monitors stationed at each road crossing.

"Everyone will be well-placed so people don't just step off the curb," Mendenhall said.

WHILE TRAINING on the nearby Washington and Old Dominion Trail, several riders have remarked that the Reston Town Center would make a good location for a bike race, said Evolution Cycling Club president Ray Alvareztorres. Maryland and Washington, D.C. both host races in high-traffic, town settings, but Northern Virginia has never had such a race. Most local races are held at industrial parks, where the only spectators are the other racers.

"The Reston Town Center has high foot traffic, it's the kind of place where people come and hang out for a while," Alvareztorres said.

If spectators stick around and watch one of the bicycle races for long enough, they will probably be able to recognize the strategies of the racers.

Most riders will enter each race along with several other team members, who work together to make sure they finish as highly as possible. DeGoey said each team places its hopes on one rider, who stays in the back of the pack for most of the race, conserving energy by drafting off of his or her other competitors. The lowered wind resistance from riding behind just one other bicycle can cut energy loss by up to 30 percent, DeGoey said. If a rider feels like he or she is in a position to win a race, the rider may break out ahead of the pack, aided by one or two team members who ride in front to lessen wind resistance.

"Only about 10 guys have a chance of winning each race," DeGoey said. "The rest are wannabes or helpers, guys like me who just want to get in shape."

Organizers expect between 400 and 500 racers to compete on Sunday. A complete schedule of races is available at the Evolution Cycling Club web site, www.evolutioncycling.org.