The gusts of wind on Locust Street on Saturday evening were not a gift from Mother Nature in exchange for the past week’s heat, but a result of nearly 50 cyclists racing in small groups up the street toward Broadway.
“When they say go, there is no time to think,” said Steve Kullman, 45, a first-time competitor from Columbia. “The first time that you begin to think is when you are on the way back to the starting line.”
The riders were taking part in the street sprints portion of this weekend’s Columbia Cup, four United States Cycling Federation events held in and around Columbia. In the sprints, competitors pedaled as fast and as hard as possible for two blocks.
“It’s an all-out effort,” Kurt Kippenberger, 22, a former cyclist with the MU cycling club team, said. “All you concentrate on is the finish line.”
As Kippenberger concentrated on the finish line, spectators gathered to watch, socialize and experience a little of the cycling craze.
“It’s no secret that Lance Armstrong has boosted the interest of cycling in America,” said Greg Soden, a senior at MU who also rides for the cycling club team. “For people, it’s the ability to see what he does in your own community.”
One of the evening’s highlights was the testing of the TidalForce S-750X, an electric motorbike. The bike comes in two different models with maximum speeds of 20 and 30 mph. The batteries that run the bike can propel it for 12 miles at 20 mph but requires three to six hours to charge.
“It gives you more maneuverability,” said Mary Murphy who demonstrated the bike in the race. “You can determine how much the bike does and how much you do.”
The bike allows the rider to determine speed by adjusting a throttle on the bike handle so that either the bike or the rider can do the work.
According to Murphy the bike is best for commuters because it allows them to get to work quickly.
“It’s also for people who have not ridden in a couple of years,” Murphy said. “Because of this new technology, people can ease back into the sport.”
For regular cyclists, pedaling is the fun part of cycling.
“It’s a matter of freedom,” Kullman said. “It’s pure, it’s quiet and it helps me clarify my thought and escape the world.”
Joe Hill, 30, of the Big Shark racing team in St. Louis, won the sprints for the 10th consecutive year. “This is something that doesn’t happen often. And there is no strategy. This race suits me well,” he said with a smile.
The Columbia Cup ends today with a criterium, a one-mile figure-eight loop through downtown Columbia and the MU campus.
“This sport is really weird,” Soden said with a laugh. “Once you do it, you can’t stop. It’s addictive.”