Cyclist rediscovers passion from years past

Cyclist  rediscovers  passion from years past
June 04
00:00 2015

In photos above: On the left, Lamont Wilson ranks eighth in the state in his age group in Criterium racing. Wilson, of High Point (middle), competed in the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic last weekend. (Photos by Craig T. Greenlee)

As a teenager, Lamont Wilson used to watch bicycle races all the time. He marveled at the skills the cyclists showcased as they navigated the 1.3 miles-long course that surrounded Lake Montebello in his home town of Baltimore, Maryland.

Wilson was intrigued, so he purchased an old 10-speed bike for $20 with the hopes of gaining first-hand experience in road racing. About that time, Wilson moved to North Carolina and

Wilson rediscovered his passion for cycling. He purchased another bike and joined a group of recreational cyclists who frequently went on 30-mile rides.

During that time, Wilson, who lives in High Point, learned all the nuances of the sport and eventually ventured into competitive cycling as an amateur. “When I first started out, I had so much trouble keeping up with others,” said Wilson. “But I got a lot encouragement from a lot of people who kept telling me about my potential. Lee Woodall (veteran cyclist from Lexington) has been a mentor to me. He’s pushed me, encouraged me, and motivated me.”

Today, Wilson, 39, competes for Team MS – HerbaLife/Maui Jim of Winston-Salem. In the latest USA Cycling rankings, Wilson is No. 8 in North Carolina in his age group (30-39) in Men’s Category 3 Criterium racing.

“I truly enjoy all the challenges that cycling provides,” said Wilson, who competed in the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic last weekend. “Sure, there’s plenty of competition from the other riders, but I’m always competing against myself, so I can measure my level of improvement. I’ve learned that when I do well against me, I’m able to hold my own against everybody else.”

The criterium is a bike race that’s held on a short course, which is typically less than one mile long. Races are usually conducted on blocked-off city streets. In this event, riders complete multiple laps for a specified period of time.

The nature of Criterium racing places a number of demands on cyclists. Because of the shortness of the course and tight spaces, the ability to handle the bike in close quarters is crucial in avoiding collision and injury. Equally important is the ability to maintain top speed or close to top speed while maneuvering around sharp turns.

At last week’s cycling classic, Wilson raced against 60 riders on a .7 mile course for 50 minutes. The course, which featured tight turns and a punishing stretch of incline, presented its share of challenges.

“Cycling is a lot like what I remember about high school wrestling,” said Wilson. “As a wrestler, you go all out for six minutes. It’s no different in criterium racing. You’re thoroughly tested from start to finish.

“It’s hard. Sometimes I ask myself why I continue to do this. But the very next week comes and I’m back out there again. For me, there are two main goals: finish each race without getting lapped and finish with the pack.”

For those folks who know little or nothing about cycling, it’s just as demanding as other sports such as running, swimming and gymnastics. Conditioning is crucial for success and so is diet and rest. During the season, Wilson races two to three times a month at various venues in North Carolina with an occasional visit to South Carolina and Virginia.

Now that Wilson has fully reconnected with the sport he fell in love with as a youngster, he has no plans to turn in his bike and racing gear anytime soon. “For me, racing goes beyond recreation,” he explained. “You can’t beat the camaraderie.

Being a cyclist is like being part of a community.

“Plus, it’s a good way to stay active and stay healthy. I know several cyclists who are in their late ‘50s. So, I want to keep doing this for as long as I’m able.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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