Sports

Race against the clock

Every Tuesday night, there is a sound on Langley and Wilkinson Roads that only a few people can hear. It’s the sound of bicycle tires.

As rush hour traffic whips by, anywhere between a scant handful and more than a dozen triathletes and bicycle racers dash along these roads, riding their weekly 7.4-mile time trial in near silence. Near silence.

From the saddle, however, the riders can be heard gasping for air, grinding their chains over gears and bumping rock-hard, high-pressure tires over rough asphalt. This April marked the start of the fifth season of Tuesday night time trials on the course. Started by a group of bike racing athletes as a way to track their fitness throughout the summer racing season, the trials have also given some of their most devoted attendees a map of their fitness over half a decade.

Open to anyone with an interest in improving their riding, the time trails are a challenge for both beginner and veteran rider. Because the course is short, even beginning riders need not worry about being unable to finish. Faster riders can challenge themselves repeatedly on the course, which starts flat and fast, but ends on a bumpy, grinding climb up Surface Road.

Riders take to the course one at a time at 30-second intervals. They race only against the clock, not against one another.

During the previous three years, the course record for the trials has been set at various times by perennial Whidbey Island Triathlon champion Peter Oakley, former professional rider Nate Reiss, and Clinton bike racer Jordan Itaya. But this season, one of Itaya’s Seattle cycling teammates, 35-year-old Jason Betchel, shattered Reiss’ old record, riding the course in 16 minutes and 48 seconds. This translates to an average speed of just under 30 mph.

But just because riders doing the time trial enjoy aiming for the record doesn’t mean the trials are serious competition. Run by volunteer timers each week, the trials are both low key and family oriented. Several riders bring young children to the trials, some of whom get a free ride on the course in trailers. Most weeks, however, trials timers provide child care, watching the kids at the start and finish point at Ken’s Korner Mall.

For beginning riders, the trials can be a big ego boost. After every trial, riders gather to hear their times read off by the timer. Each rider’s time is cheered regardless of how it compares to past performances. Typical ride times for beginners range between 25 and 30 minutes.

The trials start each Tuesday with a 6 p.m. warm-up loop on the trial course, starting outside the Momentum health club. The trial itself begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Ken’s Korner bus stop on Langley Road.

Riders’ times are recorded in a notebook, where they are kept permanently. Every trial run for the past five years is recorded, so riders can track their progress over the years.

Sponsored by the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District in past years, the trials are now run by the riders. There is no fee to ride, however, riders who wish to ride the trials are required to wear helmets and expected to keep their bikes in good repair.

The trials will run each Tuesday through the first week of October.

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