© St. Petersburg Times, published March 20, 2002
Florida senior athletes jumped into early-season competition during the Goodlife Games cycling events March 10 in St. Petersburg. The new, more technical course near downtown Mirror Lake provided riders 50-and-over with a challenge. The more experienced competitors had an advantage.
Winning both 5-kilometer and 10K women's events were Carol Jean Vosburgh (55-59) of Treasure Island and St. Petersburg's Katie Knight-Perry (65-69). Both are members of the St. Pete Mad Dogs Triathlon Club.
University of South Florida professor Vanessa "Van" Hilliard, a former champion cyclist who hadn't raced in a decade, won the (60-64) 10-kilometer and beat many of the male competitors.
Hilliard, 61, is staging a comeback, taking time between physiology projects to train on group morning rides.
On the men's side, the best cyclists also came from Pinellas County.
St. Petersburg's Jack Eads (55-59) won the 10-kilometer with the fastest time of the day -- 17 minutes, 24 seconds. Seminole's Tony McCoy (60-64) posted victories in the 5K and 10K, beating Tony Handler of Tampa and Bert Valery of Indian Rocks Beach.
Brian McGrath recorded two victories in the 85-plus age group, and USA Triathlon coach Roger Burke (65-69) of Seminole earned two silver medals.
LUCAS RECOVERING: Last Saturday, St. Petersburg Bicycle Club member Mel Lucas was enjoying an early-morning warmup ride en route to a club ride at North Shore Pool.
Lucas pedalled eastbound, near 28th Street, on the popular routes for St. Petersburg cyclists -- 13th Avenue N and 17th Avenue N, which are marked with familiar green signs.
"I remember a pit bull coming from out of some bushes, and it was running toward me at full speed," Lucas said.
"There was nothing I could do but scream. It knocked me off my bike and began biting me viciously on my arms, legs, ear and back of my neck," Lucas said. "It even bit me through my Giro helmet, trying to rip it off!"
By this time, Lucas was on the ground in a pool of blood. Luckily for the 39-year-old, another rider was approaching from a few blocks behind. It was former Olympian John Sinibaldi Sr.
"It was a horrible thing to see her go through," Sinibaldi said. "The dog was mean, and it shook her arm like a rag doll. It feared me at first, and I got off my bike, trying to use the bike to get it away.
"A neighbor came out with an ax but was in too much in shock to do anything but stand there. Luckily, a policeman was down the block, and he came with his gun drawn after hearing Mel's hysterical screaming. Finally, the dog feared us and stopped biting and ripping at the poor girl."
Triathlete Karen Cervone-Nitz of St. Petersburg came upon the scene moments after the attack.
"It was so sad, and scary for any bicyclist to see," Cervone-Nitz said.
Lucas was taken by ambulance to nearby Edward White Hospital, where she stayed the afternoon after having 12 wounds treated.
On Sunday, Lucas was home trying to rest. She has received calls and e-mails from cyclists throughout the state.
"I actually felt bad when I heard the dog might be destroyed," Lucas said. "It was terrifying, and I'm still in shock. But, I have pets at home too."
One of Florida's champions on the velodrome, Lucas says she may never ride again -- at least not alone.
FESTIVAL OF SPEED: One of the most elite fields in Florida bicycle racing this year will assemble April 13-14 for Orlando's Festival Of Speed. Double Florida Series Points and thousands in cash will be on the line in the Lake Eola Criterium and Lake Nona Circuit Race. There will be competition in all USA Cycling categories beginning at 8 a.m. For information, call (407) 648-4900.
FESTIVAL OF STATES: On April 7, the West Coast Wheelmen and the city of St. Petersburg will present the Bayfront Criteriums, part of downtown St. Petersburg's Festival Of States celebrations. The Wheelmen's Dennis and Sandy Sullivan work hard to obtain cash and prizes for the annual event on a flat, fast course near Bayfront Center. All categories will race, including popular junior events, beginning at 8 a.m. Call (727) 390-2917.
FLORIDA POINTS: Riders from both sides of the bay have been scoring valuable series points. Topping the list are Tampa's Chris Scott (Team American Classic), Sherri Stedje (BBC/Jetworks) of Lutz, Brian Jones (Red Hills), Brooksville; and Tampa's Mark Stein, Winston Edwards and Dave Stedje. Sharing in the wins are Masters 50-plus champions Mike McCollum (Team MAJIC), Largo; and Earl Henry (West Coast Wheelmen), Pinellas Park.
VCR ALERT: Outdoor Life Network is featuring Le Tour Encore, a nightly recap of the 2001 Tour deFrance, with commentary by Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen and three-time winner Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service). The program is 7-8 p.m. weekdays in March.