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By JESSICA MUNDIE
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2001
Counting their blessings, area bicycle racers, mountain bikers and triathletes just pulled on long sleeves and put their tights back on, gearing up for early-season events.
The sweltering conditions in Tampa's Gasparilla Distance Classic two weeks ago did not last long.
USA Cycling riders up north had cyclecross and training races canceled last weekend because of a wintery blast, making courses and travel to events slippery and dangerous.
Central Florida's spring calendar remains among the best in the U.S. It attracts athletes of national, Olympic and world status, not to mention mid-packers who are lucky enough to get a jump on their seasons by logging in some early miles. The Gruppo Strada criteriums and road races in St. Augustine several weeks ago proved to be an active season opener for southeast bicycle racing.
While USA Cycling district representative E.J. Rogut was recuperating in his Temple Terrace home after a recent illness, his BBC Team stole the show.
Racing in the rain, top riders in St. Augustine were BBC's Sherri Stedje of Lutz, Robin Kavan of Tampa, Dave Stedje of Lutz, Mark Yaeger of St. Pete Beach and Kurt Fritz and Randy Fergeson of St. Petersburg.
CHASING THE BUNNY: Ringling Bicycles owners Dave and Julie Holt of Palmetto are preparing for their upcoming race weekend and next month's Bradenton's Chase The Bunny road events. Former Florida state road champion Ralph Clemente pedalled through town last weekend, visiting E.J. Rogut, and studying for his masters degree in environmental science. Clemente says he plans to put his books down to return for Holt's road race.
For further information, call (941) 749-1442.
ESCAPE FROM FORT DESOTO TRI: Get ready for the popular season opener for triathletes as they swim .5 mile, bike 15.5 miles and run 3.1 miles at Fort DeSoto Park on April 21.
Longtime organizer Fred "Rizzi" Rzymek took a break from planning to race in Gasparilla, but he's working full time on the Fort DeSoto event, which will feature sandy runs and stair climbing. All USA Triathlon rules apply, and divisions will include elites, age-groupers, masters, clydesdales and relay teams. The first wave of competitors leaves the beach at 7:30 a.m.
There will be a post-race party at Fort DeSoto Park. For further information, call Rzymek, (727) 712-9999, or log on to www.escapefromftdesoto.com.
BMX CHAMPS: Spectators who never have packed a cooler and lawn chair for an evening of free bicycle motocross watching may soon want to attend some Saturday night of St. Pete BMX racing. Local team JokerJ is ranked second in the state and its roster includes the following young local standouts headed to nationals in McDonough, Ga., on March 24:
Melissa Gremal; Amanda Gremal, 12; Tom Villarreal, 11; David Bentlage, 10; Nick "Twister" Lucas, 9; Ravin Forbes, 7; and expert Chris Codol, 18.
Team photos and BMX information may be found at the following Pinellas county bicycle shops: Revolution Bicycles, Bicycle Outfitters, Jim's Bicycle Shop, Chainwheel Drive, J&R Express and Action Wheelsports.
For more BMX racing information call Ken Goodrich, (727) 576-8649.
COVER GIRL LOKELANI: Hawaii's favorite member of the St. Pete Mad Dogs, Lokelani McMichael of Kailua-Kona, is launching a modeling career at age 24 and is featured on the cover of the March issue of Runner's World magazine.
PAN AM CHAMPIONSHIPS: Clermont's CFT/Sommer Sports will play host to the 2001 Pan American Triathlon Championships at Lake Minneola on April 8.
Competitors from all over north, central and south America are expected to race in the Olympic distance event, which will consist of a 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometers of biking and 10 kilometers of running.
For further information, log on to www.triflorida.com or call Fred Sommer, (352) 394-1320.
PROGRESS IN CLERMONT: Construction is well underway on a 150-acre site, just north of State Road 50, that will be the $7.5 million Triathlon National Training Center.
According to reports in the Orlando Sentinel, a 72-foot tall hotel next to the center has been approved, as well as a 186,000 square foot target Superstore.
ST. ANTHONY'S FIELD IS FULL: Organizer Steve Meckfessel confirmed the full capacity of 1,600 for the St. Anthony's Triathlon, which is scheduled for April 29 at Straub Park.
Relay teams will become the focus of many who want a challenge, particularly in the corporate divisions. Entries by Tech Data, Raymond James and Associates, and GTE are at the top of the list, and competition will be tough.
The Raymond James team of swim/skate champion Carol Torreano, Alaska marathon rider Roman Fish and top Forerunners master Lenore Rupert has issued a challenge to cross-town financial competitor William R. Bill Hough to field a team of rivals for some friendly corporate competition.