COPPERAS COVE — Elijah Road and Old Georgetown Road were completely devoid of traffic over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t being used.
More than 700 cyclists packed the roads and staging area for the State Road Race Championship, the final state race of the season.
“This is considered to be the toughest road race in the state of Texas,” event organizer Andy Hollinger said. “Everybody likes to come out for this one, and rain or shine, we are going to race. The only thing we stop for is lightning.”
It seems most everyone did come out for the race, which had participants ranging in age from 10 years old to 70 years old.
Chris Carlson from Plano, took first place in the 50-59 age bracket. Carlson said he has been racing since he was 14 years old, and has raced on this course for the past five years.
“It’s special to get to race on this base, at Fort Hood,” he said. “The final race used to actually be in Copperas Cove, but when Fort Hood and Cove got together and moved it to this area, it was really nice to be able to race in an area like this.”
Carlson also said it was nice to race at Fort Hood at the end of the season due to where the season starts.
“The first race of the season actually happens in Copperas Cove,” he said. “So we start here and end here.”
The course itself was a 33-mile-long loop, and racers traversed the circuit three times before finishing Saturday, and twice on Sunday.
Most riders Sunday said they were thankful for the rain after the sweltering heat of Saturday. While many might think the second day sounds easier, many competitors said it was even harder the second day.
“The shorter the course is the harder it is, because everyone knows they can last longer, so they are going harder,” Kyle Swanson, 19, of Fort Worth, said. “We also started around 8 a.m. while it was raining, and sometimes it was coming down so hard it felt like we were getting pelted by hail.”
Swanson and his friend Jefferey May, 19, of Greenville, finished their race together on Sunday, and both enjoyed the event.
“Everyone who races here is a top-level racer,” May said. “Yesterday there was a racer here who had competed in the Olympics. There was someone here who raced in the Tour de France. So when you race here, you know you are competing with the best.”
Because the course was actually at Fort Hood, many of the competitors were members of the military, a partnership Hollinger hopes will continue to grow.
“Last year we had 72 members of the military race, and I think we are right on track to have about that many this year, too,” he said. “In today’s world there is a bit of a segregation between the military and civilians, and I hope this will help bridge the gap.”