|Grove bicycle shop owner to race in Italy|
|Friday, April 12, 2013 12:01 PM|
COLUMBUS GROVE— Raymond Harner, owner of CG Pro Bikes in Columbus Grove, has been a serious cyclist since he was 13 years old and has always had a dream of one day racing in Italy. On April 28, he will realize his goal when he rides in the Fizik Granfondo race in Marostica, Italy.
The Granfondo race is 154 km (a little more than 95 miles) and 2,970 elevation meters in the Alps of Italy. The event is hosted by Fizik, an Italian manufacturer of racing shoes and saddles. Every year, Fizik chooses a handful of their shoe dealers to take part in this race and Harner was chosen for 2013. He told the Vidette he has never been in a challenge like this before, although he has participated in many races over the years.
The story leading up to this chance started when he was young teen. Harner began repairing bikes and then he would ride them back and forth between his parents’ houses. When he was fixing the bikes, he became fascinated about changing gears and was always riding at different speeds. He now credits this to how he became faster on the bicycle.
“I didn’t realize it at the time but it was kind of like speed training. Because of that (experience), I trained myself to go fast,” said Harner.
It was not long after that when Harner purchased his first professional racing bike, which he bought from a friend. After experiencing the difference between riding a professional bike and a normal one, he was able to increase his speed even more.
“When I was riding, I was able to keep up with the cars next to me on the road. I felt empowered and free,” remembers Harner.
He recalled his first group ride was with the American Youth Hostel Ride and he did really well for it being his first ride. Shortly after, he heard of a race called the Midwest Double. He competed and completed the first 100 miles in six hours and 20 minutes.
Harner has been training a lot over the last few weeks in preparation for the upcoming race in Italy. Since November, he has ridden approximately 1,200 miles. He explained he has a GPS system which he puts on his bike and it tells him how far he has ridden, his heart rate and other factors. “Using the GPS helps me to train because I can see when my endurance levels are best and keep it consistent throughout my rides,” said Harner.
But the training is not only hard work and Harner joked he should be Italian, “I love Italian food and they (Italians) make the best bicycles you can get!” he said. He said he eats a lot of spaghetti and he really doesn’t diet much for his training.
Harner has been to Italy once before while he was in the service with the U.S. Navy in 1988. While there, he rode up Mt. Vesuvius.
“I had my bike with me on the ship and when we finally got to land I brought it to ride. I was just wandering around and saw a sign that said Mt. Vesuvius, so I went to it,” he said. He explained he wasn’t there for long so he is really looking forward to spending more time in Italy and seeing the city of Marostica. While in Italy, Harner and his wife, Liz, will be visiting the Fizik factory.
“We are really excited about visiting the factory it will be really neat to see it,” explained Liz.
The Granfondo race offers two choices for riders, a shorter, Mediofondo (100km, 1670 elevation meters) or the longer course, Granfondo (154km, 2970 elevation meters). Harner has chosen to do the longer of the two, the Granfondo.
For the first part of the day the Granfondo shares the street with the short course. Starting in Piazza Castello, the main square known worldwide for the live chess game, in a few kilometers the race reaches the first climb: Salcedo, a panoramic street that lined with cherry trees in full bloom. After that the downhill the course follows the Valdastico until the village of Pedescala where the race starts for real with the long climb up Castelletto di Rotzo to reach the Altopiano di Asiago. The Altopiano di Asiago is a plateau famous for its cheese and World War I battles. Here the course remains in altitude for several kilometers.
Just before starting the final downhill, there is the split between the long and short courses. The short course stays to the left and the Granfondo trails right through the downhill of Laverda. The racers then ride the same street as the early morning start so they again travel the Salcedo climb and follow the Valdastico until Calvene. Exactly in the center of the village the course turns right and starts the Monte Corno uphill. This is the key moment of the race. The average gradient is not impossible but after so many kilometers, racers need strong legs to overcome the rise. After the summit, the street crosses the Altopiano for several kilometers before starting the final downhill, riding the route already completed by the short racers with the finish line in Piazza Castello.
“If I’m going there, I might as well do it big,” joked Harner. He explained he has been training specifically for the race as it will be very steep and quit challenging. “I like steeper hills; it is more of a challenge. The important thing you have to do is be careful not to fall off on the way down. You see professional riders in the Tour de France who even have a hard time with this; it is about keeping control on your way down,” he said.
Harner said he has a goal of finishing the race in seven hours. “If I could do the race in six hours I’d be happy, but at least by seven hours,” he said.
Harner will most likely be taking his Colnago racing bike, which is one of the best racing bikes in the world. “It is important to have a good bike and mine is in tip-top shape. Colnago is an Italian made bike and it has low gears for steep hills,” said Harner.
Visitors are invited to the CG Pro Bike shop in Columbus Grove or to visit their Facebook page to learn more about races and other cycling activities throughout the area.