TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
June 1, 1997
By Lynne Tolman
Tyler Hamilton, winner of last year's Fitchburg Longsjo Classic stage race, is aiming much higher than the summit of Mount Wachusett this year. Racing in Europe on the U.S. Postal Service team, he's likely to be riding the Tour de France next month.
Hamilton, 26, will be the first New England native to start the Tour, cycling's most prestigious race. Many first-timers don't last the entire 23 days, but riding even a week of the Tour at Hamilton's young age would be an elite-level success.
"It's been a major dream of mine for a long time," said Hamilton, who began racing as a teen-ager growing up in Marblehead and attending Holderness Academy in New Hampshire. "It's kind of crazy that it could happen. I mean, it was a lofty dream."
At the University of Colorado, Hamilton was national collegiate criterium champion in 1993, and raced summers back home for Saugus-based CCB. He made the U.S. national team in 1994 and turned pro in 1995 with the U.S. Postal Service. Last year he was an alternate to the U.S. Olympic team, along with Saturn's Frank McCormack of Leicester.
The Postal Service will announce its nine-man Tour de France roster this month, and Hamilton is expected to be on it. The Tour begins July 5.
Home in Brookline last month on a break from the team's European base north of Barcelona, Spain, Hamilton entered three New England road races and won them all: the Jiminy Peak, the Sterling Classic and the Peerless in Keene, N.H.
"It was good competition, and in a way it's harder now because you're a marked man," Hamilton said at a Bike Week party May 19 in Somerville. With no teammates to help him, Hamilton powered himself up a hill to a four-man breakaway in the 87-mile Keene race, then attacked. In Sterling, he was in a nine-man group that narrowed a four-minute gap to about one minute; then Hamilton bridged it with one other rider and broke away alone with about 1 kilometer to go.
Hamilton's route to victory in last year's Fitchburg race provided suspenseful drama. Going into the final day's criterium, Hamilton was tied for second place overall with national criterium champion McCormack. Both were just 9 seconds back from Nutra-Fig's Chris Horner, so whichever of those three won the crit with its 10-second time bonus was going to be the overall winner, too. Hamilton clinched it in a powerful sprint. It was in the previous day's 104-mile road race that Hamilton had pulled himself into position to win, with a late attack on the climb up Mount Wachusett.
"In Belgium, it'll be like 20 of those (Mount Wachusetts), up and down," Hamilton said, describing the kind of races he's been doing in Europe since February. "It's really hard. But I'm really motivated and I'm training hard."
Hamilton finished sixth overall in the Circuit de la Sarthe in France in April, helping the Postal Service to first place in the team classification.
In Spain, Hamilton shares an apartment with teammates George Hincapie of Charlotte, N.C., and Darren Baker of Santa Rosa, Calif. The team leader is 31-year-old Russian rider Viatcheslav Ekimov, who finished 21st overall in the Tour de France last year. Ekimov, a major threat in any time trial, won the Tour of China in 1995 and the Tour DuPont in 1994.
Hamilton returned to Europe 10 days ago for the Midi Libre race in France, ending today <June 1>.
The Minuteman Road Club will host a fund-raising banquet Friday for Ed Kross of Framingham, who's training for his third Race Across America this summer. The dinner starts at 7 p.m. at the Chocksett Inn, 59 Laurelwood Road, Sterling. Cost is $15, $5 for children, free for children under 3. Seven Hills Wheelmen has a 15- to 20-mile bike ride at a casual pace starting from the inn at 6 p.m.
Consumer Reports, rating bike helmets in its June issue, gave 23 of the 24 models it tested "good" or "very good" marks for impact protection; the Giro Mudshaker RL was rated "fair." But testers found 12 models with buckles that tended to break apart in strength tests. The magazine lists the following as "good choices" among the helmets with better buckles: Bell EVO2 Pro, Bell Psycho Pro and Pro-Action Illusion for adults; Specialized Air Wave Mega for youths, available for adults as the Specialized Air Wave; and Pro-Action Ocean Friends for toddlers.
Saturday is Safe Summer Fun Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, 55 North Lake Ave., Worcester. Kids ages 7 to 12 can bring their bikes to ride in a bike rodeo.
TIP OF THE HELMET -- To Rebecca Cooke (Minuteman Road Club) of Boylston, first-place finisher, women 35 and up, in the New England Regional Criterium Championships on Monday in Charlestown, R.I. Complete results are at http://www.sencomp.com/mcvelo/results/97necrit.htm. Also, Marisha Szwabowski (New England Cycling Support Association) of Fitchburg won the juniors 10-12 race and Erik Rocheford (NECSA) of Worcester won the juniors 15 race in the Silver City Flyer last Sunday in Taunton.
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