Events and Activities

July 18, 2004
Sunday Telegram
Worcester, Mass.
This climb Major test
By Mark Conti
If you want to find out how fast you can get your heart racing in less than a minute, then the George Street Bike Challenge for Major Taylor may be just the event.

The time trial offers bicyclists a chance to race 500 feet up one of the steepest hills in Worcester. The hill was once the training ground of "The Worcester Whirlwind," 1899 world cycling champion Marshall W. "Major" Taylor.

"I'd have to say I maxed out (my heart rate) there," said Jon Fielding of Princeton, a member of Team Bicycle Alley who finished first among men 35-49 last year. "If you don't max out on that hill I don't know where you're going to."

The George Street Challenge will be held will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday, July 25, at George and Main streets in downtown Worcester, near the courthouse.

Riders will begin on Main Street from a standing start on level ground then immediately hit the George Street hill, which has an average grade of 18 percent. One bicyclist at a time will ride against the clock.

Kurt Hackler of Bolton, last year's overall winner, recommends standing up, getting over the handlebars and hammering away.

"Probably the best way would be to do the whole thing standing up, it gives you more torque. It's short enough so you're not going to run out of air," said Hackler, a Cat 1 road racer who used a gearing of 39x25.

Hackler rode the climb last year in 24.39 seconds. Mike Orsi of Auburn won the event in 2002 with a time of 23.56.

Hackler said he will not be able to defend his title this year because he is going to Pennsylvania to compete in the Tour de Toona.

Fielding, who has had back problems this season, said he is considering racing on a single-speed bike this year.

"It's tough no matter what you ride up that hill. But you don't mind digging deep for something that short," said Fielding, who used a gearing of 39x23 last year.

"A lot of it is gearing and timing," Fielding said. "There's no margin of error because it's so short."

Major Taylor, the first African-American to become an international sports superstar, was world sprint champion in 1899. He, too, rode a single-speed bike.

Proceeds from the challenge will benefit the Major Taylor Association, which plans to build a statue of Major Taylor at the Worcester Public Library in Salem Square.

"I'd like to give it another go. It's a fun event, and I like the cause," Fielding said.

The George Street Challenge was first held in 2002. The first event attracted 55 riders from age 13 to 74. Participation grew last year as 67 riders turned out to compete.

The bike challenge is presented by Barney's Bicycle and the Seven Hills Wheelmen. It is open to riders ages 12 and older. The entry fee is $15. Medals will be awarded in various age categories for men and women. There also will a public safety division for police and EMT bike patrols.

Race-day registration opens at 8:30 a.m. Riders will start racing at 10 a.m.

Barney's Bicycle will raffle off a Diamondback Sorrento mountain bike at the event. Tickets cost $5 a chance, or three for $12.

Other raffle prizes are a snowboard table/bench from; gift certificates from Eastern Mountain Sports; a Pedal for Progress bike jersey from the Tyler Hamilton Foundation; an autographed copy of the children's book "Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist," written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James Ransome; and the blues CD "Double V" by Otis Taylor (no relation to Major Taylor), featuring a song about Major Taylor, "He Never Raced on Sunday."

Mark Conti can be reached by e-mail at

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