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Sylvania bicycle races backed by city council

Course planned in Burnham Park area

Plans for a series of "criterium" bicycle races in a residential part of Sylvania this summer are moving forward with city council's endorsement of the idea last week.

Jon Card, a San Benito Drive resident and former professional bicycle racer, said the Aug. 7 race program being developed by the Maumee Valley Wheelmen, a cycling club, would feature a main-event race that would attract professionals from a wide area but also include an array of other races open to amateurs of all ages and ability levels.

And because the racers will make laps around a 0.7-mile loop of city streets in the Burnham Park neighborhood, rather than follow a "tour" route along which they would pass each spot along the way just once, it will be much more interesting for spectators, Mr. Card said.

"An event like this creates vitality for our community," councilman Mark Luetke said before joining the 6-0 vote in favor of the race. "It's a real opportunity to show Sylvania" to visitors, while causing minimal inconvenience to residents, he said.

Council designated William Sanford, the city's economic development and administrative services coordinator, as Sylvania's point person for government involvement with the race. Mayor Craig Stough directed Scott Smith, the city finance director, to research any potential city liability for, and insurance coverage of, its role in the event.

Mr. Sanford said event organizers would be responsible for the cost of police coverage and any other event-related city services.

The 10 or more races are expected to attract as many as 500 participants, plus 700 or so spectators. Mr. Card predicted 50 to 75 racers probably would enter the 25-mile main event.

The planned race course follows parts of Maplewood and Phillips avenues, Erie Street, Parkwood Boulevard, and Fairview Drive.

The affected sections would be closed to traffic for most of the time between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on the race day, although vehicles would be allowed in and out during scheduled breaks between the races.

Mr. Sanford sent letters last month to about 75 homeowners along and near the race route explaining the idea and seeking comments. He said he received just one response, from Mike and Sheri Rothfuss, who objected.

"We expect to be able to access our driveway and streets at all times and feel this is also a safety risk in the event of an emergency," the Rothfusses wrote. "We already endure the fall parade and inaccessibility to our streets and driveways during that event. Pacesetter Park is a more appropriate location for this bike race, not a neighborhood where families live and expect to relax in the privacy of our homes and yards."

Police Chief William Rhodus said similar events, including the Sylvania Triathlon, "have practically shut down neighborhoods" but have caused minimal issues for the residents.

"In the past, we have not had too many problems, just a few small issues from time to time," the chief said.

Mr. Card said the race schedule would be set several months in advance, so riders in various events would know when they need to be ready, and the traffic breaks thus would also be known in advance.

He said he developed the idea during a dinner with city councilman Katie Cappellini and her husband, Thomas.

Mrs. Cappellini said the initial concept was to set up a course in the downtown business district, but a street resurfacing project on Main Street is to be under way on Aug. 7, and other possible dates created conflicts either for the Wheelmen or the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Cappellini home is on part of the Burnham Park race route. Besides affecting traffic in and out of homes there, the race would require people going to Plummer Pool to walk in from other streets that day.

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