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Bicycle Race

On Sunday, the "Firefighter 50" bicycling event returns for the sixth year at the Pleasant Valley fire company. According to the company's website, the event will take place from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. It will begin and finish at the fire station at 2030 S. Pleasant Valley Road.

Last week, Carroll County Times writer Jacob deNobel reported that the Firefighter 50 "features a series of riding trails throughout northern Carroll County, eastern Frederick County and southern Adams County in Pennsylvania. Participants will ride along one of four routes — a 35-mile route, a 50-mile one, a 100-mile journey or a paved and dirt 30-mile route called the Dirty 30."

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Meanwhile, across the pond in Europe, Sunday is the last day of the Tour de France. One of my passions for July, besides thoroughly enjoying the heat and humidity, is the Tour de France. For those not familiar with 'Le Tour,' the race website reports the race runs "from Saturday July 1st to Sunday July 23rd 2017, the 104th Tour de France [was] made up of 21 stages and [covered] a total distance of 3,540 kilometers..."

For the past several weeks, the Westminster-Paide, Estonia Partner City Program has hosted four Estonian dancers. This was a follow-up visit to Westminster

By the time a cyclist finishes the Tour de France, he will have burned a total of 118,000 calories, "equivalent to 26 Mars Bars per day," according to an article on the BBC website several years ago.

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The Tour de France has a little something for everyone; history, drama, intrigue, science, a mini-geography tutorial of Europe, and all of the fanfare and spectacle of what is arguably one of the most difficult sporting challenges in the world today.

Perhaps it should be mentioned, in full disclosure, that much of the insane beginnings of the Tour de France were started by journalists and a newspaper. The bicycle race began as a newspaper publicity event, brainstormed by Henri Desgrange in 1902, to promote the sports newspaper l'Auto.

Although the eyes of the world are on the Tour de France every July, did you know that Carroll County hosted a number of celebrated bicycle races decades before the first Tour de France in 1903?

There is a long and storied history about Carroll County's love affair with the bicycle and the subject has been the topic of choice in this space a number of times.

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According to research several years ago for a segment of "Old Roots, New Roots," on WTTR by Cathy Baty, the curator at the Historical Society of Carroll County, "The first machine that we would recognize as a bicycle was developed in 1865. Called a velocipede, it had a front wheel only slightly larger than the rear. The pedals were on the front wheel and there was no chain connecting the two wheels."

"In the last two decades of the 19th century, bicycling boomed," reported Baty. "Bicycles were an inexpensive means of transportation but became especially popular for recreation. According to the Democratic Advocate, I.A. Miller owned the first bicycle in Westminster. Then A. H. Wentz, William Seabrook, Joseph Krichton, Charles Fink and John Cunningham got wheels. In 1883, these men formed a club called the Cycling Ramblers. The following year, the club took the first of many excursions when the members rode to Natural Bridge in Virginia."

On July 17, 1931, the local Westminster newspaper, the Democratic Advocate reported, "The Westminster Fire Department and Band arrived home at midnight Friday

Today, as it was in the late 1890s, bicycling is quite popular in Carroll County. According to an article in the April 1896 Democratic Advocate newspaper: "The Bicycle is a foreign invention. Those sky-scrapers, with one large wheel and a little one behind, with the riders up in the clouds, were of English invention, and were first imported in this country about twenty years ago... (They are) dangerous, and yet their use was spreading."

The Cycling Ramblers had 15 uniformed members in 1887 and according to historian Jay Graybeal, the club "was organized like a militia company of its day. Westminster jeweler A. H. Wentz was the Captain and John H. Cunningham was his Lieutenant; I. S. Weaver was the organization's bugler."

According to research for the Historical Society of Carroll County by historian Mary Ann Ashcraft; 100 years ago, "bicycle riders and racers, were filled with excitement over an event to take place at the Pleasure Park, a newly built horseracing track with a grandstand one mile north of Westminster on the road to Littlestown," — what we now know as Carroll County Regional Airport. "Carroll County has between four and five thousand riders in the race."

Downtown Westminster jeweler, Toni Pomeroy of "Pomeroy Jewelers," will be interested to know that according to an article in the June 25, 1898 edition of the American Sentinel, the first prize "for the winner of the twenty-five mile paced open race was a diamond ring valued at $35.00."

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.



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