Tour de StrongLand goes to wire
TribLIVE Sports Videos
After 24 years, the Tour de StrongLand never ceases to have new stories to tell.
This year was about homecoming, longevity and perfect conditions.
The premier race, Road Race I, came down to a sprint to the finish. It was Pittsburgh's Jared Babik, 36, who held off Zach Kovalcik, 29, by 1⁄100th of a second for the title.
Babik posted a 1:32:05 to Kovalcik's 1:32:06.
Kovalcik, a resident of Portland, Ore., grew up in the Vandergrift area and graduated from Burrell.
Babik was in the lead pack for the entire race, but it was Kovalcik who worked the hardest through all of the 35.57-mile race.
“The group broke up pretty early. It was just six of us most of the time,” Kovalcik said. “There were two guys on one team who took turns trying to wear everybody else out. The last 10 or so miles, I had to pull everything back together. Babik hadn't done any work. He was a little fresher than me going into the finish.”
Perhaps the one person who has competed in all 24 events isn't an organizer or volunteer; he is a competitor.
Bill Holyfield, 56, of Fairmont, W.Va., has competed in every Road Race III event since its inception.
“We came up here to do a tour ride in Schenley Park. A couple people said they were going to put this race on over at Northmoreland Park,” Holyfield said. “The next year, I came up here. We came over to do the race, enjoyed it, then one year led to another. Now, 24 years later, I'm still coming back.”
Since that first race, things have changed for Holyfield, in both the race and the makeup of his traveling companions.
“I've gotten to the point over the years where I don't care if I win or not. I just want to finish,” Holyfield said. “I used to bring my kids with me. They loved to come. My wife still loves to come, but the kids have gotten older. Now, my nephews are starting to come with me. Eventually, maybe I can get them to do the ride.”
The person who may be most important to the success of the event is StrongLand Chamber of Commerce president and event organizer Allan Walzak.
Whether it is making sure everyone has enough to eat or helping sell raffle tickets, Walzak seems to be just about everywhere.
As much as he needs to be concerned with the bigger picture, Walzak, 66, of East Brady, does not take the little things lightly, even stopping to take in the weather for the event.
“This is what the riders like,” Walzak said. “Some clouds and no humidity. This is just great today.”
Despite recently announcing his retirement, effective in March 2013, Walzak's contributions to StrongLand events may not end with his tenure.
“I'll be hanging around,” Walzak said with a smile. “Even after I retire, my wife and I are still doing the canoe trip down the Kiski River. I'm going to work with anything they want me to work with and just have fun doing it.”
The overall winners of the other events Sunday were:
• Women's competition: Hannah Brewer, 28, Butler, 1:06:47
• Road Race II: Curt Brown, 44, Sewickley, 1:01:05
• Road Race III: Larry Willis, 38, Cranberry Twp., 31:40
• Mountain Bike I: Alex Kukieza, 50, Zelienople, 1:11:03
• Mountain Bike II: Daniel Antoniono, 17, Apollo, 37:02
Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers’ backups Archer, Harris ready to run
- Fatal crash closes Flight 93 chapel in Somerset County
- Comeau’s hat trick leads Penguins; Crosby reaches career points
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- Starkey: Rutherford will add when timing’s right
- Police on hunt for suspects in unrelated Penn Township, Manor cases
- Pregnant woman struck by van in North Side dies; doctors save baby
- Surge in small drones making airline pilots nervous
- Amusement parks fight off home entertainment threat
- Steelers cornerback Taylor ready to swap earpiece for helmet
- Lemont Furnace woman dropped crack cocaine at booking center, police say