Armed Forces Cycling Classic Returns to Arlington (photos)


It was another clear sign that life was returning back to normal following the lifting of COVID protocols. Many top men and women professional and amateur cyclists assembled in Crystal City and Clarendon in Arlington Va. on June 5-6 for the 23rd Annual Armed Forces Cycling Classic. It was the first official event on the 2021 Pro Road Tour since late February of 2020.

“This is opening day of professional bike racing in America,” said Race Director Rob Laybourn who secured the final go-ahead for the event just six weeks prior. “This is the first time in over 15 months that these men and women have gotten together to compete in the United States.”

Criterium racing requires extreme physical and mental conditioning, and cyclists were tested this weekend with temperatures hovering above 90 degrees. In the men’s final event, the Clarendon Cup, riders competed for 2 hours and twenty minutes. They spun through 100 laps, completing a total of 500 turns through the fenced-off public street course, covering a total of 62 miles. Average speeds approached 30 miles per hour.

“This sport is definitely the most challenging in terms of endurance”, said Madison Kelly, 28, of Team CWA Racing who currently balances her cycling activities with medical school. These were her team’s first major criteriums of the season. “Usually we would be racing since March but all the races were postponed.” Racing in the heat “can be pretty difficult, especially with the humidity. You can still feel it especially at the end of the race when your body temperature is rising anyway.” How does it feel to be racing again? “It feels great. I love being back in the saddle … after almost 2 years of not racing and it’s been great to see everybody.”

Jeff Moore, 57, of Hatfield Pa, who competed in one of the advanced amateur categories, has been racing for 42 years and wants to do it for another 20. Why does he do it? “For the fun of it [and] I like staying in shape.” He also enjoys traveling every weekend and the camaraderie at the events.

Saturday’s Crystal City Cup honors went to Kendall Ryan of L39ION of Los Angeles in the women’s event, with first-time winner Connor Sallee of ButcherBox Cycling taking the men’s title.

Sunday’s Clarendon Cup’s women’s pro event ended in a sprint finish as Maggie Coles-Lyster of DNA Pro Cycling Team edged out the 2019 winner, Kendall Ryan of L39ION of Los Angeles. In the men’s pro race, Stephen Vogel of Project Echelon Racing won by 9 seconds but not without a bit of unintended drama, as with one lap to go, he mistakenly thought the race was over, but recovered in time to maintain his lead.

“I had a lot of favorable winds behind me from the cycling community… that wanted this to happen. I felt the hands behind me helping me across the line,” said an emotional Laybourn.

View Jeff Malet’s photos from The 23rd Annual Armed Forces Cycling Classic by clicking on the photo icons below.

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