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Athletes train as season nears

Dressed to brave the windchills in Pasco County, packs of bay area cyclists have been seen rolling out of San Antonio's city park ballfield during recent chilly Sundays in January.

Florida's USA Cycling racers, triathletes and sport riders pedalling for fitness all know the 2000 season is around the corner, once the Super Bowl parties are over.

San Antonio's champion, Derek Wilkerson, has dominated the Best of the Bay Cyclists spring training criterium circuit, and Wednesday, pacelines quicken with the presence of Wilkerson and Ironman Danny Nolan of St. Petersburg.

Wilkerson, a former Florida state road champion, has decided to put the brakes on his pro career after consulting with coach Jim Pavek, owner of San Antonio Cyclery

"Derek declined his pro contract with the Mercury squad to remain on amateur status for another season," Pavek said. "Derek and his family feel that it is to his advantage to remain on the U.S. national team another year."

Named to the U.S. Olympic team, Wilkerson may join Nathan Rogut of Tampa in the lineup of Olympic Trials hopefuls as the countdown to Sydney rolls on.

The 2000 Olympic Games cycling schedule is as follows: Sept. 19-23 will be track events; Sept. 27 will be road racing; and the cycling time trials will be Sept. 30.

FLORIDA POINTS SERIES: Florida's yearlong points series is under way, and Orlando's Tim Molyneaux won the New Millennium Training Criterium in Orlando earlier this month. The next race is Saturday. Gainesville's big cycling weekend will be Feb. 26-27, and there will be a criterium at the University of Central Florida in Orlando the first weekend of March.

FIRST LOCAL RACES: Points will be awarded at the Chase The Bunny Road Race, the season opener, on March 11. For information call Ringling Bicycles at (941) 749-1442 or e-mail David Holt at ringling1aol.com.

YORK'S HELL: Adding to the diversity of spring events in the bay area, Florida's first major mountain bike race promoter, York Somerville of Pinellas Park, will host another challenging off-road duathlon weekend of Heaven & Hell races Saturday.

The Heaven & Hell 2000 series leader is Clermont triathlete Eddie Hensley, who is being chased by USA Triathlon coach Cyle Sage, Ironman champion Joe Bonness of Naples, expert mountain biker Bobby Lee, Ironman pro Susan Latshaw, and Tampa's Ironman star, Alison Hayden.

For information on upcoming off-road duathlons, e-mail Somerville at yorkij.net or call the race hot line at (727) 527-8869.

WALGREENS RIDE 2000: The three-day, 275-mile Walgreens Ride 2000, also known as the Red Ribbon Ride, will be March 31-April 2 and will proceed from Orlando to south Florida.

The Walgreens Ride 2000 will benefit the Tampa AIDS Network, Action For AIDS, AIDS Resource Alliance and other projects.

For information on the Walgreens Ride 2000, check the ride Web site at www.redribbon.org or call (888) 658-BIKE.

SWAMP ROMP Y2K: Pack your knobby tires, guitar and camping gear and get ready to rock with Tampa's friendly bunch SWAMP (Southwest Florida Mountain Bike Pedallers) Club's sixth annual fun event, Swamp Romp Y2K Fat Tire Festival, Feb. 18-20 at Croom Bike Trail in Brooksville.

SWAMP's event, which is called a festival of off-road cycling by Wes Eubank (central Florida's trail clearing leader, trail access activist and SWAMP club guru from north Tampa) includes guided tours, single track riding, meals, factory reps with demo bikes, equipment demonstrations, night rides, entertainment around the campfires and tech support.

For information on registering or volunteering for Swamp Romp Y2K or any other mountain bike trail questions, check the club's Web site at www.swampclub.org; e-mail Eubank at eubanktampabay.rr.com; or call (813) 985-5021.

SAFE SPRING TRAINING: Cyclists beginning to log early-season mileage, especially those whose work and school schedules make it necessary to ride in the dark: take extra care and know the law.

Florida statute 316.2065 covers bicycle regulations and rules of the road. Among its provisions: 1. Every person propelling a vehicle by human power has all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle. 2. Bicycles may not ride more than two abreast on a roadway, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. 3. Any person operating a bicycle shall keep at least one hand upon the handlebars. 4. Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a white light visible from 500 feet in front, and a red light and reflector on the rear visible from 600 feet. A bicycle or its rider may have additional lights.

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