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Gainesville Gran Prix draws international cyclists
Riders trek uphill on Dean Street toward the finish line of the Men’s Category 3 race. - photo by CHARLES PHELPS

Isaac Strickland of Newnan trekked to Gainesville this weekend to see his family and take part in one of his favorite activities — cycling.

Although he has been riding for eight years, this was the first time he competed in an event like the 3rd Annual Gainesville Gran Prix in Clermont. The race was part of the Georgia Championship Series.

“It was fun,” Strickland said. “I tried to do good. Cycling is competitive. It’s a sport you can do for a long time. It keeps you in shape and it doesn’t tear your body up.”

The weekend event started Friday night off Bradford Street in downtown Gainesville with the Wahoo Fitness Kickr races and street sprints in front of Wrenched Bicycles.

Saturday, the action moved to Concord Baptist Church and Main Street in Clermont with the 5K4God run for noncyclists in the morning and a time trial and circuit race in the afternoon. The event concluded Sunday with road races.

Strickland competed in the Men’s Masters 35-plus road race, which was one of several road races.

Men and women of different experience levels and ages competed.

Sunday’s road races’ start-finish line was on Dean Street in Clermont. One lap equaled 11 miles around the course.

The shortest race was the Junior 9-14, which was one lap. The longest race was the Men Pro 1 and 2. It was an eight-lap, 81-mile haul that tested the riders’ strength and endurance.

“(The road race) is really epic,” said Betty Hodges, co-owner of Dingo Race Productions and co-organizer of the Gran Prix.

Eight-time Australian national time trial champion Nathan O’Neill is the other co-owner and organizer. She said O’Neill picked the course for Sunday’s race and wanted to make it challenging by having a “climb,” or elevation changes.

“Nathan was a pro for a long time and he has quite the (number) of accomplishments,” Hodges said. “While he’s not a pure climber, he’s known to climb (during rides) and everyone who has ridden with him knows he can climb.

“So, he wasn’t going to have a flat course. His road races are epic in a way that a lot of road races aren’t. This area in Georgia has amazing (riding) terrain. So, we wanted to include it (in the Gran Prix).”

Hodges said there was an estimated 1,000 feet of climbing along the route.

“We have ridden out here a lot and every time we ride out here (in Clermont), we were like, ‘This is road-race material. We can do a road race here,’” she said.

Hodges said the church’s interest and volunteers helped make the event successful.

Part of the proceeds from the race weekend went to the church’s Mexico Family Mission.

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