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OFF TO NATIONALS

Sarah Havlik has parlayed a weight loss exercise into a competitive endeavor
by: John Brewington  SARAH HAVLIK—Local bicycle racer will compete at nationals in Bend at the end of August.

What started as an attempt to exercise and lose some weight has turned one local athlete into a national bicycle racer.

Sarah Havlik, 41, can often be seen training on her bicycle around Scappoose. Some may not realize that's she's an exceptional time trial racer. She just won her division again this year and is headed to Bend for nationals on Aug. 31.

Back in 2003, Sarah had just given birth to her daughter Anika, now 8, and wanted to lose some weight. She was having trouble with Plantar Fasciitis, a painful heel condition, and her husband Michael suggested bike riding.

She started riding, entered some races, and ended up winning her age division in time trials at the state competition. She went on to nationals and placed seventh. She also lost 70 pounds.

'I did it for my daughter,' she said. 'It was one of the things that drove me. I didn't want to be an overweight mom, wanted to be healthy, and set the best possible example.'

She's certainly accomplished that. Her daughter even races on occasion now. Sarah's continued racing, but did take a bit of time off after the birth of her son, Kevin, 5. This is her first year back after a 2½-year hiatus.

Sarah is a member of Sorella Forte, an all-women cycling team. They race as a group, and cheer each other on. Sarah's main focus is on time trials. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association puts on the state races, and USA Cycling conducts the nationals.

'A time trial is a race of truth,' she said. 'You race against some people, yourself and the clock. Occasionally you will pass someone, but mostly it's just your heart rate, breathing, and going as fast as you can. There are usually not a lot of hills and not a lot of coasting. It's putting the power down for as long as you can.'

Sarah trains on one bike and rides a 20-gear Cerve'lo racing bike in competition. Ironically, her maiden name is Geers. The bike weighs just over 10 pounds. It has racing handlebars, and everything is tapered on the cutting edges. The tires tuck tightly into the frames. Aeronautical engineers in Canada designed it. The back wheel has a solid covering with golf-ball-like dimples in the material covering the wheel. She wears a special racing shoe that fits onto a round metal pad that substitutes for standard pedals. She also wears the special teardrop style helmet. She tries to keep her back almost level from the seat to the handlebars to create less drag when racing.

The bike doesn't give her an edge but keeps her even with the competition since they all have similar bikes. The bike costs thousands of dollars.

She and her husband Michael have been married for 20 years. 'He's a sweet young thing and I couldn't do this without him. He's the brains behind the entire event.'

Sarah trains indoor at home during inclement weather on a special training machine. She'll venture out if it's cool, but not too wet. She considers cool weather optimum. She's been training a lot on a three-mile stretch of Rocky Point Road, because 'it's great for building up the leg muscles.'

She started racing this year at the Jack Frost Time Trial in Vancouver in February.

'I finished in the middle of the pack, almost exactly where I expected-seventh out of 15.' She' rode in a few other events and said she would venture to PIR (Portland International Raceway) occasionally for the competition there.

In state at the time trials (in Peoria), she finished first in 1:05, averaging 23-24 miles per hour. 'It was totally first place,' she gleefully added.

The Bend event will be a little bit different course, hillier than the riders are used to competing on.

Sarah says the number of riders in her age group at nationals varies from year to year, but averages around 15. She's interested in attending the next two nationals, both in Park City, Utah, on a course and at an altitude she likes.

Her breathing capacity is so good she's been tested at Oregon State University. How long will she continue? 'As long as my body will last,' she noted. 'I'll take it year by year. There are people around here that have been racing for years and years.'