WHEELS OF FIRE

Cyclist David Osborne gets adrenaline rush from racing

David Osborne discovered his love of bicycle racing by happenstance. Riding his bike to work while a student at Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Maryland, he was approached by a racer. Admiring Osborne’s speed, agility, and pacing, the racer persuaded the skeptical Osborne to enter the Greenbelt Park Training Race Series, an event sponsored by the United States Cycling Federation. Much to Osborne’s surprise, he placed third in the novice category and came away with a passion for the sport.

Now, 24 years later, Osborne, a 45-year-old licensed cyclist, travels all over the world as a member of Artemis Elite Men’s Team in Silver Spring, Maryland, an 11-member racing squad he joined six years ago. “Unlike mountain bike riding, we race on the road,” he says. These races range from 20 to 40 miles but can extend to 100 miles, with bikers reaching an average speed of 20 to30 miles per hour. “The fastest I’ve gone downhill is 62 miles per hour,” Osborne says.

The married father of two, who works as an IT systems administrator at Bowhead at the Department of Transportation, is one of the more than 60,000 racers and bike riders in the nation. Biking has grown so much in popularity that veteran riders such as Jack Gardner characterize the sport as “the new golf. It’s a great way to network if you’re physically active.”

Osborne’s advanced skills have earned him the rank of Category 1 racer, a designation that means he has placed or won in a number of races and earned the points required by the category’s point system. (His wife, Cheryl, is a Category 2.) To compete, riders must first purchase a license from USA Cycling. The speedster has competed in all four types of races: time trials, usually three to 24 miles in which the fastest time determines the winner; criterium, from 20 to 40 miles; road race, 100 miles; and the stage race, a combination of the other three.

The bike a racer rides can affect performance. For example, bikes used in time trials have more aerodynamic frame rims and tubing and, Osborne adds, they put the body in a more streamlined position. He owns four bicycles and races with all but one.

At 6 feet 4 inches and 195 pounds, Osborne must contend with a personal disadvantage. “That’s pretty big for a racer,” he says. “A lot of guys are 150 pounds. The longer the hill, the more it hurts the bigger rider.”

His build hasn’t stopped him from emerging victorious, however. His most rewarding competition was the Bermuda Grand Prix in 2006, which he won. Osborne does plan to enter other challenging races, but he’s content to race for the sheer joy of it. “I still get an adrenaline rush,” he says. “It’s just the thrill of going fast and practicing tactics, trying to outsmart riders and beat them in the end-and help my team.”

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