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Pedal to the pros

Stephanie Woloszczuk, a Rock Hill High School senior, trains at Winthrop Lake. She will compete in the Rock Hill Bicycle Club's 28th annual OMNIUM, which is Friday through Sunday in York County.
Stephanie Woloszczuk, a Rock Hill High School senior, trains at Winthrop Lake. She will compete in the Rock Hill Bicycle Club's 28th annual OMNIUM, which is Friday through Sunday in York County.

Stephanie Woloszczuk, a Rock Hill High School senior, faced a dilemma -- compete in the Charleston Low Country bicycle race or go to the prom. Both fell on the same weekend in April.

"I wanted to go to the race," Woloszczuk said.

But she already had a date.

With a sigh, Woloszczuk chose the prom.

This weekend, Woloszczuk, 18, will compete in another race, the Rock Hill Bicycle Club's 28th annual OMNIUM, a three-day bike race.

For the second time in her biking career, Woloszczuk will join more than 500 riders from all over the world to compete for $15,000 in cash and prizes.

Woloszczuk said competing in the OMNIUM will help her achieve her goal of becoming a pro racer.

"I want to race in the women's Tour de France," she said.

The OMNIUM, a sprint and endurance bicycle race that's held in cities around the globe, is an event in which many pros have gotten their start.

With the great stories about Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie from Greenville, participation in bicycle racing has surged and the Rock Hill race is no exception, said Kim Deacon, past promoter of the Rock Hill OMNIUM and a former racer.

"The races are really spectacular, fun, colorful, fast and yes, there are crashes," he said.

The local race kicks off Friday evening in downtown York with the White Rose sprints, a fast-paced 500-meter race. During this race, some cyclists will reach speeds of more than 40 mph, said Deacon.

Woloszczuk will not compete in the sprints. But on Saturday afternoon in downtown Rock Hill, she will race in the women's category four in the Old Town Criterium, on team 19, sponsored by Trek Women's Specific Design. The criterium is a multi-lap race featuring tight-cornered turns and high speeds around an 0.8-mile technical course loop.

"It's an intense speed race," Woloszczuk said.

On Sunday, Woloszczuk will pedal through southern York County in the Patriot's Trail road race, a 45-mile multi-loop race that begins at Historic Brattonsville. She will complete one loop while other racers in the pro and master categories will race for two loops -- a total of 96 miles.

Last year, Woloszczuk said she found the road race challenging.

"It took me so long to get around the course," she said. "It took four hours."

This year, Woloszczuk said, "I'm hoping to do much better and ride harder, stronger and faster -- and enjoy the ride, too."

About three years ago, Woloszczuk became intrigued with cycling when she spotted a group of riders from the Rock Hill Bicycle Club. By the following week, Woloszczuk was riding with the group on their popular Monday night ride.

"One evening of riding and I was hooked," she said.

But Woloszczuk said the pace of the Monday night ride was too slow.

"They could see that I wanted speed," she said, referring to the bike club members. Soon former racers and cycling coaches Deacon and Mike Burgess of Rock Hill were preparing her to race competitively.

Two years ago, Woloszczuk met her current coach, Eric Peterson of Charlotte and his junior men's team, Carolina Storms, during a training ride at Winthrop Lake.

When Woloszczuk spotted Carolina Storms, she said, she wanted to ride with them. So she just pedaled in behind the group.

Peterson, a former competitive racer, said he was drawn to work with Woloszczuk because of her determination, spirit and passion for the sport.

"She has been trying hard. She will be successful at this," he said.

In preparation for racing season, Woloszczuk has been training two to three hours a day, four to five days a week, usually after school.

"School comes first," Woloszczuk said, "I do homework, then I train."

Woloszczuk trains all year.

"Even if it's cold out, we still ride," she said.

Her training includes weight lifting, long rides outdoors or on a stationary bike, techniques of group riding and crash avoidance.

But sometimes, Woloszczuk found, crashes just can't be avoided. At a Charlotte race a couple of weekends ago, a pack of cyclists went down in front of her. She has the bumps and bruises to show for it.

But Woloszczuk didn't let that slow her down.

"Mike Peterson told me if the bike works, get up and cross the finish line."

She did, and came in fourth place.

WANT TO GO?

What: Rock Hill Bicycle Club's OMNIUM race.

White Rose Sprints: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday in downtown York, a fast-paced 500 meter sprint with 11 category races.

Old Town Criterium: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, on Main Street in downtown Rock Hill, new and experienced racers test their skills along a 0.8-mile loop, with 15 races.

Patriot's Trail road race: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, beginning and ending at Hightower Hall in Brattonsville, a challenging 45-mile rolling countryside multi-loop race, with 11 races.

Admission: Free for spectators

Details: Racers, www.sportsbaseonline.com; spectators, www.rockhillbicycleclub.com

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