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Bay Port freshman excels at Road America

By Rich Palzewic
Sports Editor

SUAMICO – Cohen Sylvester, a Bay Port High School freshman, recently competed in the 12 Hours of Road America bicycle ride in Elkhart Lake.

The 14-year old rode almost 160 miles (39 laps) on the famous 4-mile racecourse, which has 14 turns and was built in 1955.

Sylvester rode most of the event, which began at 7 p.m. and finished 12 hours later at 7 a.m., with his Broken Spoke teammates.

“George (Kapitz), the owner of Broken Spoke Bike Studio, told me about the ride a few weeks before and suggested I do it,” said Sylvester, who has two older brothers, Austin and Alex.

He finished with the 44th-most laps ridden among the 276 riders who logged time.

Including breaks, Sylvester averaged more than 13 miles per hour (mph) but many times was cranking out speeds above 20 mph.

“The course is hard with lots of turns,” Sylvester said. “The first three-fourths is flat or downhill, but the last fourth is hard. There were about 250 feet of climbing per lap.”

Sylvester said he didn’t specifically train for the event but had ridden enough beforehand to make it work.

“The longest ride I’d done before the event this summer was about 90 miles,” he said. “I had also done lots of 50-mile rides with more than a 20-mph average, too.”

Riders were free to start and stop when they chose to use the bathroom, hydrate and refuel.

“I put lots of effort into the first 100 miles,” said Sylvester. “The physical part wasn’t the hardest part of the ride. About midnight, I got super-sleepy. After the first five hours, I rode some, rested and rode again. I’m not used to staying up that late. It was hard mentally, too.”

During the initial 100 miles, Sylvester stopped once at the 50-mile mark and another time at mile 75.

“Once I hit 100 miles, I slowed down,” he said. “I was riding with my teammates mostly up until that point, but after, I mainly rode alone.”

Sylvester bought a road bike when he was seven and began riding more.

“It’s a good way to get outside and exercise,” he said. “I rode 40 miles when I first got my bike, and it was the hardest thing up to that point I’d ever done. Since that day, I’ve fallen in love with biking. This year, I put more time into it. Next year, there will be more opportunities for me to race almost every weekend.”

Cohen is the son of David and Jennifer Sylvester.

Editor’s notes: Sean Johnson won the event by riding 63 laps, which equals more than 250 miles.

Broken Spoke won the team competition among 36 entrants.

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