NEW BRITAIN - This year’s Nutmeg State Games kicked off Saturday morning with the USA Cycling Connecticut State Championships at Walnut Hill Park.
There were a couple new wrinkles in this year’s event, one was notifying local residents of the race and the closing of the walking course at the park. The second change was adding a motor cavalry for all the races, which is a U.S. Cycling official that is on a motorcycle leading the race and following it from start to finish.
“It’s one of the premier events here at the park, it’s awesome,” cyclist Jose Arguelles said. “We’ve got riders from all over Connecticut, New England and even outside of New England that come down to this [criterium] because it’s one of the closed circuit races we have in New England. It’s a one-mile loop and it’s pretty safe for the majority of the race. Everybody likes to go fast around this course; it’s friendly to the riders in the staff. There’s a lot of stuff to do around town and it’s a good event for the city.”
With the nice weather, spectators crowded the track to watch the 15 races throughout the day.
“The weather makes or breaks the event,” Nutmeg Games Executive Director Patrick Fisher said. “Because you hope you get enough entries to cover your expenses so we were very lucky to have such a beautiful day today. But our history hasn’t been very good with getting a forecast like this.”
The biggest events of the day were the final two events, the Women’s and Men’s Pro 1-2-3. The women’s race lasted 55 minutes and the men’s went for 75 minutes.
Laura Summers, from Southington, placed third in the Women’s Pro 1-2-3 race and won the Women’s 45+ race.
Summers racing career began at Boston University and she has been racing ever since. Her son Nathaniel participated in the Junior boys 9-12 race.
“It’s really cool to see him have an opportunity to race because he’s not a guy to get involved in sports at school but he’s found his niche in cycling,” Summers said. “They’ve done a great job developing junior racing in Connecticut. It was a great sized field and that’s new to junior racing because we haven’t seen field sizes that big in the last few years so it’s really growing.”
Julia Sante and Valerie Hopkins placed first and second in the Women’s Pro 1-2-3 race ahead of Summers.
In the Men’s Pro 1-2-3 race, Danny Estevez, Ernest Tautkus and Sam Rosenholtz placed 1-3.
Seeing the riders race around the track isn’t an issue, one of the best parts of the track at Walnut Hill Park.
“It’s spectator friendly because they can see you across the field and see you racing so it’s fun,” Arguelles said. “Most of the races I do are usually around downtown or an industrial park so you only get to see the front finish or if you walk around you get to see the whole course. Here you can just sit in the shade and look across and you can see us going around the back side of the course and see us on the front side again.”
It was another year and another successful event as cyclists throughout New England made the trip and even some from outside the New England area.
“I’m very happy with the event,” Fisher said. “We had really good participation. The riders seemed to be very happy with the organization and what we’ve done to put on this event. So at the end of the day as someone who runs events, that’s what you want to walk away with, everybody having a good experience.”