Jessica Chong is taking off the summer.
For the 27-year-old Salisbury High School health and physical education teacher, that doesn't mean much.
Instead of teaching and competing in triathlons, she intends to concentrate on bicycle road racing and maybe even some Friday night racing at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown.
"I have a few big races coming up," said Chong, who races both triathlon and her bike without a team, although she has cycling support from Morgan Stanley's master's team and some triathlon support from Endurance Multisport.
"I'll be doing the Killington [Vermont] Stage Race [May 26-28], the Liberty Classic [in Philadelphia June 3] and nationals the last week of June in Georgia," she said.
That's time off?
"I believe the pro-am racing on Tuesday nights at the velodrome starts in about two weeks, and I'll be using that for my road racing, and maybe some Friday nights [of international professional racing], but I'm undecided on that for now," she added.
Actually, that hectic race pace is like time off for Chong, who raced in the triathlon professional nationals in April at the 70.3, or Long Course distance, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike leg and a 13.1-mile run. She grabbed a Top 10 spot, and decided to "rest" until the fall.
This was Chong's first full season as a professional triathlete.
"It was a pretty smooth transition, but it was totally different," she said of a sport whose top competitors reach their best form by their mid-30s. "I was competing against other professional women and it's a totally different mindset. I consistently placed in the top 10 in all my races, so that was good."
Chong, a graduate of East Stroudsburg University, is entering her third season of competitive cycling, but her first dedicated to just cycling through the summer.
"I want to see where I can go with this," she said.
Judging by her performances in the triathlon, she has the ability to go pretty far.
Velo racing: The professional international World Series of Bicycling doesn't kick off at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center until June 15, with the U.S. Sprint Grand Prix, but racing action is starting up on the track with the First Niagara Masters and Rookies Series on Saturday.
First Niagara is a first-time sponsor of the 17-week racing card.
"This Saturday race series produces a great entertainment value for fans and attracts a wide range of competitive cyclists across a range of ages, skill levels and geographic areas," said VPCC Executive Director Marty Nothstein, a three-time world champion and Olympic gold and silver medalist.
The First Niagara Masters and Rookies Series is all about putting one's skills on the line while looking to improve performance against people racing for the pure joy of competition and the bragging rights that go along with victories and personal bests. USA Cycling racing licenses are required for Category 3/4 women, Cat 5 men, Cat 4-5 men, Cat 1-4 Masters (30-and-older) and juniors 10-14.
Entry fee is $15, plus $5 for a race number. Registration begins at 10 a.m. Racing starts at noon.
For information, go to http://www.thevelodrome.com.
Friday is Bike to Work Day: Are you or your friends accepting the alternate transportation challenge, or are you a regular cycling commuter?
Friday is Bike to Work Day, and with beautiful weather on tap, consider biking to work on a safe route via some of the many beautiful roads and trails in the Lehigh Valley. If you haven't been biking for a while, make sure to do a safety check on your bike to ensure that it's shifting and braking properly before going out for any real rides that put you in traffic or in isolated areas.
U.S. representative from Pennsylvania opposed to funding biking, hiking trails: For those of you politically inclined, keep an eye on what is happening within the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee, has come out against funding off-road trails for alternative transportation.
"Coming from Pennsylvania with 5,000 bridges, it's unconscionable for me to go to my state and say you have to spend [transportation dollars] on bike paths when you could cause death to people on the roadways if we're not able to spend those dollars, those precious dollars on rebuilding the bridges," Shuster, of Blair County, said in a statement last week.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (www.railstotrails.org) has come out opposing Shuster's viewpoint on several levels, chief among them that the core federal programs supporting walking and biking trails siphons less than 2 percent from the total federal transportation surface budget.
I'm all for funding safe bridges and upgrading our unsafe and degrading spans. However, taking money from alternative and recreational transportation that has a direct positive effect on the health and well being of our nation's population is shortsighted at best. That 2 percent or less of the budget has a tremendous effect on our trails systems, and a negligible impact on the nation's roadways and bridges.