The flock of neon-uniformed cyclists zips around the 0.8-mile course as a unit before exploding in a mad dash for the finish line.
The buzz generated by the cyclists impersonated a swarm of bees protecting their hive. On the final stretch, William Birmingham shot out of the pack and pedaled his way to Georgia Games gold Saturday.
Opportunistic timing resulted in the 16-year-old's championship in the junior trial at Lake Olmstead. The criterium is an endurance test in which cyclists ride for 45 minutes then scramble five final laps for victory.
William left the pack after drafting the majority of the race. Drafting, which involves riders riding behind one another, enables the cyclists to trim some effort by lessening wind resistance.
"We were trying to work together so everybody could pull their own," William said. "It helps a lot when you're drafting; you use 30 percent less energy. Then everybody sprints for it at the end."
Riding with several of his North Atlanta Racing Club buddies, William capitalized on his drafting efforts. He said the course was flatter than many he's competed on. That allowed him to maintain his stamina.
The ever-present heat nearly took its toll on the teen-age cyclist. William said he had to battle the effects of the scorching sun as well as his fellow riders.
"I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it to the end," William said. "I ran out of water and had to push it at the end."
This is William's rookie cycling season. He's competed in a handful of races but is sharpening his skills. The 1998 Georgia Games Championships 10K in-line skater said riding in a bulging pack of swiftly moving graphite, titanium and rubber is intimidating only in hindsight.
"I usually don't think about it," he said. "I always look at the videos and say, `Ooh."'
Jimmy DeButts can be reached at (706) 823-3221.
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