When we draw up the annual season calendar we draw a big red circle around the second Sunday in September in anticipation of racing on our hometown streets in front of our sponsors, friends, neighbors, and community. Since we formed our club and elite team in 2012 there's been a lot of firsts at the Bucks County Classic: Paige Shumskas being the first to wear our jersey at the 2013 Doylestown Health Pro Women's Race, our 2017 elite squad being our first team in the Thompson Pro Men's Race, and Alden Weinhold being our first podium in the 2021 Men's Amateur Race to name a few.
Gui Nelessen and Alden Weinhold in the Thompson Men's Pro Race at the 2023 Bucks County Classic. Photo: Mike Maney
We felt as though we were taking perhaps our most competitive team into this year's Thompson Men's Pro Race since we formed in 2018. However our work was cut out for us as this years race included even more talented national riders and teams than usual. The previous weekend, the Maryland Cycling Classic hosted international pro and continental pro teams in Baltimore, so top American teams like Project Echelon and L39ION of Los Angeles made their way up to Doylestown looking for a share of the $25,000 in prize money. The team representing us on our hometown streets in 2023 included Colin Fitzgerald (East Falls), Sam Smith (Doylestown), Connor Thompson (Sinking Springs), Gui Nelessen (Lambertville), Alden Weinhold (Doylestown), Josh Rovner (Philadelphia), Cesar Gallego (Brooklyn), and Andrew Dudle (Emmaus).
Sam Smith at the "call-up" of the 2023 Thompson Pro Men's Race in his hometown. Photo: Mike Maney
Our team has a mix of younger racers and veterans: Doylestown native Alden Weinhold is senior at CB West HS competing in his first full season as an elite racer, while our road captain Gui Nelessen has been threatening road racing retirement after a career as a pro cyclist, national champion, and former member of the US National Track Cycling team. A traditional honor in cycling is when a racer is granted a "call-up" before the race to be acknowledged by the announcers and spectators. Sam Smith, another Doylestown native was our call up representing our team and community. In addition to the 96 other top competitors, the Bucks County Classic is one of the toughest criterium races our team competes in. The 50 mile course is not only longer than many criterium races, but also contains eight very technical turns, and 3,500 vertical feet of elevation over the 2 hours of racing. We are so proud that our team worked together to get Colin Fitzgerald to 10th place overall, and Sam Smith to 17th overall. Not only was a top ten result our best ever result in the race, but it was the first time we placed two racers in the top twenty. Gui and Connor Thompson also completed the full race which is normally done by less than half of the field.
Colin Fitzgerald on his way to 10th in the 2023 Thompson Bucks County Classic. Photo: Ryan Lavelle
Jessica Chong was represented our team in the 2023 Doylestown Health Pro Women's Race. The twenty woman field included three teammates from the powerhouse L39ION of Los Angeles team, rising Philadelphia superstar Kim Stoveld of the Automatic-Abus elite team, perennial champion Lauren Van Guilder, among others. Chonger has had a great 2023 season with a career-defining win at America's oldest bike race - the Tour of Somerville on Memorial Day, and winning 2023 Rider of the Year at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown. She finished 8th overall in Doylestown in her penultimate race for the season. A special thank you to the Doylestown Health Foundation who is the long-time sponsor of the pro women's race at the Bucks County Classic, but is the sponsor of our team's women's road and track program. We believe that cycling contributes to the physical and mental health and well-being of our community in conjunction with their mission.
Jessica Chong in the 2023 Doylestown Health Pro Women's Race.
Gui Nelessen and a future star at the 2023 Jarrett Vaughn Builders Kids Race. Photo: Mike Maney
In addition to our elite racers, we had plenty of other athletes competing at the 2023 Bucks County Classic. Kudos to our sponsor/teammate Rob Beighley of the Solebury Club, Sam Smith's father Pete, and Steve Schwarz of Buckingham competed in the Master's age 45+ race for braving the only strong rains of the day and keeping the rubber side down. Our elite road captain, Gui Nelessen entered his eldest daughter in the Jarret Vaughn Builder's Kids Race. We look forward to having her race road, track, and mountain for us in the future. Finally, Dominic Frascella of Lansdale took 2nd in the folding bike, Brompton Burst race. We were oh-so-close to a 2023 season that included Pennyfarthing and folding bike championships.
Steve Schwarz and Rob Beighley enduring the rain in the 2023 Master's 45+ Race. Photo: Mike Maney
We are so blessed to have a cadre of professional and passionate photographers who capture the beauty of competitive cycling. Among those are Ron Short, my "Bald Guys on Bikes" co-host Mike Maney, and our shop friend Ryan Lavelle. You can see their full galleries at the link. We couldn't tell the stories of the races without them. Thank you all!
Connor Thompson and Angie provide our team's post-race vibe captured by Ron Short.