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Riders all revved up for Nanticoke races

A New Zealand teen takes first in the featured $1,000 race on 10-event program.

John Novak, racing for Sickler’s Racing/Upstate Villa, leads Paul Cunningham of Breakaway during Saturday’s cycling competition at Luzerne County Community College. Novak won the junior 15-18 division, a 14-mile race. Cunningham took second.

Pete g. wilcox/the times leader

NANTICOKE — The first Nanticoke Criterium Bicycle Race finally found a home and took place as scheduled Saturday.

Originally to be held at the Greater Nanticoke Area High School, complaints about blocked traffic and relocation of cars forced the event to be moved. Luzerne County Community College stepped in and opened their gates on short notice.

“We’re very gracious to LCCC President Tom Leary to let us hold the event here,” said Phil Cable, the promoter of the annual race. “We had two days to set this up. It turned out pretty well.”

More than 60 riders registered for the 10 races, with some coming from Virginia, New York and a team of five from New Zealand.

The feature race was a 35-mile trek for category one, two and three riders with a total purse of $1,000. It was won by Jason Christie, 18, from New Zealand.

Other races were for beginners up to experienced amateurs, ranging in age from 10 to adult and distances from one to 25 miles.

“It’s a different style of racing over here,” said Christie, referring to the stiffer competition in the United States. “It’s good experience for all of us.”

The New Zealand team is racing in America hoping to prepare itself for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The idea for the racing event came from Gene Ditzler, the acting executive director for the Nanticoke Housing Authority.

“I wanted to give the kids something to do to help push them in the right direction,” Ditzler said in her front-row seat by the finish line. “I think everything went great and am looking forward to an even better one next year.”

Ditzler said she began thinking about this cycling event two years ago and called Mark Sickler of Sicklers Bike Shop to get the process going.

“Mark told me he had the perfect guy for me,” Ditzler said. “He’s the one who got me in touch with Phil.

“Phil’s been great. None of this would have been possible without him.”

The Wilkes-Barre Pro-Am Twilight Criterium is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 4, starting at 5:30 p.m. The start and finish for the five races are at Public Square.

First-place finishers:

Youth 14 and under, 1mile: Youth Development team (name unavailable)

Youth 15-18, 2 miles: Michael Havard, Pa.

Junior 10-14, 10 miles: Christopher Baranoski, Chester County Cycling Foundation, Pa.

Women Cat. 4, 15 miles: Nadia Latzgo, Lehigh Wheelmen Association, Pa.

Junior 15-18, 14 miles: John Novak; Sickler’s Racing/Upstate Villa, Pa.

Cat 4-5 Men, 17 miles: Edward Ellard; Hot Tamales, Pa.

Women Open, 17 miles: Dale Tye; Attarium Women’s Cycling

Master 45-older, 17 miles: Phillip Laskaris, unattached, Pa.

Cat. 3-4 Men, 25 miles: Dayle Chentley; New Zealand National

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