By Celia Belmonte
FAIR HAVEN – Fast-paced action will be back with top racers and local cyclists gearing up for the 2012 Tour de Fair Haven on Sunday, Aug. 12, a little earlier than events in the past.
Now in its fourth year, the 3.1-mile race along the Navesink River will take place a month sooner than its previous mid-September date in 2011.
“We cannot pick a date,” Event Director Michel Berger said. “The USA Cycling Federation [USCF] decides which date the event will be. This is a big deal because this is the same governing body for the Olympics.”
Presented by USCF affiliate Cycles54 and Forefront, Inc., in partnership with the Borough of Fair Haven and Fair Haven Business Association, the Tour de Fair Haven is expected to draw more than 400 cyclists, including a number of current and former U.S. National Champions.
Most competitors will come from around the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut area. Racers are also expected from Maryland. They will compete for more than $12,000 in prize money.
“It brings great awareness to the whole community,” Fair Haven resident Laura Oncea said. “As the race has continued I am surprised it has lasted year after year. There is something good about that. It must be a good race to get participation to continue.”
Tour de Fair Haven is also great exposure for local sponsors including its two main event sponsors ForeFront, Inc. of Fair Haven and Saker ShopRites as well as Gem of an Idea, Rumson-Fair Haven Bank & Trust, Shebell & Shebell, L.L.C. Attorneys at Law and Fair Haven Hardware Inc. among others.
The race starts at the Fair Haven Fire House, 645 River Road, and continues west along River Road into Rumson where it loops around Lexington Avenue, First Street, and Lincoln Avenue and back onto River Road.
The lap terminates at the loop around Buena Vista Avenue, Hillside Place and Woodland Drive before heading back onto River Road.
“River Road will be closed from about 6:30 a.m. to 2 in the afternoon,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said.
Traffic and detour plans will be coordinated by Fair Haven and Rumson police departments under Fair Haven Chief of Police Darryl G. Breckenridge Sr.
“I live on Buena Vista [Avenue] and the race goes by my house,” Oncea said. “I’m a fan. I go out there with my bell and cheer them on.
Tour de Fair Haven’s schedule of events includes six races followed by free kids’ races. As the day progresses, the category of race, distance, number of places awarded and prize money increase.
The Professional and Category 1/2 Men will be the final race and the day’s main event. This year, $9,900 in prize money is up for grabs for the 36-mile race.
“The key is bringing in big names in cycling,” Berger said.
Last year’s final race attracted some of the best teams and riders in the nation including Eric Young, the U.S. Professional National Champion and his Bissell Cycling Team and the N.J. State Champion Nikolai Masluk of Metra/Cycles54 Cycling Team.
“The race is limited to the top 100 cyclists,” Lucarelli said. “We’ve had some Manhattan teams with guys from the Dominican Republic who race really hard.”
Local teams are also expected to compete throughout the day including 3D Racing out of Atlantic Highlands and teams from Fair Haven’s Tavolo and Rumson’s Undici.
All event proceeds will benefit the Fair Haven Foundation.
“Proceeds will also go to future programs and to supplement the (borough’s) centennial,” Lucarelli said.
Although Tour de Fair Haven attracts riders from different states, it is really about community involvement.
“The families that live along River Road have lawn parties, so to speak, and watch the race,” Lucarelli said. “The cyclists told me they don’t normally get spectators on a 3-mile course like this. It is really neat and exciting for them. They really love it.”
“It gets people excited,” Oncea added. “My neighbors come down and watch the race. Kids come out with their families. It’s a lot of fun.”
It also helps the 1.6 square mile town get some well deserved recognition.
“Just for the love of Fair Haven, that’s our main pitch,” Lucarelli said. “But it really gets the town on people’s radar. It is a really great thing for the town and for cycling.”