Aug. 6—ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Frostburg native Tyler Kirkwood won the USA Cycling Gran Fondo National Championship in Asheville, North Carolina, in July.
"All of the years of hard work that I had put in, the countless hours spent training over the winter on the trainer, and giving up time with friends and family to be on the bike training anywhere from 15-20 hours a week," Kirkwood said. "It felt like it made it all so much more valuable to me."
The 28-year-old Kirkwood won the men's 25-29 age bracket, defeating 191 other total finishers including Ryan Collins from Annapolis. Kirkwood completed the race with a time of 5:18.23.
Among all the finishers across all age ranges, Kirkwood had the second-fastest time. He only trailed 32-year-old Felipe Aros from Miami.
He has won several other events this year including the Triple Peaks Grand Fondo in Winchester, Virginia, the GRUSK (Gravel Race Up Spruce Knob) in Circleville, West Virginia, and the Garrett County Gran Fondo. Kirkwood qualified for the National Championship by placing second overall in last year's National Series Gran Fondo in Frederick.
"The start line in the morning was buzzing, lots of excitement, lots of nerves, lots of tension," Kirkwood said. "You have almost 200 people all very, very talented with the same goal lining up at the same time."
There were 236 competitors ranging in age from 17 to 80 years old among the men's and women's athletes.
"The atmosphere was incredible, there were so many people," Kirkwood said. "The nerves were definitely high, the tensions are high, you can definitely feel that as you race into the first section."
By winning the national championship, Kirkwood qualified to compete in the upcoming Gran Fondo World Championships. However, he will not compete due to logistics and timing.
Jordan Kendall is a Sports Writer for the Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @JKendallCTN.