Bicyclists experience Southern hospitality up close

David Carleton of Clemmons, left, works with Estado de Mexico team member Mariagiulia Confalonieri to get her tire pressure right for the rainy weather before her race in the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic Saturday, April 19, 2014. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

David Carleton of Clemmons, left, works with Estado de Mexico team member Mariagiulia Confalonieri to get her tire pressure right for the rainy weather before her race in the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic Saturday, April 19, 2014. (Lauren Carroll/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Over the past few days, members of the Estado de Mexico-Faren team have experienced Southern hospitality first-hand – in the homes of host families — as they prepared to race in the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic.

“We’re all avid cyclists so when one of the groups we ride with put out a feeler for hosts, we kind of took the hook, line and sinker,” said David Carleton, whose family hosted three team members and their manager.

Kevin Fox’s family also hosted members of Estado de Mexico-Faren.

“It’s been a great experience and opportunity to give back to the community and a great experience to have two daughters to have two world-class athletes to (spend time with),” Fox said.

Under cloudy skies Saturday, Carleton and Fox spent time with the bicyclists, helping them get ready for that day’s race, which was started just before 5. They prepped the light-weight bicycles the racers would use in the races.

This is the second time Winston-Salem Cycling Classic has held races in the city but it’s the first time it is hosting internationally sanctioned professional races. Price money for Saturday’s pro criterium – a 75-minute circuit race downtown – is $15,000, according to the WSCC website. Total prize money for the two days of amateur and pro crits, and the men’s and women’s pro road races is almost $50,000.

The event appeared to run smoothly, though there were complaints about disrupting traffic during the Easter weekend.

Renee Harris Patterson commented online through Facebook on a Winston-Salem Journal story about the race, saying that she loved the idea of the race but didn’t think it should have been held on a holiday weekend.

“We tried to get from Reynolda Road to God’s Acre this morning, around 10 a.m., and it turned into a farce,” she said. “Almost every turn we made ended in a detour.”

Organizers acknowledged that having the event before Easter wasn’t the best timing, but said that was the time that worked for the tour organizers. In the future, they said, the event would likely be scheduled differently.

Five members of the Estado de Mexico-Faren team raced in Winston-Salem this weekend. Carleton said four of the racers are from Italy and one is from Mexico.

The group arrived in Winston-Salem Tuesday and Carleton said the original plan was to have the team members stay with the host families for a few days and then go to a hotel on Friday and Saturday. They asked the families if they could stay with them until Sunday.

“We told them by all means … they’re more than welcome to stay with us,” Carleton said.

Anna Trevisi, one of the racers, said she has enjoyed her stay in Winston-Salem.

“It’s a good experience,” she said.

Elena Ceccini, also a member of the team, said she also has enjoyed her time.

“I like the people who host us,” she said. “They are friendly.”

Ceccini said she plans to fly back to Italy and then go to Belgium for a race. She said she races about 60 times a year. The Winston-Salem Cycling Classic is very well organized, she said.

Ceccini finished first in her race. The families celebrated afterward at Mellow Mushroom pizza restaurant on Fourth Street.

Bill Oakes, who is assisting with the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, said 100 cyclists are staying in 47 residences.

Carleton said Trevisi asked him one day why his family was being so nice, and Carleton replied that was how most Americans are. She was surprised, he said, because she had a negative image of Americans.

“We Americans have a bad rap,” he said. “Once they meet us, it changes their minds.”

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