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UF students compete in bicycle races for points

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Posted: Monday, February 9, 2009 12:00 am

Local cyclists exchanged their sweaters for spandex Saturday for the two-day Swamp Classic.

The Classic, a series of bicycle races where cyclists of all skill levels competed for points, prizes and prestige, wound through the tree-lined roads of Archer and kicked off the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference season.

The riders and teams do not compete against one another directly - rather, they try to finish as fast as possible to earn points for their teams in hopes of earning enough to go to the national competition held in May, said Joel Hackman, a UF student and Team Florida's sponsorship coordinator.

The event, hosted by UF's Team Florida Cycling, continued Sunday with collegiate and open races, in which riders raced around city blocks that had been closed to traffic in downtown Gainesville.

Members of Team Florida triumphed in various categories, taking seven out of the top 10 positions - including first and third - in the Collegiate A race and first and second position in the Collegiate Women's race.

Bobby Sweeting, a UF student who is a member of both Team Florida and a professional team sponsored by Toshiba, won a 55-minute collegiate race Sunday, earning points for his team just hours before competing in a 65-minute professional race.

Hackman said that Team Florida is lucky that Sweeting is so devoted to his school and team.

"All he got was glory and points for our school," he said of Sweeting. "It's like a recreational tennis player having access to Roger Federer."

According to Sweeting, the feeling is mutual.

"UF is fortunate to have a lot of really, really strong riders," Sweeting said. "We can go out there and really put the screws to some people and do well."

Team Florida is sponsored in large part by local companies, including Chain Reaction Bicycles, and national companies like Clif Bar and the anti-chafing cream AsMASTER, as well as the City of Gainesville, according to Hackman.

Hackman calls Gainesville a "mecca for cycling in the state of Florida," citing Gainesville's mix of city atmosphere and country roads as the perfect combination for cyclists.

The Swamp Classic was not without incident - cars sometimes clogged the road on Saturday, and a wayward scooter and allegedly stolen car were brief distractions on Sunday's course. But the overall demeanor of the cyclists was remarkably mellow.

Alexis Dabroski, who won the Collegiate Women's race by almost an entire lap, stayed relaxed despite working full time as a firefighter while attending graduate school at UF.

"People are here cheering me on," she said. "I know that no matter how bad I do, they're going to be here supporting me."

She also attributes her success to her teammates.

"I definitely couldn't have done it without them," she said. "People would have chased me down and brought me back in. It's great to have a strong team out there."

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