Riders remember to hydrate as they traverse the 33-mile course during the Texas State Road Racing Championships Sept. 23 at Fort Cavazos. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wight, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Riders remember to hydrate as they traverse the 33-mile course during the Texas State Road Racing Championships Sept. 23 at Fort Cavazos. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wight, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Editor’s note: At time of publication, all official results had not been announced. To see the results, visit usacycling.org.

FORT CAVAZOS, Texas — Texas State Road Racing Championships cyclists clad in race gear and helmets, sat atop their bicycles and listened intently as Race Director Andy Hollinger took a moment to remember the namesake of the weekend event early Sept. 23 at Fort Cavazos.

Also known as the Bill Weinlein Memorial Championship Races, the annual two-day cycling competition is held in memory of cyclist and long-time official Bill Weinlein, who succumbed to melanoma this year.

Hollinger took the opportunity to remind riders to be aware of the dangers of prolonged sun exposure and heat exertion and encouraged them to wear sunscreen, stay hydrated and above all, have fun.

A retired Army officer and cycling enthusiast, Hollinger combined his passion for the sport and his commitment to military service members to organize what is considered the largest cycling competition in Texas.

“This is the biggest race, bicycle race in Texas period,” he said. “For racing, we outdraw everybody. This is literally the biggest, the best, most Euro experience that many racers get. It’s a big deal.”

Nearly 600 Soldiers, veterans, retirees and cycling enthusiasts from all over the world converged on an open field on post to participate in the grueling event, which Holliger likened to one of the world’s most formidable cycling competitions.

“It is a tough course. It is a championship course. This isn’t going around in a circle 10 miles. This is 2,500 feet (of elevation), 33 miles. It is our version of the Tour de France to put it blatantly,” he bragged.

Surrounded by cyclists, Race Director Andy Hollinger takes a moment to remember Bill Weinlein, the namesake of the Texas State Road Racing Championships, Sept. 23 at Fort Cavazos. Weinlein, a cycling enthusiasts and event supporter, died from melanoma this year. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs)
Surrounded by cyclists, Race Director Andy Hollinger takes a moment to remember Bill Weinlein, the namesake of the Texas State Road Racing Championships, Sept. 23 at Fort Cavazos. Weinlein, a cycling enthusiasts and event supporter, died from melanoma this year. (U.S. Army photo by Janecze Wright, Fort Cavazos Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Hollinger recalled how the early years of the race were fraught with congested roads, and remembered requesting support from then-Fort Hood leadership to provide a secure closed off location to hold the race.

The collaboration led to the first race in Copperas Cove in 1995, followed by the first championship weekend held on the installation in 2010 and a long-standing partnership between the organization and the installation.

“There is nowhere else in Texas where the roads can be closed,” Hollinger explained. “There is no ‘chip-seal,’ it has the elevation variance, and frankly has such an iconic feel to the venue. Many of the racers are vets, so this sort of stuff matters to us.

“It’s done right,” he continued. “And the fact that we’ve got lots of support for the riders is important. People in Copperas Cove give us a great welcome. And the competition is good and it’s the whole road. We never get that. It is everything anybody cares about in racing.”

The event featured male and female competitors in gender specific events that tested seasoned racers’ aptitude and allowed novice riders to compete and have fun.

Saturday’s events were skills based and featured cyclists in categories one through five; one being the most skilled and five representing beginners and those racing for fun.

In addition, the open and military events closed out Saturday.

Riders competing in age groups up to 70-plus wrapped up the event on Sunday.

Racers traversed the 33-mile course, with category one cyclists completing three laps around for a total of 99 miles, to test their endurance and compete for the fastest time.

“It’s the thrill of being in the peloton,” Hollinger explained, referring to the groups of cyclists. “Out there, there’s nobody around. It’s just you, your body, your machine, the typography and the peloton.

“We will hand out over 40 state championship (titles) throughout the weekend,” he continued. “It provides we, who served in the military, back to the Vietnam era, a chance to revisit and reconnect to our miliary past. All this while rolling past the training ranges, avoiding the free-range cattle and competing in the sport we love.”

Col. Matthew Mapes, deputy commanding officer, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, took fourth in the military open competition Saturday afternoon after completing 33 arduous miles. He explained that he’s competed in the Texas State Road Racing Championships multiple times and enjoys the physical challenge of the event.

“Pushing yourself to the limit, teamwork, comradery, stress relief, the joy of riding in a peloton traveling twenty to twenty-five miles an hour,” he began. “The best part about this particular race is the fact that it is in our backyard and the roads are completely closed off to traffic giving racers the entire road to race on.”

Mapes added that the event brings the community together.

“It allows the public to interact with Soldiers assisting with the event, ride in our phenomenal training area, pass ranges and facilities and even see a tank up close that was positioned at the registration area for the podium backdrop,” he said. “It reminds folks of the sacrifices that Soldiers and families make. Furthermore, it is a way to strengthen relationships and assist in decreasing the civilian-military divide. Kudos to Fort Cavazos Garrison and III Armored Corps for allowing this race to occur on the installation and all the support they provide on an annual basis.”

Hollinger agreed.

“One of the biggest things that this race does is it brings people with no contact with military, to see real people, real Soldiers, men and women,” he said. “The military is a separate silo of life. And to bring people here to see the base, to see the people training, to meet the Soldiers … it’s important for people from all walks of life to see this and feel this and be part of it.”

Aside from providing an opportunity for cycling devotees to hone their skills, the event also gives back to the military community.

Hollinger estimates that more than $75,000 has been donated to various military charities during the race’s tenure on post.

He expressed that the championship weekend has been the highlight and closing event of Texas’ road racing season since its inception, and though he has suffered numerous ailments, including COVID-19, he is proud to still be here to continue the legacy of excellence he started so many years ago.

“This is my testament,” ” Hollinger said. “This is my gift to the racing community and to the military.”