New Canaan woman shines at Tour de Greenwich bicycle race
Honduras native Cristian Velasquez, a recent immigrant to America, is making himself at home in Greenwich: getting married last year and winning the 20-mile Tour de Greenwich XXVIII cycling race Sunday.
He finished fourth in the race two years ago and coached a rider last year. Velasquez, 32, wasn't sure how he would finish Sunday because a recent busy work schedule meant he had little time to train properly.
"Today I am surprised because I did not have time to practice," he said after winning with a time of 49 minutes 14.32 seconds, just ahead of second-place finisher Pascal Sauvayre at 49:15.35.
Bill Muzzio, of Sandy Hook, who was third, with 50:36.03, joked during the award ceremony that Velasquez and Sauvayre were so far ahead that when Muzzio crossed the finish line he threw his arms up thinking he had won. The top three finishers were among about 400 competitors, according to race officials.
Velasquez, who works as a mechanic at Greenwich Bicycles, 35 Amogerone Crossway, and immigrated to the U.S. about 1½ years ago, still struggles a bit with English. His wife, Amy Buckley-Velasquez, 33, acted as his translator at times.
Even though his training time was limited leading up to Sunday's ace, Amy said Velasquez was still in good shape after training for the Leadville Trail 100 Ride in Leadville, Colo., last month. He finished 111th out of nearly 1,500 racers.
Velasquez, who has family in Stamford, has a long cycling background in Honduras and the United States.
"He was the national champion for road cycling and mountain biking in 2006," she said of his accomplishment in Honduras, adding that he also raced with Ten Speed Drive, a Texas-based cycling team, she said.
The couple met in June 2010 -- naturally, during a bicycle ride -- and they married last year, Amy said. They live in Pemberwick.
After decades of organizing races for the Greenwich Cup series -- 10 races that span the calendar year -- Race Director Mickey Yardis, owner of Threads & Treads at 17 E. Putnam Ave., competed Sunday in his first-ever Cup cycling race. He decided it was time to get in the competition, instead of handling all the race-day duties.
"I am confident I can pass on the baton after 27 years to a very experienced crew. It is time to smell the flowers," Yardis joked.
The next Greenwich Cup event is Susannah's Run, a 5K road race at Greenwich Point on Oct. 14.
Jonathan Guiza, 14, and his father Jairo, 52, both of Fairfield, finished 132nd and 133rd overall, with times of 1:05:49.32 and 1:05:50.57.
Jairo Guiza has two brothers, Enrique and Juan, who live in Greenwich, and some family members turned out to support father and son.
"There is a lot of family support today," Jairo Guiza joked.
Jonathan was the top youth finisher in the race.
Complete race results will be posted on www.threadsandtreads.com.
Jeff Hires, 38, a midcountry resident, decided to participate even though he and his wife Debbie competed Saturday in the Nutmeg State Sprint Triathlon in Lake Waramaug State Park in Kent.
"My legs are sore because I did the triathlon yesterday," he said. "I am just looking to have fun. It's a beautiful day and it's a beautiful ride and we all live in a great, beautiful town."
Hires started cycling three months ago because he wanted to compete in a triathlon. Sunday was his first cycling-only event.
He and his wife met triathlon trainer Reenie Parker through Threads & Treads, and Hires said she has made her mark.
"In three months, she has totally whipped my wife and I into shape," he said of Parker, who was the top female finisher in Saturday's triathlon.
Hires and his wife also did well, with Debbie winning her age group win, while he collected a third place in his group.
And did Debbie join her husband Sunday?
"No, she's sleeping," Hires said with a laugh as he wheeled his way to join other competitors shortly before the 7:30 start.