Schenectady County

Ice racers speed, skid to victory at winter carnival

Pedaling a mountain bike around hairpin turns on a frozen lake seemed like a good idea Saturday, but

Pedaling a mountain bike around hairpin turns on a frozen lake seemed like a good idea Saturday, but today, those participants who took a spill on the ice are likely feeling a little stiff.

Bill McCormack of Clifton Park fell while practicing on the course before the ice race at Iroquois Lake in Central Park, but he soldiered on come race time.

“I’ll know tomorrow,” he said when asked if he hurt himself.

McCormack and his 14-year-old son, Dan, finished the course with regular mountain bike tires, but others used special studded tires designed for winter use.

“We thought we’d try it for the fun of it,” McCormack said.

Paul Chowansky came from Sea Girt, N.J., just to compete in the bike race and to blow off some steam after several long work weeks doing a construction project.

“Everybody in my church was like, ‘You’re going up WHERE this weekend?’ ” he said.

The three celebrated respectable finishes but nowhere near that of Mark Graber of Saratoga Springs, who pulled off a win at the race after competing with two other serious racers at the head of the pack.

There aren’t many winter races in the Northeast, Graber noted.

“This brings the cycling community together in an area that’s colder than heck,” Graber said. “It’s not a lot of fun to ride by yourself all winter.”

Only part of the fun

The ice race was part of the first Schenectady Winter Carnival, a festival with all forms of activities in Central Park, including softball and broomball plus a chili cookoff, musical entertainment and food.

Children and adults ice skated on Iroquois Lake and sledded and snow tubed on the park’s hills. Skiing and snowshoeing were permitted, too, but participants in those activities were few on Saturday.

Several hundred people attended the event, which started with an idea to bring children together for some winter softball.

“When I was a kid, we used to play softball here in the winter,” recalled Mike Burke, city recreation director. “I wanted to have softball and some hot chocolate.”

So the city partnered with the city schools’ PTO Council, and volunteers swarmed in.

“We just called all our friends and said, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Burke said.

The event offered a rare chance for people to get together outside in Schenectady for an organized activity and banish cabin fever.

“You’re stuck inside a lot. You’ve got to have winter activities,” said Wendy Baird of Charlton.

Baird usually brings her Vermont grandchildren to New York in Bloom at the New York State Museum this weekend, the beginning of their February school vacation.

But this year, she toted the youngsters to Central Park, where Max, 11, went snow tubing with his grandfather and Markus, 7, skated.

Burke was happy with Saturday’s weather.

“We asked for snow,” Burke said. “We got a little bit of snow to make it beautiful.”

In Rotterdam, the county sponsored an affiliated Winter Carnival at Maple Ski Ridge.

Heather Mason, manager of Plaine and Son in Schenectady, organized the ice race.

Ice races are popular in Canada, where contestants see how many laps they can pedal around a course before the clock runs out, she explained.

Racers had to make the sharp turns by sliding into them, sometimes using their feet to stop and turn, rather than steering the usual way.

The studded bike tires that some people bought for the race can be used all winter on trails, she said.

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