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Bicyclists race — rain or shine

LEHI — Steep hills, long distances and cold weather weren't enough to keep some die-hard bikers away from Saturday's leg of the Thanksgiving Point Stage Race and Cycling Festival.

But the cloudy skies and forecasts that threatened snow deterred others from attending the four-day racing competition that began on Friday and ends today.

"You can do everything right, but if the weather's bad, there's nothing you can do about it," said Scott Preston, who helped plan the event. "It's disappointing how the weather turned out."

Preston is part of Three Peaks, a racing promotion business that hopes to bring international competition to the Utah racing circuit.

Although 600 competitors from the Mountain West were expected, some 250 bikers arrived to compete at the event.

The festival was made up of five stages, each one involving a variation of skill, alternating terrain and technical challenge.

On Saturday, stage two of the competition, cyclists were required to

complete a professional circuit race that looped on a paved road around the Thanksgiving Point resort.

"It's not just physical, it's mental," said Marc Yap, the second-place winner of Saturday's event. "There are a lot of tactics involved. It's not just the fastest who win, it's the smartest."

Professional bikers ride with a strategy, like sending a slower member of the team to the front to tire out the competition so another fresher teammate can come from behind and win.

They also train relentlessly, often riding for at least 15 hours a week.

Yap, who rides as an elite amateur, says he wants to become a professional rider so he can "get paid a salary to ride a bike."

For those such as Yap, Utah bikers have plenty of opportunity to race for money in competitions across the state. Races are held nearly every weekend.

The diverse terrain available in Utah makes it the perfect racing ground, said Preston.

But there's more to racing than just hard work and exposure to nature, said amateur Nate Kamerath, a competitor in Saturday's event.

To Kamerath, there's something addicting about the challenge.

"You race and at the end you realize you didn't think about a thing the whole time," Kamerath said. "You turn into an animal."