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Martinez cyclist could move up after victory

Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2010

Brad Harman puts 12,000 miles on his tires each year.

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One might infer that it means he drives his car about as much as everyone else does. To be more specific, he puts 12,000 miles on his bicycle tires every year.

"That's as much as a lot of people put on their cars," said Harman, who has worked for the past eight years at Chain Reaction in Martinez and currently serves as manager.

It translates to anywhere from 12 to 25 hours per week of high-level training for the 36-year-old Harman, who competes in road races throughout the Southeast.

All the hard work paid off Sept. 18 when Harman earned the title of South Carolina state champion, capturing the Category 3 title at the South Carolina State Road Race Championships in Fork Shoals, S.C.

Category 3 is just below what is considered the elite level of road racing.

Harman had finished runner-up at the Georgia state championships, held this year at Fort Gordon. However, because he's a resident of South Carolina, he is allowed to race in other states' events, but can't earn the official state title.

For the South Carolina event, there were upwards of 50 competitors in Category 3 for the 75-mile, 31/2-hour race. The conditions were not ideal, Harman said, but the ability to withstand them is something a cyclist develops through so much training.

"There were very difficult conditions," he said. "The course was very hilly. It was hot. We lost a lot of guys before the finish. Only about 25 guys finished the race."

On hand for the event was his mother, Brenda, whom he claims as his biggest fan.

The 30-second victory -- significant in that many road races come down to tight finishes after a pack sprints toward the finish line -- could help Harman achieve a feat known as "catting up" in cycling lingo.

He's hoping to move up in category to the elite, Category 2 level, achieved by producing consistent top finishes in qualified races.

Phil Cohen, owner of Chain Reaction, is a former competitive cyclist. He said that, when he competed, he didn't have quite the same discipline that Harman has, and he was never able to make the jump from Category 3 to Category 2.

Cohen said that Harman is too humble to admit it, but he said it's now just a matter of time before Harman moves up.

"He's ready to go to the next level," Cohen said. "It's just a procedural thing."

Moving up the cycling hierarchy could provide Harman a unique opportunity next summer. The 2011 Amateur National Championships will be held in Augusta. He would need to be in the elite Category 2 in order to compete in the event.

Whether he's able to compete in it or not, Harman said having the national championships locally is substantial.

"I'm floored," he said of his thoughts when Augusta was announced as the site for both the 2011 and 2012 events. "It's amazing."

He said he hopes it brings awareness about the sport of cycling, which might not normally draw as much interest as more popular sports, such as football and baseball.

"No. 1, I want people to know that these sports ... that are a bit more obscure are out there," Harman said. "I can't ask everyone to be a fan of our sport. But I want them to be aware that athletes like myself train very hard to participate in this sport."

Harman's love of the sport started when he did freestyle trick riding as a child. About 10 to 12 years ago, he competed in mountain bike racing, then transitioned to road racing five years ago.

Harman said working for a fellow cycling enthusiast allows him the opportunity to compete. He's more able to work flexible hours around races.

He also said it's great to have Cohen around because he can bounce ideas off of him.

Racing at his level means racing for the love of the sport and small purses. He admits it's a lot of suffering and very little glory.

"There's a famous saying: 'Bike racing is 99 percent suffering and 1 percent magic,'" Harman said. "I guess this was my magic."



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