2012-08-09 / Sports

Local cyclist making plans to repeat as state champ

By Mike Spencer
Of The Enterprise staff


CHRIS FISHER of Cleveland Township practices going up the hill on Sugar Loaf Mountain Road which will be part of the course in Sunday’s Michigan State Road Racing Championship. CHRIS FISHER of Cleveland Township practices going up the hill on Sugar Loaf Mountain Road which will be part of the course in Sunday’s Michigan State Road Racing Championship. Chris Fisher knows odds are against him, but the 43-year-old Leelanau County cyclist is making plans to repeat as the Michigan State Road Racing champion on Sunday.

Fisher, who now lives in Cleveland Township, will certainly have the home field advantage on a 93.2-mile, fourloop course that starts and finishes at Sugar Loaf Mountain.

“It would be really fun to win it again, but it’s tough to defend,” said Fisher, a Leland native who won the race last year when it started and finished in downtown Cedar. “I’ve won a lot of races in my day, but was never able to do it in consecutive years.

“I imagine the bookmakers would not be putting huge money on me.”

Despite the odds, Fisher feels good about his chances in the Cherry- Roubaix event.


CHRIS FISHER poses on his bike before a recent practice on Sugar Loaf Mountain Road, the final stretch for Sunday’s Michigan State Road Racing Championship. CHRIS FISHER poses on his bike before a recent practice on Sugar Loaf Mountain Road, the final stretch for Sunday’s Michigan State Road Racing Championship. “I’m definitely as prepared as I can be,” said Fisher, who rides for the Priority Health team. “But there’s always a little bit of luck involved.

“Going out there in great shape minimizes the luck factor. You just have to make sure all your stars are aligned and I think we’ve got it. We have a very good team here.”

Fisher said last year’s victory in the Pro 1/2 Division — in 3 hours, 48 minutes and 1 second — wasn’t pictureperfect.

“It worked out tactically and I had a good day physically, and those are the days you hope for,” he recalled. “But the course last year wasn’t the best for me.


CHRIS FISHER, far left, awaits the start of last year’s state championship in downtown Cedar. CHRIS FISHER, far left, awaits the start of last year’s state championship in downtown Cedar. “It was ‘Too easy.’”

Fisher beat Ohio’s Paul Martin in a downhill sprint to the finish line.

“I knew Paul was the guy to beat and he knew he had to shake me before the finish line and I was expecting that,” Fisher recalls. “So he attacked on every hill and I just followed him and then I got him in the sprints.”

This year’s course is a lot different. The loop has 1,200 feet of climbing per lap.

“A state championship course should be tough and challenging and I think they’ve done a good job with it,” Fisher said. “I think it’s going to be tough and exciting.”

There are a lot of hills, including the finale going up Sugar Loaf Mountain Road from M-22.

“The finish is going to be challenging,” Fisher said. “It’s definitely a finish for climbers — those who can take a hit and still have something left for 200 yards.”

Fisher, who retired from pro racing in 2003 but is on the comeback trail, said the recent chip and seal paving on the first part of the course will create some difficulties.

“It’s not too fresh and normally that’s not bad, but the problems seem to occur on the corners where there is more loose gravel,” Fisher said.

The journey downhill on Honke and then turning north onto Schomberg will be interesting and so will the long climb on Schomberg, Fisher said.

“It’s a little bit dicey once you get onto Schomberg,” said Fisher, noting there is a quick, little downhill portion that’s not good. “People will have to pay attention and it’s scary because they’ve just gone up a hill and they’re going to be tired.”

Fisher expects to have some good competition, especially from Bissell Advantage Benefits Nuvo Cycling Team. East Jordan’s Mac Brennan, who just signed a pro contract with Bissell, will be tough along with his teammates Derek Graham and Mike Anderson.

“Chis is going to have his hands full,” said Cody Sovis, a Hagerty Racing team member and race spokesman. “Bissell will have both the talent and the numbers to keep the pressure on all race long.”

“Bissell is always our biggest competition,” Fisher said. “They might have 12 riders here and they are all very good.”

Fisher also expects Martin to be a front-runner along with Team Panther teammate Kirk Albers.

“They are very smart and really strong,” Fisher said.

A year ago, Priority Health had just two other riders in the pro event.

“We’ve got eight now, some with good experience and some motivated ones,” said Fisher, noting teammates like Ryan Cross and Andrew Florian. “And we’ve had a really good season.

“If there’s a lot of guys marking me, I could be a good decoy for one of my teammates to win it.”

“Chris is going to be riding with a lot of responsibility as defending champion and other teams will look to him to chase down attacks throughout the race,” Sovis said. “Maybe his best tactic is to play poker, force the others to make the moves and simply follow wheels.

“Chris is one of the smartest riders in any race and if anyone is capable of making the right decisions in the heat of the moment, it’s Chris.”

Although Fisher won the state race last year, he could not be crowned champ under Michigan Bike Racing Association rules because his primary residency was Salisbury, Conn. where he was teaching and coaching at a preparatory school.

He has since made Maple City his only residence. He’s currently an online coach for cyclists, providing training programs and health tips.

And now living just a couple of miles from the course, he’s ready to use the home course advantage.

“It’s huge,” he said. “Everything is familiar, including sleeping in my own bed.

“It takes away from the stress factor. Everything is known, which is very settling.”

STATE ROAD RACE

What: The Michigan State Road Racing Championship.

When: Sunday, starting at 9 a.m. with pro races. Races, in 13 different divisions including juniors, expected to conclude about 1 p.m.

Where: Start and finish on Sugar Loaf Mountain Road, Cedar.

The course: Heads east from Sugar Loaf Resort to Townline, then north to Eitzen, east to Good Harbor Trail and then north to Hohnke. It continues east to Schomberg and then north to Dufek and then east again to French Road (County Road 645).

The course heads south on French Road and turns west onto Gatzke. The course continues west to Townline and Narlock and then west to Lime Lake Road and north to M-22. The course heads north on M-22 to Sugar Loaf Mountain Road and then south to the finish line at Sugar Loaf.

The event: Title sponsor is the Garan, Lucow, Miller, PC. The state championship is endorsed by the Michigan Bike Race Association in conjunction with USA Cycling, Inc

Return to top