Many of the world's top bicycle racers will pass throug Maryland twice during the May 9-19 Tour Du Pont, America's largest and most ambitious professional cycling race. Next Saturday is the big day, for it brings the finish of a 136-mile road race to Columbia.
The Newark, Del.-to-Columbia stage, the second event of the 11-stage race (previously named Tour du Trump, now named after a new sponsor, the Du Pont Co. of Wilmington, Del.), begins at 9 a.m. on Main Street in the Delaware town just east of the Maryland border off I-95.
The route will bring riders through the Maryland communities of Rising Sun, Port Deposit, Conowingo, Forest Hill, Jarretts-ville, Madonna, Butler, Reisterstown and Glenelg before an estimated p.m. finish on Little Patuxent Parkway in the Town Center of Columbia.
On May 17, Stage 9 is a 142-mile road race from Winchester, Va., to Harrisburg, Pa. Maryland cycle fans can catch the peleton (as the main pack of racers is called) as riders enter the state on Route 287 at Brunswick and continue through Catoctin Park, Thurmont and Emmitsburg in Maryland, on through Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
Originally, Baltimore was to have been the May 11 site of a road race finish and a "criterium" closed-circuit race, as it was in the previous two years of the Tour du Trump. However, conflicts with events related to Preakness Week caused organizers to eliminate the criterium here and switch the route of the road race to Columbia.
Because the May 11 road race will last more than five hours, serious racing fans have the opportunity, via automobile, to catch the start in Newark and the finish in Columbia, as well as perhaps to intersect the race at several points en route.
Others may wish to watch the riders pass at various points. Here are a few suggestions for good viewing:
* Port Deposit/Conowingo, Cecil County: The scenic Susquehanna River town of Port Deposit is the site of a bonus sprint for racers, entering town via Route 276 and riding north on Route 222 to Conowingo, where they cross the Conowingo Dam on U.S. 1. Estimated arrival is 9:45 a.m.
* Forest Hill/Jarrettsville, Harford County: At Forest Hill, riders enter town from the north on Route 24 and turn west on East-West Highway/Route 23. Estimated arrival time, 11 a.m. The route continues through Jarrettsville on Baldwin Mill Road, with a sharp left turn onto Norrisville Road at town center.
* Butler/Reisterstown, Baltimore County: Near noon, riders should be nearing Butler, on Belfast Road, passing through the small town northbound on Falls Road before heading west again Butler Road through Glyndon to Reisterstown. Reisterstown is the site of another bonus sprint finish, and estimated arrival is at 12:30 p.m.
* Woodbine, Howard County: Morgan Station Road and Route 144 is where the riders enter Howard County, and this is another sprint area. Estimated arrival is between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Near Glenelg, riders turn onto Folly Quarter Road for the final leg into Columbia.
* Columbia, Howard County: Riders enter town on Harpers Farm Road at Route 108, joining Little Patuxent Parkway and swinging south of Columbia Mall for the finish sprint in the center of town. Estimated arrival is 2:30 p.m.
For more information on Tour Du Pont, call the race headquarters in Richmond, Va., (804) 649-0034.
National television coverage of the race is also being carried by CBS, with broadcasts at 2 p.m. May 12 (which should include the Columbia finish of the previous day) and at 1 p.m. May 19. On cable, ESPN will have daily reports as well; check your listings for details.