John Boo may be a recent arrival to both Baltimore and the world of competitive cycling, but he rapidly is making up for lost time.
Boo, 30, was sixth in yesterday's Maryland State Games senior category 2 race, a premier 20-mile event on the loop road at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The respectable showing (shorter races are not his specialty) continued a strong 1991 season for Boo, who won the Maryland-Delaware Over-30 championship June 1 in Hampstead and three other top races this year.
Not bad for someone who took up competitive cycling five years ago. Then again, there are many newcomers to the sport.
"A lot of guys in cycling start after they get out of college and finish with other sports," Boo said. "Many of the riders are former runners. Cycling keeps you in shape without tearing you up like running does."
Boo, whose bike cost more than $1,500 (with wheels at $200 a set), wrestled and rowed at T.C. Williams High School in %J Washington. He played soccer at the University of Dallas -- graduating in 1983 -- and began serious cycling shortly before moving to the Homewood area in 1988.
He since has taken to it with a vengeance. With at least one race every weekend from March to October, plus training events during the week, he competes in 50 to 60 races each season. His bike logged more than 8,000 miles last year.
"But I'm pretty good at it, and speed is an attraction. That helps," said Boo, a stockbroker with Ferris, Baker Watts Inc. "And on training rides, you sometimes don't go hard. You can go out and enjoy yourself -- something that's hard to imagine in running."
Boo said he was "a little disappointed" with yesterday's finish. Going into the last turn, he found himself a couple of places too far behind eventual winner Ernie Diaz, did not catch the draft he needed and was unable to run down the top-notch sprinter.
The shorter race is not his forte, however. "I attacked several times on the hill, but this was a difficult course to get away on," Boo said. "I'm a strong climber and tend to do better in the long races on very hilly courses."
He expects to be more competitive in upcoming races in Chambersburg, Pa., (50 miles) and Blacksburg, Va., (63 miles with a 6.5-mile climb to the finish). Also on the schedule is a 30-mile race in Westminster on Aug. 11.
"The road races are more interesting, and I tend to have more success," said Boo, who is sponsored by Chesapeake Cycle Design of Bel Air, "but I'm really glad they had this race and the State Games.
"It didn't look like they'd have them after the scandal [an alleged misappropriation of funds when the games were run by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene]. And that was a shame.
"Maybe these people [the Maryland Office of Sports Promotion] had short notice, but the organizers did a great job. This was fun, and maybe next year they'll have more time."
NOTES: The Maryland State Games began in 1985 with 12 sports and several hundred participants. At least 1,700 athletes competed in 24 sports this year, the first under the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment's Office of Sports Promotion. . . . Maryland is 1 of 41 states nationwide to hold competitions based on the Olympic Games. . . . The State Games are designed to uncover unknown athletic talent, create an awareness of lesser-known sports and spark interest in amateur athletics. . . . There are no minimum or maximum age limits, and athletes from 7 to 85 competed this year.