A thirst for competition is the constant in the life of George Delgado.
At 17, he played professional soccer briefly in his native country of Ecuador. Now, 27 years later and a citizen of the United States, Delgado, who lives in Ellicott City, is gaining international prominence in cycling's senior men -- or master's -- division.
What makes Delgado's life all the more remarkable is his ability to balance his commitment to cycling -- which includes an average weekly training schedule of nine hours -- with dental practice in endodontics in Columbia and Catonsville.
His success in cycling, which he started four years ago, doesn't appear to be on the wane. In the World Cup master's race at St. Johan, Austria, his last tournament of this year, he took 19th place, and considers it his most notable achievement.
"Even though it was not a third or a first place, it was important because of the tradition of the race. It was a world cup race and the field was high class and competitive -- 140 riders from allover the world.
"The course was also a championship course," saidDelgado.
Delgado's interest in cycling goes back to his boyhood days in Quito where the popularity of the sport is equal to soccer.
In addition to soccer, he competed for local junior teams in cycling. When he emigrated to the United States at 17, he had to put cyclingon hold and concentrate on getting an education.
After attending the University of Kentucky for his undergraduate studies, and the University of Maryland's dental school in 1975, he joined the Army as a dentist for three years.
When his enlistment was completed, he spent two years in Maryland to finish his residency and later enlisted with the Air Force in Colorado Springs, Colo., for a four-year hitch.
During these years he played fullback and midfielder for soccer teams on the college and neighborhood league level. But in 1979, he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during a soccer game that ended his interest in that sport.
After his enlistment in the Air Force was completed in 1985, Delgado moved back to Maryland. It was during thistime that he decided to take up cycling again.
For him, an appreciation of sport involves a blend of the physical and psychological demands.
"One of the most important parts of cycling that I enjoy isthe competition," he said. "I've been competing in one or another sports all my life and, I guess, I like competition which includes strategy and physical attributes."
Delgado races for Velo Club of Baltimore/Race Pace as its only master rider. His accomplishments in morethan 25 national and international tournaments yielded sponsorship at the local and national level. Although he races as a amateur, Delgado says the sponsors pay for equipment, clothing and some entry fees.One of his team members includes 1991 Tour of Somerville winner Brian Moroney of Ellicott City.
Despite his claim of a preseason, season and off-season to the sport, Delgado's training schedule is a year-round dedication.
Even now, in the "off-season," he rides from 2-3 hours one day a week along with some sort of indoor training that may include exercising on a stationary bike. His peak training time will take place from March to August, when he will ride three hours a day, four times a week. Preseason is less than two months away.
To keep his body fat at its 5 percent level, Delgado has a diet regimen that has to be as demanding as his training regimen. It consists of foods low in fat, high in carbohydrates such as pasta and rice and avoiding beef in favor of chicken. Even with this Spartan fare, he sometimes gives in to temptation, noting that "I'm a 'chocoholic.' That's my weakness. They all know it in the office. And when they give me presents, they give me chocolate."
Juggling a dental practice and anambitious training plan means that Delgado occasionally calls his answering service at rest breaks during weekend runs. He leaves his practice with his partner, Dr. Robert S. Burke, when he competes in out-of-state tournaments. "I really haven't had a case where I couldn't get to somebody fairly quickly," Delgado said.
Keeping the elementsof a profession, a pastime and family balanced makes Delgado's day acase study in time management. During the summer, his hill-climbing schedule begins with leaving the house at 5 a.m. for the Catoctin Mountains near Frederick, biking at 6 and returning home by 11. "By then, the family is just having breakfast," he said.
Because of his 128-pound-frame, Delgado has a clear advantage over his heftier competition: climbing steep slopes. His low weight has enabled him to distance himself from fellow riders on grades that have been as high as 19 percent.
"In most races, the weight or the size of the cyclist doesn't make that much difference, especially on flat, long races," Delgado said. "On a hilly terrain, where you have long steep climbs, I definitely do better than any of the other riders that are taller or bigger."