Laura Van Gilder hails from the Pocono Mountains region of Pennsylvania and has been visiting Altoona for the past 13 summers to participate in the International/Tour de 'Toona.
Van Gilder, now 42, has enjoyed her share of success here as well, capturing multiple victories in both the Martinsburg and Hollidaysburg Circuit Races, as well as in the Altoona Intown Criterium.
This year, the International/Tour de 'Toona was reduced from seven days to just one day of racing - Sunday's criterium that covered 40 laps on a 1.6-mile course through the streets of intown Altoona - and Van Gilder, of Team Cheerwine, had another shining moment, winning the Professional 1-2 Women's race in a time of one hour, 40 minutes, and seven seconds.
Mirror photos by Teri Enciso
Laura Van Gilder celebrates after crossing the finish line.
It was the fourth time Van Gilder has won the criterium, which usually wraps up the seven-day stage race but this year constituted the entire event.
Luis Amaran of Team Colavita/Sutter Home won the Pro 1-2 Men's race, finishing in a time of 1:27:07.
"I've won a lot of races here, but I've been coming here for 13 years, so when you make that many trips, you get so many more opportunities [to win],'' Van Gilder said. "I feel very passionate about the sport of cycling, and very fortunate to have participated for as long as I have.
"I'm very pleased to be on the top of the podium today, but my Cheerwine teammates set it up perfectly for me, and I just happened to be the one on my team to win this race,'' Van Gilder added. "I'm very happy.''
Van Gilder was one of three Team Cheerwine members who finished among the top ten in the pro women's standings.
Iona Wynter Parks of the Team Colavita/Sutter Home squad finished second in the pro women's race, four seconds behind Van Gilder in 1:40:11. Jacquelyn Crowell of Team Kendra Tire was third in 1:41.
Van Gilder was sorry that the Tour de 'Toona was shaved to one event this year, but pleased that she felt fresh for Sunday's race.
"With just a single-day criterium, my legs were a lot fresher this year than they were for this race in the past, when it was the last stage of the week-long event,'' Van Gilder said. "Driving into town yesterday, I felt sad that this year's race was only one day. I hope they can revive this event next year.''
Sunday's pro men's race went to Amaran, a 29-year-old native of Cuba who was riding for the Team Colavita/Sutter Home squad. He finished in 1:27:07, with Team Colavita teammates Tyler Wren (1:28:02) and Kyle Wamsley (1:28:13) in second and third place, respectively.
The Spanish-speaking Amaran, who does not speak English, was interviewed by the Mirror through an interpreter.
"The team is very strong,'' Amaran said of his Team Colavita squad. "We had more numbers and we were able to send somebody up to the front today. We had a team meeting [Saturday] and we wanted to get somebody [on the team] to go strong up the road for us. We were basically able to execute what we had planned to execute today.''
Notes: Sunday marked the 22nd anniversary of the Tour de 'Toona, which initially began as a one-day criterium in 1987 ... Tour de 'Toona chairman Rick Geist is very hopeful that the race will return to a seven-day event in 2009 ... The Ken Steel Inspiration Award, presented in memory of the Altoona city fireman who perished in the line of duty in 1987, was presented to Category 5 men's cyclist Tyler Emerick of Cranberry Township, Pa. Sunday afternoon. Steel was an avid cyclist.
(Listing 10 top ten finishers, by name, team and time, in the 2008 International Tour de 'Toona's 40-mile Intown Criterium)
1, Luis Amaran, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:27:07.
2, Tyler Wren, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:28:02.
3, Kyle Wamsley, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:28:13.
4, Allejandro Borraso, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:28:13.
5, Clayton Burrows, Rite Aid, 1:28:13.
6, Chuck Hutcheson, Battley Harley-Davidson, 1:28:17.
7, Luca Damiani, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:28:28.
8, Adam Myerson, Time Pro Cycling, 1:28:28.
9, Davide Frattini, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:28:28.
10, Guido Palma, Rite Aid, 1:28:28.
1, Laura Van Gilder, Cheerwine Cycling, 1:40:07.
2, Iona Wynter Parks, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:40:11.
3, Jacquelyn Crowell, Team Kendra Tire, 1:41.
4, Davina Summers, Team Kendra Tire, 1:41.
5, Tina Pic, Team Colavita/Sutter Home, 1:41:11.
6, Erica Allar, Aarons Pro Women's Cycling, 1:41:11.
7, Kacey Manderfield, Verducci/Breakaway, 1:41:11.
8, Anne Samplonius, Cheerwine Cycling, 1:41:11.
9, Marple Stacy, Cheerwine Cycling, 1:41:11.
10, Sarah Caravetta, Team Tibco, 1:41:11.