by Jeff Cole

After three days of cycling, Centurion Ellicottville crossed the finish line a winner this past Sunday, thanks to hundreds of cyclists and volunteers who made that happen.

The two-day festival took place Saturday and Sunday and included a C25, a C50, a C100 and a ride with Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine. This year was the first of five consecutive years the event will be held in Ellicottville.

According to event organizers, the Centurion featured about 650 entries, about 85 percent of whom came to Ellicottville for the first time. Many cyclists said that they would be interested in returning to Ellicottville, not just to race, but simply to visit.

A number of cyclists also posted positive comments on the Centurion’s Facebook page. Charlie Dias wrote, “Thank YOU Centurion for coming here. PLEASE do so again next year … and maybe bring some more events into Buffalo/Niagara area. Your organization is top notch, and I would ride with you any day!”

Henry Lo wrote, “Talking to a few locals, they were all excited about this event. These people actually want us to be there. So refreshingly different from all the complaining in some big city events I participated in the past.”

Cyclists also noted that the course was more challenging than the other Centurion venues, due to a more hilly terrain, though they mentioned this was something they enjoyed.

Krista Flanagan, marketing/media relations contact for the Centurion, said that her organization was hoping for more cyclists, but noted that in other towns that have hosted the Centurion, participation has grown to about 4,000-5,000 cyclists during the third of fourth year that a town has hosted the event. The Centurion organization will travel to cycling clubs in various places, such as Ohio and into Canada to develop more of a following for the Ellicottville event and will begin talking to different clubs and marketing partners in January to discuss next year’s event.

Awards were presented the the top male and female finishers of the time trial, the C25, the C50 and the C100, as well as three-deep in different age groups for each event.

At the end of the event, after having ridden 100 miles in the C100 along with his three other team members, Holiday Valley President Dennis Eshbaugh thanked all of the volunteers and said the Centurion “was a really impressive experience” and added “the course was spectacular.”

Volunteers were undoubtedly worthy of praise, as more than 350 volunteers from Ellicottville offered their time, doing everything from managing intersections to working at water and food stops within the village. Doug Bush, head coach for Endurance Factor, said that each group that volunteered was given a donation to charity and that the Centurion organization donated more than $10,000 total to the volunteer groups.

In a letter written to the editor of the Ellicottville Times, Jean Nagurney and Mila Clauss praised the volunteers, writing, “A very BIG thank you to hundreds of volunteers who helped make the first annual Centurion Ellicottville bike race a huge success. Your hard work and enthusiasm did not go unnoticed by all those involved. The Centurion staff, spectators, and cyclists all commented on how organized, efficient, informative, and dedicated each one of you was the days of the event.”

Also in a letter to the editor of the Times, Patra Lowes, village of Ellicottville trustee, encouraged people to “participate, volunteer and welcome our visitors.”

“They may end up becoming a good customer, a new neighbor and a great friend!” she wrote.

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