Firefighter wins world biking title

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2005

Last May, Todd Helmick conquered South Africa. On July 3, he conquered the world.

A five-year veteran of both bicycling and the Suffolk Fire Department, Helmick started his summer in early May by placing 35th in the Cape Town Epic, a 600-mile charge over one of the world’s most mountainous regions.

&uot;I’ve got my fingers crossed,&uot; he said afterward. &uot;I want to win a world championship.&uot;

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A few weeks ago, he got a shot, at the 2005 World Police and Fire Games in Quebec, attended by 10,000 athletes. On June 3, Helmick was the only American to compete in the cross-country mountain bike race, which only 27 of the 50 participants completed.

&uot;It was extreme climbing,&uot; Helmick said. &uot;It was straight up a ski slope. I’m pretty good at climbing; it’s one of my strong points.&uot;

Throughout the event, he was neck and neck with Patrik Terzer, a police officer from Switzerland. Halfway through the fourth and final lap, Helmick pedaled up his OCLV Carbon Trek Top Fuel 98 (&uot;The bike was flawless,&uot; he said) on an incline and pulled ahead.

&uot;I knew that he was climbing really well, so I made my move on the toughest climb,&uot; Helmick said. &uot;I was sprinting up every hill, thinking it was the last one, my one chance to hold the lead. I put some time on him and held it.&uot;

Just enough time; he finished in 80 minutes and 11 seconds – just half a minute faster than Terzer.

&uot;I was ecstatic,&uot; said Helmick, who received a gold medal for his victory. &uot;Everything just clicked. This is the pinnacle of my racing career.&uot;