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First responders take to their bikes for world games

Tuesday - 8/9/2011, 6:02am  ET

Wehmeyer and Short (WTOP Photo/Kate Ryan)
Jason Wehmeyer, left, and Dennis Short keep fit by cycling. (WTOP Photo/Kate Ryan)
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Kate Ryan, wtop.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - They could be racing to a crime scene, or racing up the stairs of a burning building. No matter what the situation, first responders have to be ready mentally, and physically, to perform under the worst possible conditions.

So it's understandable that they'd find ways to maintain that fitness off the clock. That's one of the reasons that 18,000 police officers and firefighters from 70 countries will test themselves in the World Police and Fire Games in New York City later this month. They'll compete in everything from staircase racing (which is exactly what it sounds like, dashing up flights of stairs) to mountain bike racing.

Among the first responders from the area heading to the games later this month are Dennis Short and Jason Wehmeyer. They're Alexandria firefighters who'll be taking part in the bike races at the games.

Short, who founded the Capital Region Fire and Police Cycling team will take his Cannondale Supersix.

"It's incredibly light and incredibly fast," says Short about his bike.

Meanwhile Wehmeyer will tackle the single tracks on his cross country mountain-bike.

"I like being out in the woods, being out in nature," Wehmeyer says.

Smiling, he says, "I don't deal so well with traffic."

Wehmeyer says the Washington region is home to great trails for mountain biking and there are lots of benefits for first responders.

"With cycling, especially with mountain biking, there are direct and immediate consequences for either making the wrong decision or inaction, and that kind of parallels with our jobs."

Short says the cycling club is open to all first responders, and he invites anyone who's passionate about cycling to come along on a training run. He promises he'll go easy on you "because we don't want to run anyone into the ground... We don't want them to be discouraged."

If you do take Short up on the offer, you will have to wear a helmet. While there are raging debates about just how much protection helmets offer in the cycling world, Wehmeyer says, "We've seen it on the job. Helmets save lives."

With an improved design, helmets are more comfortable and lighter weight.

"They're cool," Wehmeyer says.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)