Saturday marked only the fourth time Sheryl Kennedy of Hagerstown had been on a high-wheel bicycle.
With only a couple of weeks of practice, her lack of experience did not show. Kennedy was the female winner of the Frederick Clustered Spires High Wheel Race. Given one hour of cycling time, she completed 37 laps on the half-mile course through downtown Frederick.
"It's pretty fun," she said. "I wasn't expecting to win."
Kennedy was one of 24 registered participants in the only high-wheel race in the nation and only the fourth in the world.
It was the first year for the race, which is a part of the third annual Tour de Frederick.
The race "is about fun and celebrating the heritage of the sport," said Charles Goss, race commentator. "This is how cycling began."
High-wheel bicycles — also known as penny-farthing — which feature a large thin front wheel and small thin back wheel, were the most reliable forms of transportation during the late 19th century, he said. Goss estimated the riders would be able to reach speeds of 15 to 18 mph.
About 90 volunteers were stationed throughout the race to offer encouragement and make sure people did not get in the participants' path.
The course began at Brewer's Alley with participants turning left onto West Second Street. After two blocks, they turned left onto Record Street and then onto west Church Street before turning back onto Market Street.
The hardest parts of the course for the riders would be the turns at the corners, Goss said.
"These bikes have high penalties for failure," Goss said.
One race participant was injured just as the race was winding down. She collided with another cyclist, fell and hit her head on the road. The cyclist was conscious after the fall and able to move her arms and legs.
An ambulance took her to the Maryland State Police Aviation hanger at Frederick Municipal Airport, where she was flown to R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma in Baltimore.
Even three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond looked a little unsure as he attempted to get on one of the historic bikes.
LeMond did not ride in the race but joined the participants in a victory lap around the course after the race concluded.
Race participants came from all parts of the country including Arizona, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia and Ohio. Most of the field was made up of Maryland riders, like Mel Short of Hagerstown.
He has been riding high-wheel bicycles for 35 years and used an 1886 Columbia he bought at an auction in New York for the race.
Riding the bikes is a way to make new friends and get to see interesting things, Short said.
Kennedy's husband, Mike, has been riding since 2010. Kennedy is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. When she was deployed to Kuwait, he took up high wheel-cycling.
"It gives you a unique perspective," he said of the bike. "It evokes a different response in people."
Some vehicle drivers tend to not be tolerant of bike riders but when they see someone on a high wheel bike, it usually gives them a smile, he said.
Thousands lined the course for the entire run of the race.
John Trobaugh and Maxine Medaglia of Thurmont sat with their dogs in front of City Hall and clapped for passing cyclists.
"I think itís really great for Frederick to have (the race)," Trobaugh said.
"It's good people watching, too," Medaglia said.
Some of the cyclists kept a leisurely pace, waving to the cheering crowds while others were focused on going for the win. Leaning forward with both arms fiercely gripping the hand bar, several furiously pedaled down the middle of the streets.
One of those was Missouri resident Rick Stumpff who was later crowned the men's winner with 42 laps completed.
His wife, Darla Stumpff, stood on the sidelines with a phone in one hand and a conch shell in the other. She used her phone to keep track of her husband's time and blew into the shell every time he pedaled by her. He gave her the shell as a present after they went sailing with friends in the Virgin Islands.
Frederick is just one of the places Stumpff has seen thanks to his high-wheel bike. In 1999, he completed a cross-country trek from San Francisco to Boston.
"It's been great," Darla Stumpff said of Saturday's race. "Frederick is a wonderful town."
After finishing the race, Rick Stumpff, who has a bicycle tattooed on his left ankle, raised one arm in triumph and blew a kiss to his cheering wife. With a torn pant leg, he was congratulated at the finish line by LeMond.