Cyclist, 70, seeks to set new personal best at speedway

In the 19 years since he took up cycling, Dennis Hall Sr. has ridden recreationally on both U.S. coasts and has become a national gold medal winner in the Senior Games.

On a local level, Hall's most formidable opponent is himself.

Hall, a 70-year-old Concord resident, regularly competes in the Carolina Cycling Time Trials at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He has won numerous age division titles over the last 10 years. But in the spirit of the time trials' structure, Hall is worried more about riding faster than his previous ride or about setting his own personal record.

On Wednesday, Hall will have his last chance to beat himself, during the series' final event of the 2010 season.

Hall was in his early 50s when he started cycling with his college-age son, Dennis Jr. While interests in other things diverted Dennis Jr., he admitted, his father remained focused on his new pastime.

The more Dennis Sr. rode, the more he liked it. Noticing his father's competitive drive, Dennis Jr., encouraged him to participate in the local Cabarrus Senior Games.

The way Dennis Sr. remembers it, he was one of about five or six competitors at the local level in 2001. He won a time trial and qualified for the state Senior Games.

"I figured if I'm going to states, I need to represent Cabarrus County (well)," he said. "People told me not to feel bad if I didn't do well."

Hall won all three of his events - the one-mile, five-mile and seven-mile rides - setting age group records in all of them.

"That kind of whetted my interest," he said. "I felt, since I placed, that I needed to represent North Carolina (well) at nationals. I went to Baton Rouge, La. I entered the road race and time trial event, and I won the time trial event."

Hall began riding in the Carolina Cycling Time Trials about 10 years ago and has stayed active since. But some of his more memorable rides have taken place far from any track.

In December 2006, Hall and a friend rode 100 miles along the California coast. He was able to get his picture taken holding his bike on the 18th green at Pebble Beach before a resort staffer ran him off.

In June, his wife of 50 years, Carol, was on a business trip at Sunset Beach. On a whim, Hall told her he was going to ride his bike to come see her.

"I said, 'Here's my route, so if you see me on the side of the road on your way back, pick me up." The ride took 11 hours over two days.

At the Carolina Cycling Time Trials, cyclists ride seven laps around the Charlotte Motor Speedway track, for a total of 10 miles. Hall has been the points champion in his age bracket numerous times, including the last three years.

Hall set his personal best time of 22 minutes 8 seconds in 2008, a record for the 65-69 age group. This year, he broke the record for the 70- to 74-year-old age group with a time of 22:25.78.

Hall is in second place in his division. He was forced to sit out two of this season's five events because of faulty equipment.

On a leisurely basis, Hall usually rides on the country roads of Cabarrus and Iredell counties about three to five times a week, compiling about 125 to 200 miles. Dennis Jr., his father's associate at their Concord chiropractic clinic, sometimes rides with him.

Dennis Jr., 47, also participates in the time trials, but not nearly as seriously, or with the same results, as his father. But that doesn't bother him a bit.

"The main driving force (for me) is that we do things like this together," said Dennis Jr.