Las Vegas Valley bicyclists celebrate new I-11 segment

The pink and orange hues of sunrise faded quickly as Joann Pavlovcak pedaled down a section of Interstate 11 on her electric-blue bike. For once, the road belonged to her.

As part of the newest addition to the federal interstate system, the I-11 segment signals the start of a freeway project expected to someday serve as a major trade route linking the United States, Canada and Mexico. But motorists won’t be allowed on the highway section until Aug. 9.

More than 500 bicyclists ruled the road Saturday morning, pedaling roughly 25 miles on the silky-smooth stretch of freeway from Boulder City’s Veterans’ Memorial Park toward the Colorado River and back.

“There were a lot of riders this morning that have never been on a new road like this,” said Keely Brooks, president of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition. “It was a new experience for a lot of people.”

Saturday’s ride, which Brooks initially expected to attract just 50 to 80 riders, was hosted by the bike coalition in partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

Just over two hours after Pavlovcak rolled out, the 46-year-old Las Vegas local came to a stop under the shade at Veterans’ Memorial Park. On her tail was Mike Dziedzic.

The two met that morning during the steep, uphill climb on a portion of I-11.

“She already feels like my sister,” Dziedzic said, a big grin swiped across his face. “I was going up the hill and she came up behind me, and I thought, ‘Holy smokes, she’s tough as hell.’ ”

Pavlovcak burst into laughter, shaking her head as she wiped the sweat collecting on her nose bridge.

“So then I tried to get in front of her wheel, but then she got in front of me,” Dziedzic, 46, continued. “So I tried to give it to her again. She won, obviously.”

The pair pushed through the uphill battle, but a support vehicle was available for any riders who needed a little extra help.

Pavlovcak, who moved to Las Vegas just two years ago, said she got her start as a cyclist in the hills of San Francisco. Meanwhile, Dziedzic has been riding since 2009 on Las Vegas roads.

Both agreed that they had never experienced anything quite like Saturday’s ride.

“It’s open road, you know, it’s smooth as butter. You can’t ask for anything better for a riding surface,” Pavlovcak said. “Typically you have bumps in the road here and there, and you’re always keeping an eye out for traffic. You could go as hard as you want on that road because you didn’t have to worry about any traffic, lights or stops.”

Dziedzic, who also is a member of the Southern Nevada Bicycle Coalition, added, “We’ll never have that experience again.”

Saturday’s ride took months of planning. But early on, Brooks, the bike coalition’s president, said that she knew the ride would offer “a unique opportunity for cyclists in our community.”

”It’s smooth and fast. Our roads here are just amazing,” she said Saturday as riders trickled back into the park. “I-11’s new alignment is pristine. There’s less friction with your wheels so you’re going fast.”

Brooks said she doesn’t know if another opportunity like this will come again. But she said that cyclists can watch for upcoming events hosted by the coalition on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/southernnevadabicyclecoalition.

The $318 million freeway segment, funded by federal and state money along with Clark County’s fuel indexing tax, started construction in 2015 with work split between the Nevada Department of Transportation and the RTC.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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