The amazing race (805 Criterium Weekend, Part 1)

July 2, 2013 § 4 Comments

With only a handful of minutes to recap this fantastic weekend, I’m going to be succinct because there’s so much to say.

– Thanks to Mike Hecker for putting together an event that will surely grow to be the best bike racing in Southern California.

– Thanks to the City of Buellton. You have a lovely town, friendly people, and an egg-frying dry heat that will separate the wheat from the chaff in one or two laps.

– Thanks to the City of Lompoc. You too have a lovely town, friendly people, and a challenging course that is hard and safe and windy enough to blow a fleet of tall ships all the way to Japan.

– Thanks to Gordie and to Steve Hegg. You guys are a ton of fun and great announcers.

– Thanks to the Firestone Walker Brewery. You make great beer, and the beer garden added a wonderful relaxing touch that just drew people in. The location in the heart of each crit course made it spectacular.

– “Tough guy” / “Tough gal” bike racers who missed this event: You’re not that tough. This was real bike racing on brutally hard but short courses that included wind, heat, slight elevation, and something more complex than four turns around a square. The crowds were enthusiastic, the prize money amazing, the ambiance of the host towns fun beyond belief…this is what bike racing is supposed to be. Show up next year and show us what you’ve got.

– Thanks again to Mike Hecker for putting together two fast, hard, safe courses. There wasn’t a single crash in two full days of racing.

– Thanks to the myriad sponsors who kicked in cash and prizes. Legit prize list for the pros on Saturday? $7,500. Compare that to the nickels and warm spit you’ll win in Ontario’s pro race.

–Props to Alan Flores, my SPY-Giant-RIDE teammate who dismantled the field in the 45+ Old Dudes’ Race. Props to John Hatchitt for playing henchman, and to teammates Taylor Fenstermacher, Andy Schmidt, Bill Lupo, and Jimbo for coming out and busting things up.

–Hats off to Thurlow Rogers and Mark Noble, two hellacious bike racers who proved their mettle over two hard days of racing.

–Kudos to Phil Tinstman and Chris Walker who busted loose on Lap 2 of the 35+ and held it for 70 minutes. Only 20 riders finished their race, so viciously hard was the course and the competition.

–Hats off to Rudy Napolitano, general buttwhomper, winner of the 35+ race on Sunday and 3rd Place finisher on Saturday after attacking 10,000 times and generally shredding the field.

–Props to Surf City Cyclery racer John Slover who made the split and the podium on Saturday, and rode two great races on Sunday as well. Props also to Charon Smith, the man who’s not afraid to go out and compete even when the cards are stacked against him. I wish every bike racer had that guy’s guts, kindness, and good grace. He’s as honorable and friendly in defeat as he is in victory.

–Ben Jacques-Mayne thrashed the field on Saturday and won the pro race on Sunday by lapping the field. Amazing rides by Mr. Forbes from Arizona, Brandon Gritters, and a host of other pros.

–Super performance in the 35+ by Derek Brauch, the dude who does a little bit of everything. He rode off with the split and stayed with the leaders until the very end, when a devastating Rudy Napolitano Tailwind Acceleration peeled the skin off of his face and relegated him to a still-impressive 6th Place.

–Knife fight in the mud between Aaron Wimberley and Mike Easter for ascendancy in the SoCal Cup. Aaron had difficulties reading his gas gauge on the way up Saturday and ran out of fuel, thereby missing the Saturday 35+ race and ceding points to his rival. However, on Sunday he dogged Easter’s every move and wrapped it up with a slim one-point lead. Don’t think Easter is going to let it go as easily as all that…

– Big win on Sunday in the 45+ race by big German Armin Rahm. Armin got away with the elite break that included Thurlow, Brett Clare, Slover, Steve Gregarios, and another rider or two, then smoked the breakaway in the sprint.

– John Abate won the “mismatched kit and bike award,” riding now for SPY-Giant-RIDE but still pedaling the green Masi of his former team. The color clash must have added fuel to the pistons, because he finished the 35+ race on Sunday with an awesome 4th Place. He bridged the gap from hell, leaping out of the charging field to finally hook up with the loaded break that included Rudy et al.

– Chris DeMarchi showed his impeccable form and strength on Saturday and Sunday, finishing solo between the break and the field on Saturday, and riding herd on the pack as he blocked for his teammates in the break on Sunday.

– Suze Sonye…wow! Third in the pro race on Saturday, top step on Sunday. If she’s not the best racer to come out of SoCal, who is?

– Michelle Ignash scored third for Helen’s on Saturday in the women’s 3-4 and won the same event on Sunday.

– The list goes on and on of all the racers who rode hard and did well, and by failing to list them all here I’m sure I’ll offend those who performed valiant deeds of glory only to go ignored or unnoticed in this blog which, on a good day, may have as many as three readers.

– Hats off as well to the flailers and wankers who got shelled, quit, gave up, collapsed from heat stroke, or bailed out early so they could swap the pain for the good, cold beer.

Hope you’ll put this race series on your calendar next year. It’s a winner.

Ride in Peace

June 23, 2013 § 14 Comments

I joined the Montrose Ride yesterday morning with local legend and German import Armin Rahm. He guided me along the route, providing the world’s steadiest wheel in a sea of swervy riders. Coming into the big sprint in front of the school crossing, Frank Schroder provided a 1-kilometer lead out at Warp 7 that popped and frazzled all but a handful of riders who were strong enough to come around him at the end. After the ride Armin and I enjoyed a knockout cup of coffee in the picturesque town of Sierra Madre.

Even though it’s all L.A., and even though the distance isn’t very far, the South Bay’s separation from Pasadena by the Great Ocean of Unmoving Traffic means that there’s not nearly as much cross-pollination of the two cycling communities as there should be. Still, it was great to see friends like Tony Sells, David MacNeal, and Ed Engay on the ride.

Afterwards I swapped out Lycra for wool and headed over to the Chris Cono Contreras memorial service at the Pasadena Civic Center. I’m not sure how many people the room held, but it was easily three hundred if not a lot more. Death has a way of cross pollinating, the same way bike rides can. It brings together different groups of people with nothing in common except the person who has died, only to find out that they really have a lot in common, after all.

Chris’s cycling friends got to meet his friends from other parts of his life that didn’t revolve around two wheels. Family got to meet people who had only known him on the bike. The outpouring of grief, and its attendant sense of loss and regret, were intense.

After the service everyone migrated over to a wonderful outdoor reception, where we ate, talked about Chris and his life, and got to do the thing that he most likely would have been doing: Drinking a few beers and talking bikes and bike racing.

It’s a proven fact that after death no one has ever come back to life, myths and fables notwithstanding. The idea of “rest in peace,” then, is a funny one for me, because from a factual standpoint, you’re not “resting” at all. You’re just gone, and the web of life reflexively and instantaneously mends over the tiny tear you’ve left in the giant skein. Death is so painful and shocking and dramatic, but life rolls on like a giant wave, smoothing everything in its path, indifferent, benign.

Still, one of the people who stood up and reminisced about Chris said this: “Ride in peace.” He said it with tears streaming down his face and it was moving. I think it’s a beautiful sentiment for those of us who are still here, so I’ll pass it on as a new motto, in memory of Chris: Ride in peace.

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