South Bay weekly round-up

May 23, 2016 § 6 Comments

Here we go …

  1. Red tide: Two more dead cyclists this week, one in Palos Verdes Estates (third cyclist death on the peninsula, second in the city of PVE), one in Playa del Rey. The car caught on surveillance tape tailgating John Bacon immediately before his death matches the description of a vehicle that has been harassing cyclists for months. If you’ve ever been harassed by this or a similar vehicle in PV, contact Detective Hellinga at the PVE police now. Oh, and then on Sunday another long-time South Bay cyclist was hit by a car in PV and transported to the hospital by ambulance. Business as usual. surveillance_tape
  2. Man-Zilla, bear catcher: Tony Manzella captured a district championship in the race of truth, the individual time trial. Rather than the truth, though, it was more like a lie of omission, because the only thing the race proved is what we already know, i.e. Tony is a human missile on a bike. What the title omitted are much more important facts. Tony’s a great guy, a wonderful son, husband, and dad, and like Greg “G$” Leibert, Tony always has a word of encouragement and praise for you as he feeds you head-first into the meatgrinder. Join Tony for his birthday Ride to Rock on May 28, leaving with the NOW Ride in Santa Monica at 7:30–free coffee at the Rock for anyone who’s still alive when they get there.
  3. All hail Cesar: Cesar Reyes, junior rider with Team Velosport Junior/RideBiker Alliance, is the junior rider of the month, courtesy of Law Office of Seth Davidson. The award comes with a $200.00 check and one heck of a big smile from Cesar! Excited to see great results from a hard working and promising young rider.
  4. cesar_reyes
  5. Bello Britannica: Local hammerhead and British import Alex Barnes put everyone to the sword on the world famous Donut Ride, winning the historic and legendary and wonderful and amazing climb to the Domes against a field of bloodthirsty killers all prepped and stretching their legs for nationals. Not bad for a beginning biker who still can’t talk well English goodly.
  6. Go forth and conquer: The South Bay sends its best road racer, Derek Brauch, off to the wilds of North Carolina to compete in the masters national championships next week. Along with Derek goes the South Bay’s best crit racer (yeah, we’re claiming him) Charon Smith in search of a national crit title. These two guys are unbelievably good bike racers and what’s more important, are incredibly good people. I’ve been trying for years to come up with dirt and rumors on them with no luck at all. Here’s hoping that they, along with my Big Orange teammate Greg “G$” Leibert, come home victorious.
  7. The end is near: CBR hosts its next-to-last crit on Memorial Day. Gitcher fast four-corner beatdown while it’s hot!
  8. It takes a village: When Velo Club La Grange Thomas Rennier lost his left thumb in a catastrophic collision at the Dana Point Grand Prix, he was asked if he planned on riding a bike again. Never mind racing. Riding. He said that there was no way he was going out like this and that he was counting the days until he could get back riding. As a super strong rider, “riding” is a euphemism for “full-blown beatdowns.” Thomas’s La Grange community sprang into motion. Within days, his teammates and friends at Santa Monica BMW concocted a plan to help him on his road back to the bike. Thanks to  Jay Wolff and Dan Weinberg at Helen’s Cycles, Mike Miranda at Cannondale, Velo Club La Grange, an anonymous donor, but most of all Thomas‘s La Grange teammates, everyone pitched in to make the new bike a reality for one of the best loved and most feared guys in the peloton. No one expected this less than Thomas, and no one is more deserving. Hats off to the La Grange community for coming together like it did. thomas_rennier

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South Bay round-up

May 17, 2016 § 8 Comments

Lots happening in the South Bay and environs, especially, say, France.

  1. How do you say “asskicking” in French? Big Orange rider and French transplant Evens Stievenart won the Route de l’Oise, a stage race just north of Paris that has over 200 racers and that includes the town of Compiègne, best known as the starting city for Paris-Roubaix. Evens is best known in the South Bay for riding everyone off his wheel on training rides; what’s less known is that he has only been racing for six years and already has close to 50 Cat 2 wins in France to go along with his most important victory, a win at the local Telo training crit a couple of weeks ago. Congrats, Evens!
  2. Blazingly fast! VC La Grange junior rider Ivy Koester won a state crit title at Barrio Logan Grand Prix on May 8. She is super fast, super smart, and has one of those smiles that let you know she’s having fun.
  3. I’ll have some victory on those pancakes, thanks. Southbay Wheelmen might consider changing its name to “Wheelwomen” thanks to junior rider Makayla Macpherson, who continued her batteringly good year in Bakersfield a couple of weekends ago, winning the Jumpstart crit, the road race, and then placing second in the women’s open 3/4 San Luis Rey road race. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that she’s 13.
  4. For a fistful of dollars. Big Orange junior  Bąđĕŕ Āqîł got his first race win on the challenging tough guy course out at Rosena Ranch this past weekend. Hats off to a dedicated and hardworking young man.
  5. Over the moon. Swami’s junior racer Ryder Moon Phillips picked up two more wins in what has been a breakout year, with victories in the time trial and crit at the Kern County Stage Race. We’re all looking forward to more great things from a talented competitor.
  6. The nerds strike back! Local South Bay riders were assaulted by a cager in a McLaren and they took what is now becoming the default defense for cyclists who are fed up with the casual violence directed against them: They went to the police, in this case the Palos Verdes Estates PD, and filed a complaint. The police not only took them seriously, but they opened an investigation. This clown’s world is about to get a lot more complicated. Please take a minute to read this post to see what you can do to defend yourself when you’ve been buzzed with a deadly weapon.
  7. Return of EA Sports, Inc. Rumor has it that the most feared sprunter in the South Bay, and the nicest guy anywhere, Eric A., is back on his bike after rebuilding his house from the nails up. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
  8. Watering the grass. Joe Yule of StageOne Sports, a company otherwise known for making the best fitting, most comfortable, most stylish apparel in the cycling world (go suck an egg Rapha, ThorfinnDopesquatch, etc.), has single-handedly revived the venerable Torrance institution of the Telo training crit by posting a leaderboard, keeping track of finishes, rustling up sponsorship with the generous help of Dave Perez and Samsung, and has now even created a weekly winner’s jersey (I wear a men’s S, thanks). Telo now regularly hosts the best riders in the South Bay, including Evens S., Smasher Alverson, Derek the Destroyer, Paul Che, and any day now, YOU.
  9. People who make a difference. If you don’t know Joann Zwagerman, you will. A California native, she has come back home from the East Coast and thoroughly embraced cycling. She has singlehandedly created rides that focus on fun, friendliness, and welcoming people regardless of ability (whatever that is) who share the passion to pedal. Her legendary FDR Saturday ride in the South Bay, a wholesome alternative to the Donut Ride, is massive and actually features real donuts. More than that, her smile, her selflessness, her pro knack at getting the best selfie angles, her toughness (did the BWR Wafer ride without a hitch and finished it smiling!), and her willingness to help get done whatever needs doing are unmatched. One Joann has sent out ripples of kindness and enthusiasm that have, at last count, touched thousands.

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Being nice don’t cost you nothin’

February 9, 2016 § 36 Comments

Road riding has a deserved reputation for unfriendliness. I’ve been to so many places where the group rides are filled with jerks. There was a group of people in Sugarland, west of Houston, I used to ride with who made a point of being assholes. They didn’t like you from the day you showed up until the day you left.

SoCal has many places that are just like that. I’ve heard awful stories about group rides in LA, Orange County, and San Diego–and participated in many–where the ethos is best described as “Sure, you belong … but not here.”

The first time I showed up in LA on my steel bike and in my fuzzy wool outfit, the local bully yelled at me for daring to mix it up in the sprint on the Old Pier Ride.

We know that as interest in competitive road racing dwindles, something has to change. The biggest thing, in my opinion, is ameliorating the tendency to be a jerk just because someone is new.

The last club I rode for was pretty elitist. It was set up on an invitation only basis. If you didn’t know the right people and couldn’t do the right handshake and couldn’t put up the right numbers, it didn’t matter how nice a person you were.

My current club is Team Lizard Collectors. It is a motley crew. But the thing that makes it a great club is that everyone is welcomed, and welcomed heartily. The only rule is “Don’t be a dick.” In its many years of existence only two people have been booted for dickishness.

Team Lizard Collectors has set the bar high in terms of not simply accepting people, but actively asking them to join. One of the reasons I was thrilled to join TLC is because I could ask people to join. This good vibration has spread to other clubs in the area.

Thanks in part to the relentless efforts of Team Lizard Collectors and their bossmen Greg Seyranian and Greg Leibert, the good vibration has spread to other clubs. Under the leadership of “El President” Robert Efthimos, the west side icon of Velo Club L’Argent has also become one of the most open door, welcoming clubs anywhere. And as clubs have gotten friendlier, the area’s vibe has gotten friendlier. Suddenly, instead of being a competition to treat people like that brown thing that’s been in the back of the freezer since ’09, there has developed a spirit of “Who can be the friendliest?”

Okay, so it’s a competition. These are cyclists we’re talking about.

I was pleased to see a dude on the NPR last week who was wearing a nondescript kit that said “Abbeville” on it. He went pretty good. I chatted him up, gave him my card, and asked him to join Team Lizard Collectors. He’d been in town for a few months and was getting to know the local rides.

“Sure,” he said. “Thank you.”

So the dude joined TLC. Turns out he is a two-time French national champion and has 47 road wins under his belt. He showed up on the Flog Ride on Thursday and put everyone to the sword without breaking a sweat. Best of all, his wife owns an awesome coffee shop with authentic French pastries that melt in your mouth, or in the back of your jersey if you stick a couple there to take home.

Next time you see someone riding down the road, take a minute to say hi. You never know who you’ll run across. And it doesn’t cost you one red cent.

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Raymond Fouquet Memorial & other rides …

December 28, 2013 § 5 Comments

December 29: On what would have been Raymond’s 93rd birthday, Velo Club La Grange invites everyone to join them on a memorial pedal along the famous Nichols Canyon route. This is one of the iconic rides in Southern California, and was started by Fouquet, a French immigrant, waiter, restaurateur, and passionate cyclist. Riders meet at the traditional meeting place on the corner of Westwood Boulevard and La Grange Avenue. Please meet by 7:45 AM.  The ride will be a “No Drop” pace led by Marco Fantone. VCLG asks that you obey traffic laws and be courteous to motorists, even the ones who are obviously trying to kill you. The ride is about 30 miles long and ends at Peet’s Coffee in Brentwood, so you can also park there, as it is about three miles to the start in Westwood. Estimated end time is 10:00 AM. All La Grange members are encouraged to wear their current kits in honor of Raymond’s memory, and other area riders are also encouraged to wear their club colors, as Raymond’s life was all about supporting Southern California amateur bicycle racing.

December 29: Tour of Palos Verdes. This will be a moderately paced wankalong leaving the Malaga Cove fountains at 7:30 AM sharp for a more easily paced loop around the PV Peninsula. Everyone is invited, and like all good rides this one ends at a coffee shop, also in Malaga Cove. There’s plenty of parking if you’re driving. The route will follow the Donut Ride, but at a pace where you’re not hocking up a lung.

Jan 1: South Bay Holiday Ride. This ride goes off at promptly at 7:59:18 from the Center of the Known Universe, a/k/a CotKU, a/k/a Manhattan Beach Starbucks by the pier. It is a complete fredfest, and when the weather is good, which it will likely be on Wednesday, the ride can attract well over 200 alleged cyclists, all of whom will be surging and charging to get to the front so that they can promptly slow down. The festivities start on Mandeville Canyon Road, where the massive gaggle, which will have already shed a hundred riders up San Vicente, will lose another 175 or so riders as the pace hits warp speed up this 6-mile climb. So, if you’re reading this carefully, yes, you got it right. It’s an all-day pedal (70+ from PV) so that you can do an 18-minute effort with some very fast riders. The rest of the time you’ll be terrified for your life trying to avoid the tandems, in-line skaters, racquetball players, and freddies who are trying out their $15k Christmas rig for the very first time.

Jan. 1: North County Holiday Ride. This ride goes off not-so-promptly at 8:00 AM or 8:05 AM, leaving from RIDE Cyclery in Encinitas. What began as a friendly, welcoming way to get people to enjoy a holiday pedal together — modeled after the South Bay ride of the same name — has become  a kind of low-watermark in vicious brutality. The ride eases along for about 20 minutes, and can have pretty big numbers depending on the weather, but as soon as the group hits the San Dieguitos climb, well, the effluent meets the rotating blades. This ride is not for the meek, the weak, or the fragile of ego, because your legs will get torn off and your sense of self-worth will be completely destroyed. Expect to spend a lot of time by yourself, wondering why you drove 100 miles at 5:00 AM to pedal, lost and broken, amidst the endless rollers of North County hell. The ride climbs up Lake Hodges, which invariably reduces the already reduced gathering into a final selection of ten or fifteen of the true strongmen and strong women of SoCal cycling. Make it to the top of this bad boy with the leaders and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with Tinstman, Rogers, Dahl, MMX, and a handful of other bloodthirsty warriors. The ride is quick and short; 60 miles finished by a graveside service.

Jan 1: Long Beach NYD Ride. If you’ve never ridden with 10,000 other freddies, this is your chance. A wilder, crazier, more reckless, bizarre, dangerous, flailing group of whackadoodles hasn’t gathered in one place since the last full session of Congress. It’s a hundred miles and the pace starts hot, shedding the freddies, until only the strong freddies are left. The ride goes south from Long Beach; check the ride route here. The ride finishes in San Diego, so you should be prepared to either ride 100 miles back, or have someone waiting to pick you up, or have money for a motel room, or belly up to the bar and start drinking. Enjoy, and stay alive, or at least in one piece.

When a big tree falls

December 21, 2013 § 30 Comments

When Raymond Fouquet died, those close to him were aware that his health had been failing, and that at age 92 his end was near. His death was not tragic or shocking; it came at the end of a long live that had been wonderfully lived. Raymond’s death punctuated a lifetime of kindness, but death could not erase or even diminish the ripples of goodness that continue to fan out from the warmth and humanity of his good deeds.

In a profound and complex way, Raymond lived the American Dream. Not the dream of textbooks or political ideology, but the dream that all people have of providing for those they love and giving their children a better hand of cards than the ones they were dealt. In his case, Raymond had been dealt a pair of twos.

Born outside Paris in 1920, France was still in ruins from World War I. The loss of an entire generation of young men, the wholesale destruction of the northern part of the country, and the political instability created by the Treaty of Versailles meant that by the time he turned nineteen the continuation of World War I, otherwise known as World War II, had erupted with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. France quickly fell and Ray was sent to work in a forced labor camp in Germany.

An athletic and competitive young man, once the war ended he followed his passion for bicycles and raced for Montmartre Sportif, a cycling club based in Paris. This passion for bikes he brought with him to the United States, where he emigrated, finally settling in Los Angeles in 1956. Ray worked as a waiter until he saved up enough money to open his own restaurant, La Grange in Westwood, in 1968. This was the same year that he formed the La Grange cycling team, one of America’s oldest and most highly regarded bike clubs.

The real American Dream

Raymond’s life was a kind of cardboard cutout of “Succeeding in America for Dummies.” Work hard. Make friends. Save money. Take risks. Reap rewards. Although Ray did all of these things, his American Dream was something different. It involved planting a seed in the relatively barren cultural soil of 1950’s Southern California, and nourishing that seed with the passion and reverence that only those who have left a homeland for another country can understand.

For Ray, the dream was to infect his new homeland, one person at a time, with his passion for the most revolutionary peacemaking machine ever invented, the bicycle. As a restaurateur, nothing could have been simpler than doing group rides with his waiters, rides that started from the restaurant, of course. The late 1960’s was a time of political and cultural revolution in American history, and in his solid, quiet, middle class immigrant way, Raymond fomented change of his own in the form of bikes and bike racing.

Velo Club La Grange became the anchor for cycling in Southern California, and it formed along with the Nichols Ride, a legendary Sunday beatdown started by Ray and featuring a nasty 3-mile climb up into the Santa Monica mountains followed by a punishing 10-mile smashfest along Mulholland Drive. Had Ray only created the club and this one ride and nothing more he would still rank as one of the pioneers who helped make Southern California a national icon for bikes and bike racing.

But his real contribution was much greater than that.

Spreading the gospel with a gentle hand

In a sport where social graces are often wholly absent, and where a kind of nasty, rude clubbiness is painfully common, Ray believed that cycling wasn’t nearly as important as people. He believed that, since each person had a name, it was incumbent on him to know it. His rides began with a personal greeting to each friend and to each new face. This was in tandem with what became legendary hospitality. One rider still remembers with reverence how he went to Fouquet’s home to pick up his first kit and the kindly Frenchman invited him to sit down for dinner.

People who joined Ray’s circle of cycling friends –and everyone was welcome regardless of ability, ethnicity, or equipment — found themselves in a community that looked after its members and that practiced the camaraderie and joy of cycling embodied in Ray’s daily life. I didn’t know Ray Fouquet, but his goodness and his humanity touch me through those who knew him and through the good works of his club, which continues to be one of the best in the nation. This beachhead of bike racing and cycling culture that Raymond Fouquet established in California, however, is not his legacy.

His legacy is the grace and kindness and gentleness that he brought to the task. We can honor him by learning the lesson, and passing it on.

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