2014 Dana Point Grand Prix: Color

The Dana Point Grand Prix has grown to become one of the top single-day races on the West Coast. It is the type of event that American criterium racing should strive to be. It is the kind of event that the local community gets behind; locals become race fans, even if just for a day. I don't mean to knock the industrial park crit - they fill a niche - but they do nothing to grow the sport, not like the Brentwoods, the Manhattan Beachs, the Nevada Citys, and not like the Dana Points do. These races (and other similar ones) succeed because they involve the local community. Residents volunteer as course marshals, they line the finishing straight, they set up parties in their driveways, and front lawns, parents bring their kids out to race, older folks sit and reflect. But the relationship is a symbiotic one as well; when I ordered a burger and beer at the Shwack Beach Grill, Victor Riquelme was there with Body By Vi p/b Velo Vie teammates grabbing a bite to eat, the BBI-SIC guys came in with their families and ordered up bags of grub, in fact if legs are anything to judge by, most of the people in there were racers and their families. The Beer Garten, which benefited the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group grew ever more packed as the day progressed. Clearly there was some profit to the day.

Gary Wall leads the 50+ers along the finish stretch

Cat 2

Thurlow Rogers leads a chase during the 45+ race

I recount this next section for the benefit of those who were not there this year nor, like myself, for any of the races previous editions. The course at DPGP is a six corner 'L' shape with slight grade changes on the backside, and the finishing straight. The tilt is not much, just enough to be convincing. Judging by the various races I was throughout the day there were plenty of racers who were convinced those little grade tilts were enough to chance a clean break from the bunch. Since the race is run clockwise, five of the turns are right-handers, with one contrary lefty. Turn Four has apparently gained a reputation over the years and, with the addition of some handmade signs, was dubbed the 'Richard Henry Dana  Danger Corner'. If you have had a kid go through the educational system in SoCal, you may know the significance. If not search 'Brig Pilgrim'.

I can't be sure if it was due to the greater prestige of the race making riders more willing to risk life and limb, the large field sizes, the two extra turns, or combination of those (and other factors) but the crashes were especially spectacular. Bouncing, sliding along the pavement, smacking into concrete curbs, aerial acrobatics without a safety net brought forth widespread gasps and sacrilegious "Oh my God's" from the mass of spectators - many of whom probably onle witness this one race per year. Did it raise their sense of awe, or confirm the foolishness, in what we do? Several riders were carted off to hospital including, in an unusual display, three at the finish of the women's race. I hope they, and all those with less severe injuries mend well and proper, in whatever time it takes to fully recover.

Leading the women through during a combined Pro/1/2/3 and 3/4 race

Wilson Blas (Velo Club LaGrange) going flat out fast in the Masters 35+ (1-3) race

A Stage 2 rider gives an exhibition in how to corner

The Richard Henry Dana Danger Corner was rather safe this year - it was the other corners that brought people to grief

With a SPY rider out front, the Pro field rounds turn six

It was a good day for racing, and just hanging out and watching

On to the album. I alone snapped the shutter over one thousand times Sunday, so the Flickr album is a little bit larger this time. Considering how many photographers, professional and amateur alike were out there, how many tens of thousands of photos must there be. Jump here for the selection of 154 shots. As usual, if you raced anywhere between the Master 50+ race and the Pro/1 race, I may have a photo showing you during the action, and will gladly check if you let me know.