Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Blues: The Kids All Ride

With apologies to Pete, i suggest that just maybe the Kids are Alright because the kids all ride? Or maybe it is just the kids who ride who are alright? Ah, Who knows?

From Radsport on Tumblr

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The 2014 Knobby Time Series Finale

Aye, carumba! go to the flickr album, look closely at the photo preceding this one,
and you will see what led to this topsy-turvy shot

I have never visited South Hills Park in nearby Glendora, let along ridden along those dry grassy hillsides, and shallow oak-shaded draws. I look that way almost every time i pass by on the freeway, thinking each time that it looks so small, how could there be anything worth riding there? With that thought i decided to skip out on the state Master's Criterium Championships today, and instead make my way west to the golden hills of Glendora for the finale of the three race Knobby Time series. Each of the races this year have been held at South Hills Park, on a less than four mile loop, circled either four or five times depending on the category. The course is one that requires strength, a willingness to suffer, and some handling skills.

This race seems to be a little more low key than some of the others that the organizer puts on, including the Fat Tire Classic and the Turn and Burn, both held later in the summer. That is not necessarily a bad thing. The combined field was small enough for everyone to be on the course at the same time (one minute start gaps between categories), but did not seem to present any special problems during the racing. What was a little dicey, at least for the first lap, was a particularly nasty little S-turn near the bottom of the descent to the finish - a tight left, and then a tight right had brakes squealing, and rear tires sliding. Choose your lines well. With swaths of poison oak all about it was not a place you wanted to make a wrong choice, run off trail. Sometimes hands grabbed too much brake lever, other times tires grabbed too little dirt. After his tumble, the Path rider barely missed a beat, sprang back up, asked if i got the shot, and sped away, a little more dust covered, maybe a little more sore in the morning, but mostly unfazed.

The other side of these hills, the backside shall i call them, has its own challenge. For one, being south-facing there is more sun, which equates to higher temperatures. And then there is this, i don't know -what is the best way to describe it - how about agonizing? An agonizing climb will, i think, do. Steep, paved, and fully in the sun. I figured this might be a good place for some close-ups, the long hot climb, the faces of suffering. For the most part i got my wish, the racers cooperated, that is until the kid came along, the kid with the smile that said everything you would expect it to , "this, this is nothing." From that moment, i took notice as the kid passed by on the next two laps. If anyone was having fun out there, and by that i mean really having FUN, it was that kid. Each time he took the opportunity to take whatever little air time was available, no bump in the trail was too small to pop that front wheel, or the whole bike, off the ground. In the end, and after all, that is what it is all about. Out of the more than three hundred photos from the day, i selected seventy-one for the Flickr album, check them there.

the purity of sport: single speed, and no suspension

full speed across the open hillside

don't look too long, it will make you dizzy

a finishing shot to help your eyes refocus.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

$Holla for a Dolla Night Racing$

It appears as though Mobbin' Monday is going to be hosting some low key, mostly just for fun races around the Pomona Valley throughout the long hot summer season. Last night was the first of them, and attracted a bunch of roadies and fixed gear riders, maybe some trackies too, to compete for the handful of dollars along a short criterium course around Lincoln Park in the city of Pomona. There were two races, the first for geared bikes, the second for fixed and single speed bikes. Admittedly though, the first race turned out to be mixed with two of the top three, including the victor, racing with a single gear. The first race got off with a little light left in the sky and raced for approximately thirty minutes. It was dark for the second race though, and whether or not that was a factor, that one was shortened due to a crash. I was on the far side of the course when i noticed fewer racers suddenly passing by, there was some yelling on the other side of the park which sounded angry, and a peacock screamed "watch out, watch out" in that high pitched double talk they do. By the time I made it over there a crowd had fully gathered around one rider lying on the grass holding his shoulder, and blood on his elbow. A car drove away, and someone called out "stop him, don't let him drive off", while others countered that the driver was not involved. After a couple minutes the fallen rider picked himself up, a little worse for wear as we all are when we hit the pavement, but seeming to be mostly okay and, most importantly, being looked after.

I have noted the grassroots nature of the Mobbin' Monday races before, the way they serve to introduce younger kids to racing in an atmosphere that is friendly and welcoming. If you check out Mobbin Monday on Facebook you can keep up on when the next races will be held. Next time I won't forget my good flash; it got a bit dark for any quality. But it is what it is, and so are the photos from the evening - about thirty are in this Flickr album.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cycling Claremont: Coyote Howl Point

A little inspiration from a local source reminded me of a little loop i used to frequent, but haven't for a few years - the usual story of a place becoming too popular for its own good. The problem isn't so much that you go up there these days and there are a ton of people getting in your way - sure there are, and they do, but i think i could live with that (it is the loose dogs i can't live with). No, the problem is that i can remember when it wasn't like that, when it wasn't anything like that, when i could ride up there on a Friday afternoon and come across a grand total of one single person, maybe a handful of wanderers on a busy day. When I could descend along what ever line i wanted, and go as fast as my nerves would let me. When we were all regulars, and i could recognize them from far off - a familiar stride, tilt of a hat, a cadence of spinning cranks. Now everyone is new and unfamiliar. Even me.

My better judgement has had me riding road loops these past few years where once i would have done loops in the dirt. Not last night. Why not, if for no other reason than to say that i did it. I'm not sure why but the climb up Burbank Canyon to the Rotary shelter seemed especially easy. Apparently that was the impression others had as well; when i caught and passed a trio of fellow mtbers, one of them remarked that i was making it look easy. I lied and said it wasn't. I rode away and was confident that it actually was easy. Somehow it had become the easiest ride i had ever done. Perhaps when you haven't done a once familiar route in a while, it does seem easier when you finally come back to it. Wouldn't be the first time to sense that anomaly; think i will do Frankish Peak via the Barrett-Stoddard Trail one of these weekends, just to see if it works there too.

Anyway, the short loop was nothing spectacular, not that it ever really was. I did take that short detour to Coyote Howl Point which made up for any other deficiencies. The sun was getting a bit low to the horizon by then, a horizon made all the higher by the closeness of the mountainsides. Long rays reached out with that evening spectrum turning the red dirt of this part of the park to an even deeper ocher. People streamed past on the main loop, but thankfully Coyote Howl Point is off the beaten path, and thus infrequently visited. City folk mostly stay to the beaten path. No calls broke the silence, nothing to greet me, or warn of my intrusion. Maybe the coyotes are gone, like the deer, pushed out by the too many and their loose dogs. I savored the moment, the three hundred sixty degree views. I rubbed some of the red dirt into my sweat-soaked gloves, as blood brothers might co-mingle a mythic, ancient bond. The wind did its best to mimic Coyote, rising out of the canyon bottom to sweep across one ridge before another, gaining in strength and tenor all the while, before disappearing into the distance with a hush. I answered with a sigh, time like the lightness of the sky was grown short and i still wanted to take that fast run along Powerline before the road ride home.

Cycling Claremont: Levitt on the Lawn

Levitt on the Lawn is an occasional concert series held on the Malott Commons lawn, aka the Bowling Green, of Scripps College. Presented by the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts of Pasadena, and sponsored by Scripps alumnus, Elizabeth Levitt Hirsch, the series has brought twenty-three performances to the Scripps campus since the first one in 2005. I have only managed to make it to a few of the events, but they have been top notch, and as you can see by the photo above, always bring a full house to the lawn.

This past Wednesday evening the Wild Reeds were in concert. Unfortunately, between the Bud's Ride and rushing home for dinner (the boy was to have three wisdom teeth cut out of this mouth the following morning, and wanted a last good meal before being forced onto a liquid diet), i got to listen to very little. Darn, because what i heard i liked. A lot. As far as i know the only way to find out about the concerts is to check the Scripps events calendar, or the [four per year?] Claremont Colleges calendar insert in the Courier. You can also check the Levitt Pavilion website for similar performances in Pasadena, Los Angeles and other locations around the country.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

This Bud's For You, 25 June: A New Champion

We have a winner, and he is not one of those two who have dominated the past couple months. This weeks Bud's crown is for you, Greg Goodwine. I could have sworn i got the second place finisher in the frame, but as you can see by the long shadows, the gap between first and second was a healthy one. Something, or someone, clearly blew the race apart near the end; while there was a good group of sixteen or so riders up front, the remainder of the ex-peloton, was scattered as singles, pairs and trios all the way back along the finishing straight. Although, i guess that is not really unusual; no matter how mean the pace may be for the first few laps, it can be counted on to become ever more diabolical for the final one.

charging to the line in a purple haze, kind of sums up a frenetic sprint at the end of a race:

"Purple haze all around,
don't know if i'm coming up or down.
Am i happy or in misery?"
- Jimi Hendrix, of course.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mid-Week C&V: A Jack Taylor Tandem

The first Jack Taylor frame was constructed in 1936. Between 1945 and the early 1990s, the Jack Taylor produced bicycles in collaboration with two brothers - Ken and Norman - out of Stockton-on-Tees, England. The bicycles produced by the three spanned a range between production molds, modified production, and fully custom.

During World War II the scarcity of raw materials for anything beyond the war effort forced the brothers to build using the fillet brazing technique, rather than the more common use of lugs to connect the frame tubes. This became one of the more distinguishing features of Jack Taylor bikes. Most of their earliest bikes were built for racing though, later, they became just as well known, if not more so, for their touring bikes and tandems, today regarded as being in the French 'Constructeur' style, distinguished in part by its geometry, the use of built-in racks, and integrated lighting. There is much written around the internet about Jack Taylor, his brothers, and their bicycles. That information is easy enough to find, and does not really need to be duplicated here.

This bike is a beauty, from the green paint and pin striping, to the vintage mish-mash of components - Campagnolo rear derailleur, Suntour Superbe at the front, Mafac brakes, the Brooks saddles, working dynamo for the front and rear lights, and maybe most notable, the prototype Phil Wood disc brakes for both wheels. Every look reveals something new and worthy of attention. It is a true classic and, like many of the C&V bikes i post up here, i saw it at the Velo here in Claremont. There are more photos in the Flickr album.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Backpedal: Cycling Claremont, the Euro Cafe

Over the years since they opened their doors the Euro Cafe has become a cyclist favorite, at the beginning of rides, at the end, even in the middle. It is also not unusual to find us there away from our bikes. This past Sunday, Euro Cafe decided to thank us all by hosting a little coffee and baked goods party up at the TOM (Top of Monroe) on Glendora Mountain Road. My back has been warning me to stay away from too much climbing lately so i, regrettably, avoided the fun. Some eighty others, however, took on the climb and, if photos can be admitted as evidence, appear to have had a great time.

Anyway, with all that in mind, i figured it was time to backpedal into this post originally published at the Claremont Cyclist on 29 January 2011:

I have been dining at the Euro Cafe since it opened. It is kind of a non-descript place, at least from the outside, the interior is nice. That, however, is irrelevant because the food is the draw, breakfast, lunch or dinner. As the sign says it is Portuguese and Italian cuisine. The owner is a Portuguese man who will come out to greet you when he is there. I swear by the seafood linguini, and my son is equally adamant about the chicken fettucini. The panini's are good, so too the soups and baked goods. And don't leave without bringing home a piece of the bread pudding with caramel sauce.

The last Saturday of the month is Flamenco, tapas and sangria night, and tonight was the first for the year so we rode over to enjoy. I decided to try the shrimp tacos, which were on the tapas menu - good, but certainly not as filling as my usual, so I got the bread pudding to round it off. [Regrettably, i don't believe they do the flamenco night anymore, though i am also not sure when i was last there the final Saturday of a month].

caldo verde and sangria

Various rides start and end here on the weekends, or use the Euro as their turn around point. The place is a local favorite of cyclists. I recall turning up for a recent Thursday night ride and spotting Jason relaxing at an outside table with one of these giant mugs of coffee, and wondered how early i would need to get there to enjoy a laid back pre-ride with enough time to finish it all, and without a quick guzzle as the group kicked off and out the driveway. No bike rack nearby, which is a bummer because there is room. That is alright though, just lean them against something and eat outside. They also have one of those cyclist's emergency kits inside, with spare bits to repair flats and what-nots.

Update: Much remains the same since the original post. There is a new sign out front, but the menu is mostly unchanged - you know what to expect that way. The bread pudding is as good as ever, but the chocolate cream stuff is a strong challenger. Coffee is spot on. The owners' son[s] may have taken over more of the day to day operations, but he is still around to greet you. Euro Cafe, check them out at the original location, or their new place just down the road.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Blues: Dreamside

This poster came up on my Tumblr feed. Created by artist Hilary Clarcq for the 2013 Denver Artcrank show.
Regrettably, there will not be an Artcrank show in Los Angeles for 2014. Bummer, waiting until 2015 is going to be hard.

Blue: A color, a mood or emotion, a genre of music. Tune in each Monday for another installment of the Blues, with a cycling twist.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Slow Sunday Scenes from the Village, 22 June

I learned something this week … no, that is not quite true - i didn't so much learn it, as had it reaffirmed. That something is that this human world of ours can be a pretty damned screwed up place. It is a place where the life of a fellow human is worth only so much as the cost of a one-hundred seventy-five dollar traffic citation. It is a place where a man can be run down by another driving an auto at a sedate fifteen miles per hour, and dragged for seventy feet before the driver is able to bring his vehicle to a stop. With a history of bad blood between the two, a judge never the less rules that nothing wrong had taken place (sorry, i seem to have lost the reference on this one). It is a place were one can kill a five year old child while driving at twice the speed limit and simply shrug it off as "shit happens", a natural, everyday occurrence, in other words. Well, at least he gets some jail time for doing it in public.

It is enough to leave you demoralized. 

Alright then, that is two days of bad crap i have thrown out at you. But you know what, at the end of the day all that gets overshadowed by the good, doesn't it? It is the reason we keep riding year after year, day after day. We have discovered that there is no better way, or very few, to spend that unfilled portion of each day, our otherwise free time, than being out on a bike ride. The sun, the breeze, the energy, camaraderie, scenery, the sweat, salt encrusted kit, burning legs, being able to eat that slice of German chocolate cake, swill that pint of Guinness, because it has been earned.

So, beginning today i, as sovereign ruler of this here domain, rule that this next week will be nothing but good, and that that decree shall extend to all my faithful readers. To kick things off, a few Slow Sunday Scenes seem to be in order:

even when not in use, oval bike racks serve a fun, playful purpose - running through them, climbing over them, weaving around them

three baskets full of produce, and an energizing ride back home

It was as nice a morning to ride down into the Village as you could hope for. An apricot pinwheel in hand, and a cup of coffee beside me, i sat and watched the people go by as the wife did a little shopping at the farmers' market and formulated plans for the 4th with friends of the family. That tricycle license plate summed it up succinctly. Next weekend should be a terribly busy one, race-wise - Junior Nationals on the track, mountain biking in Glendora, Masters state crit championships in Ontario, so it was good to take a relaxing Sunday off.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Unidentified on Mt. Baldy Road

Like many, most, maybe all, i discovered that the life of a cyclist had been lost on a local roadway a full week after the fact. When the wife brought home the latest edition of the Courier Friday evening, i read the short paragraph in the police blotter section with dismay for both the loss, and the fact that this was the first mention of it. I scanned back through BikingInLA - nothing; word had apparently not reached Ted either. I checked Danny Gamboa and Ghost Bike Documentary. Nothing. A Google search similarly turned up nothing. No word at all. Silence all around. With equal silence i added another 'unidentified' to the painfully lengthening list of the 2014 Ride in Peace Memorial.

Damn, i hate watching it grow, name by name, person by person.

I used to frequent Mt. Baldy Road, weekdays, after work during the summer - more daylight, lighter traffic. Almost immediately, though, it began to wear on my nerves - the speeding motor vehicles, the drivers who don't care shit (excuse the language) for the lives of others if it means they have to slow down.

I frequent it much less frequently these days. As Jason, of BicycleFriends noted, it may be a while before i can consider riding up there again. Which might make the motor heads happy, though it shouldn't; i drive the speed limit, and if they think it is an inconvenience to pass me when i am on a bike, it will be damn near impossible when i am in a car.

I hope that i can put a name in place of that unidentified, but after a week … well, who knows, it is still possible. It is the absolute least that can be done - recognizing a person by name, recognizing that a life, the life of a fellow cyclist and human, was carelessly and needlessly lost.

Weekend C&V: 1951 Hercules Tourist

I saw this while up in Auburn, CA outside a vintage shop, the name of which i failed to note. However, i do know, thanks to Google street view that it is located at 1021 Lincoln Way. I'm not completely sure how much of this one is original to the model. As you can see on the tag it has been "revived", which could mean many things. The grips, cable housing, and certainly the saddle look new. Sixty year old pedals rarely look that good, and though i am not sure what type would have come on a model like this, i would suggest they are replacements. The frame is in superb condition, as is the componentry; interesting dual top tubes and bend to the down tube.

Hercules (Hercules Cycle and Motor Company) was founded in Aston, England in September 1910 by Harry and Edmund Crane, who chose the name Hercules for its imagery of durability and strength. A twenty-five bicycle per week production increased to seventy within the first six months, then one hundred forty after a few more. At that point the brothers employed ten people who assembled bikes out of a house. By 1914 production had risen to 10,000 bicycles per year. In 1923 the company moved into an old Dunlop factory in Aston, which grew into the thirteen acre "Britannia Works" and site of the company offices. By 1928 Hercules bicycles accounted for one in five of all British bikes exported and necessitated the acquisition of another Dunlop factory, this one in nearby Nechells. Six years later (1935) that twenty percent of the export market had risen to forty percent, and in 1939 the company produced its six-millionth bicycle.

At the time the company moved into the first former Dunlop factory, Hercules was producing most of the components, baring tubes and tires, installed on their bikes. This, it has been suggested, was among the primary reasons for their great success during those years, a time when many other British bicycle manufactures were in decline. Their mass production methods resulted in an output of ten thousand bikes per day, each taking less than ten minutes to assemble. By 1939 they could claim to be the worlds largest manufacturer of bicycles.

In 1946 Hercules was sold to Tube Investments, who manufactured most of the steel tubing used in the bikes, but by the 1950s the company had lost sight of innovation and change within the bicycle industry. For instance, they continued to use steel rather than alloy for the handlebars on their racing models, rather than shifting to lighter Reynolds 531 tubing for their frames, they continued to use heavier steel, and stuck with five speed gearing rather than the more common ten. Regardless of this, the company opened a third factory during the 1950s near to the second.

During the 1950s the company took increased interest in the sport side of cycling. In 1952 they sponsored Eileen Sheridan who set every record set (twenty-one total) and kept by the British Women's Road Record Association during the 1950s. Five of those still stand to this day, most notably the London to Edinburgh, which she set in 1954 in a time of twenty hours, eleven minutes, thirty-five seconds (incidentally, she was featured in a 1952 documentary entitled Spinning Wheels: Cycle Sport 50's Style. I have to think that would be a fascinating watch). The problem, of course, is that though the bikes she used were branded by Hercules, they were often manufactured by someone else because the Hercules frames were so heavy.

In 1958 Tube Investments purchased the Raleigh Company, from which union the well-known TI Raleigh Industries name derives. Being much larger and well regarded Raleigh took control and almost immediately began to cut out weaker brands and instituting their methods and standards of design and manufacture. By 1963 Hercules had all but ceased to exist, though it was not until 2003 that the original company, lost for years within the domain of Raleigh, was officially dissolved.

Eileen Sheridan - she seems like a fascinating person, and there is a terrific interview from 2013 (Eileen Sheridan: The Mighty Atom) in which (at aged 88) she recounts her ride from Land's End to John O'Groats, as well as other record setting rides.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Auburn Wins with 2.89 Miles Per Capita

In the mythos of California cycling cities, the little burg of Davis has long held an enviable position near the top of the list of bike-able places. They are the only city within the state to have earned League of American Bicyclists Platinum-level recognition for bicycle friendliness. When other cities have searched for an example around which to raise their own bicycle friendliness quotient they, for years, might very well have looked toward Davis.

May's Bike Month festivities, a way to challenge ourselves to get out and ride, are now over for another year. Bike Month is also a way for cities to challenge one another. During May, twenty seven cities in the Sacramento area competed against one another to see who's citizenry could accumulate the greatest mileage per capita. We might be forgiven for holding the preconception that Davis would be the hands-down champion. As it turns out, the foothill city of Auburn with all its lack of level roadway has, none-the-less, bested its more bicycle-savy rival for a second consecutive year.

Let me share some statistics with you, get them out of the way: During May riders in Davis tallied a total of 91,032 miles ridden, which works out to 2.47 miles per capita. The city of Auburn in the Sierra foothills tallied a total of 38,507 miles, or 2.89 miles per capita. Across a six-county area it is estimated that 9900 residents, 300 schools, and 1300 employers participated in the competition, with youths and adults logging some 1.98 million miles, a total that is up from 1.75 million the previous year. We see numbers approaching two-million and see stars, that number sounds pretty impressive. But then look closer and realize that ten thousand participants is not a whole lot, a small fraction of the regional population. 

In fact we may realize that the numbers are pretty dismal, wouldn't you say. I mean, most of the people reading this blog probably ride that much in the first few minutes of a single day. Of course what we have to remember is that it is unlikely any of the people who participated rode those paltry distances over an entire month; those numbers were brought low by the millions of people across the region who did not participate. It seems to me that we have come to accept small gains as the best we can expect. Does it have to be this way? What would it take to double those number, triple them, even more? Or is this the best we can expect short of complete economic and social collapse?

If you didn't know, Auburn has become quite the recreational bicycling mecca, and in fact bills itself as the Endurance Capital with numerous distance events taking place there during the year. I have to think that a goodly portion of those miles tallied during May were recreational miles. And while there is nothing wrong with that (the vast majority of my own mileage count are recreational), health benefits accrue no matter the type of riding, and one less car is indeed one less car, it seems to me that wider use of the bicycle is what we should strive for, but are not seeing.

I read the paper version of the article (Bragging rights for riding bikes, by Gus Thomson, in the Auburn Journal, Friday June 13, 2014) while visiting Auburn and Nevada City recently. You can still read it online here

Thursday, June 19, 2014

This Bud's for You, 18 June

There i was, busy watching the grass grow at my feet, and the gal - what age did i have to reach for babes and chicks to become gals and women anyway? - who stopped at the curb in front of me. I remember hearing a buddy, who was a good ten years older than me at the time (and still is by the way), use the word gal and thought "well, that was kind of hokey". Now there i go using it. Anyway as the grass reached to tops of my Vittorias, i tried to hone in on various conversations going on around me. I would glance away occasionally for a view up the road where an intermittent stream of riders would pass by. But none proved to be Bud's Riders - you can usually tell the difference by the speed at which they move. You know the finishing straight along Puddingstone, you can see a half mile down the road. No one is going to sneak up on you. But that is exactly what happened this evening. 

The grass was closing in on my ankles when i looked up in time to see the trio shown above making their final charge at the line. I lifted the camera up for a quick shot but, of course, it was not turned on, so all I could manage was an air photo and an imitation of a shutter sound which came very close to sounding like "damn." I did get the three podium spots as they came back around - Kayle LeoGrande, third, the Incycle / Predator rider whose name I don't know, and winning the Bud's crown yet again, Patrick Caro.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 Nevada City Bicycle Classic

With his victory today in the Pro/1/2 race, Walton Brush of Team Mikes Bikes, added his name to an honored list of past champions of the Nevada City Bicycle Classic. That list includes the likes of Bob Parsons, John Howard, Todd Gogulski, Scott Moninger, Alexi Grewal, Levi Leipheimer and, of course, Greg Lemond. A select group of 142 photos can be seen at Flickr - here is the link to the album. As usual these are only a portion of the total taken during the day; if you are looking for someone in particular let me know.

Walton Brush celebrates victory over his two surviving breakaway companions

Outnumbered at this point by a trio of Team Swift riders, Cole Davis (Limitless Cycling) would prove to be The Racer this day by winning the Junior Men 15-16 race, as well as the two-day omnium for that age group.

next best thing to a summer shower, riders take advantage of the garden hose
during the Masters 35+ and 45+ races

Masters racing against a backdrop of mountain greenery

the Women's race charges up a steeper pitch of road en mass early in the competition. the women's field may very well have been the most talented of the day, and it showed in the racing

Cat 3s (above and below) may not have reached the pinnacle of the sport yet,
but they never fail to put on a terrific show

a pair of teammates race past a gathering of spectators at the top of the course during the Pro/1/2 race

the real question needing to be answered is - how many riders rubbed the Buddha belly for luck before their race?

Another year, another Nevada City Bicycle Classic (NCBC) that did not disappoint - neither any of the afternoon's races, nor the host town. Once a year, on Fathers Day, the little old gold mining-era burg in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento, puts on its collective cycling cap and turns out for one of the best one-day races, in one of the more unique settings on the west coast. That they have been doing so for fifty-four years says something about the nature of the race, the commitment and involvement of the community, something shared by other successful races, and those that would seek to attain the same status.

Think of the course at NCBC as a downward pointed triangle with a long uphill side, a long downhill side, and a shorter, mostly flat side across the top. That uphill side throws several right and left ninety degree turns at you, with some steeper pitches to keep you on your toes. Like many similar races, racing the hill once would be little problem, it is the repetition lap after lap that takes its toll. The downhill side can be scary fast, and there is a reason for those double and triple-stacked hay bales along the bottom turns which don't quite work to slingshot you on your way back uphill.

The town, as it always seems to be this time of year, was decorated in bunting and all manner of red, white and blue banners either as holdouts from Memorial Day or in anticipation of Independence Day. The race provided the fireworks, the spectators oohing, awing and cheering as riders lit up the streets with sprints and attacks, and near-mishaps.

The Juniors took to the course first, and between some five different age groups, you can usually find a National Champions jersey in the ranks of those attempting to prove themselves on the challenging course. That was no less true this year, as Luke Lamperti and his team (Team Swift), appeared set to dominate based on sheer numerical superiority alone. (In case you don't follow Junior racing too closely, young Mr. Lamperti swept the Junior National Road Championships in the 10-12 age group during July last year.) In the end both Luke and his brother, Gianni, won their respective age groups. Team Swift also took the win in the Women's 17-18 group (Emily Abraham), as well as two second place podium spots. In both of those races the Team Swift riders were beaten to the line by riders from the Endless Cycling Racing Team - Cole Davis, beat Ben Cook in the Junior Men 15-16 race, and Connor Ellison beat Ryan Clarke in the Junior Men 17-18 race. 

The Masters racers can always be counted on to prove that cycling is not just a young persons sport. NCBC plays host to two Masters races - 35+ and 45+, who circle the course at the same time, but are scored separately. This year saw Michael Sayers, formerly of the Mercury, Healthnet, and BMC professional teams, competing in the 35+ race with Team HSP (Harriott Sports Performance). Of course prestige alone will not win you a race. That proved to be the case today as Andres Gil (Michael David Winery) took the win ahead of Matt Adams (Team Mikes Bikes), and Scott Bromstead (Team Mikes Bikes) in that 35+ race. In the 45+ race it was Dan Shore (unattached) winning ahead of Dan Bryant (Team BP / Sierra Nevada) and Scotti Fonseca (Team Mikes Bikes).

During all those years of racing Masters gather considerable amounts of experience which, hypothetically helps their riding, and racing strategy. I found out today it also helps their aim. As I stood at the sideline just beyond the water feed and shower zone, first one and then another discarded water bottle came to rest perfectly placed between my firmly planted feet. A little later, my son, who had witnessed the precision suggested next year someone set up a sort of bean bag toss with prizes for the most accurate tossers of bottles. Not a bad idea - once you are out of contention here, you are out for the duration.

The Women Pro/1/2 and 3/4 races followed after the Masters whose spinning wheels and passing wind failed to sweep that lower point of the triangle clear of little bits of blown hay. Out came the brooms and leaf blowers to clear the problem. Quite a stellar group of women gathered for the race, including Kathryn Donovan and Alison Tetrick of Twenty-16 Pro Cycling, Melanie Wong of Leopard - Sapporo, Elle Anderson of Vanderkitten Racing, and a familiar name around SoCal racing, Julie Cutts now racing with Velos Sports. Even with a solid core of talent, or maybe because of it, the race followed the typical pattern of almost immediate disintegration. Time flew by as quickly as the racers did, and for those of us spectating along the top of the course, laps followed one another in a processional blur; eventually the rapid yet sporadic procession ceased. We assumed the race must be over. Many multiples of minutes later the women began to race by again, gaps great and gaps small, separating them. It was only later we discovered that the race had been neutralized, momentarily stopped in fact, due to a crash requiring medical attention and a hospital visit. Hope the recovery is neither too long, nor too painful. At the end of the restarted race Katie Hall, of United Healthcare Pro Cycling took the win over Donovan and Tetrick. In the 3/4 race it was Bethany Allen (IRT-Reactor) finishing ahead of Libby Painter (OTR) and Sonja Klein (Pacific Crush Racing).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bikeshop Candids: Atown Bikes

Did you know that the city of Auburn, in the Sierra foothills east of Sacramento, beat out every other participating city in per capita miles ridden, across a six county region during a May Bike Month competition? That includes beating out the perennially noted bike-friendly city of Davis. For the second straight year. More on that in a future post. 

For now, though, lets consider Atown Bikes. Atown is one of several bike shops in Auburn town, opening up in their current, prominent, location three years ago. The husband / wife team of owners (Duke and Christy Jay) looked around and noticed shops specializing in performance bikes and decided that it might be prudent to focus on a different market, hence you will find Yuba Mundo's and E-bikes on the showroom floor, or arrayed outside the front door. A big fan of Yuba myself, i would love to see them sell a ton of those. Choosing to focus on a market outside the "mainstream" suggests that they foresee continued growth in the everyday, functional side of cycling. This does not mean that they ignore the sporty side of cycling - as a Masi, KHS, and GT dealer, they also carry a range of road and mountain bikes to satisfy the wants of recreational riders and racers.

Duke, like many shop owners, has a long history in cycling, going back to bmx days in Chatsworth, which might explain the many bmx bikes and posters up on the walls of the shop. In fact i thought that market might be a prime focus, but was told, no, not really. The shop also deals in used bikes, both buying and selling them, and there were a number of well maintained ones for sale. 

Auburn is being billed as the endurance capital, with long distance events taking place here throughout the year. Due to the city's location there is indeed great potential to develop into a cycling center - Atown is ready to be part of that growth. When in Auburn, check them out.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Upcoming: On the Track in June

First up, the SCNCA Elite Track Championships will be run through this weekend at Encino Velodrome. The State Championships will be followed a week later by the USA Cycling Junior Track National Championships at the Velo Sports Center. I love it when national calibre, or better, races come to a local venue, as they bring many of the best from around the country to compete against our own Southern California best. For the Junior Nationals racing begins on Wednesday, the 25th and concludes on Sunday the 29th. That is enough time to make it out to the Velo Sport Center at least one of those days to show the young'uns some support.Years from now you might be able to say "i saw her race before she became World Champion. I could tell right away she was going to make it big."


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