You may have watched the Tour of California this week. Peter Sagan and Teejay Van Garderen have had big success, and it's still anybody's race heading into the weekend. Maybe you've been following the Giro d'Italia which runs this whole month, a race on par with the Tour de France. The big names are there too, including Mark Cavendish, who has already taken three stages so far.
Let's face it. Bike racing is cool, whether it's the biggest contests like the ones listed above or even (or especially) the smaller races -- the local or regional competitions that mostly draw riders no one has ever heard of.
Last weekend I was reminded once again why that is. It came as part of an event in the USA Crits Championship series that took place in St. Louis May 10-12, though it wasn't something that happened during the race itself. Rather, after the Pro race (which the United Healthcare team dominated, as they've done all season long), rider Hilton Clarke came over to greet some visually impaired fans who had come out to cheer them on. Still on his bike along the fencing lining the finish, Clarke peeled off his riding gloves and gave them to an absolutely delighted young lady, and posed for photos with the people gathered there. Later I found out that Clarke and his teammates had even taken these special fans out for a ride earlier in the day.
The joy that these United Healthcare riders brought to these people and their parents was something I'll never forget, and I was proud to not only see their performance in the race, taking all three spots on the podium, but the even bigger display of class and winning ways that came after the event was long over.
So go watch a race. You may not see the famous names flying through the mountains of Italy or even spot something special like I saw last Saturday. But you'll get to see the joy of sport and the amazing spectacle of men and women going fast on bikes, competing against each other in most cases for nothing more than the thrill of the race and the chance to make our amazing bodies do these amazing things.
- USA Cycling Development Foundation offers Grants and Scholarships to Cyclists
- Book Review: Tyler Hamilton's The Secret Race
- What is a Criterium anyway?