Have you read anything lately about how beautiful, fun and inspiring American bicycle racing is? I haven’t either. If you want to learn more about Lance, Tyler, Floyd, blood doping and lawsuits you are at the wrong blog. What I’m talking about is the bike racing that occurs on weekends throughout America. All ages and both sexes are represented at most races and they often have a “citizens race” for those that are not licensed and just want to give bike racing a go. The young, licensed riders are enthusiastic, hard working folks that often make their living spinning wrenches at local bike shops or ride on a college intramural team. The prize money wouldn’t even cover the cost of a trashed wheel set but they line up every weekend anyway. Some arrive with racks of bicycles that are worth more than the cars they’re mounted on. Despite being a steel frame tourist type of rider, the sight of energized racers in flamboyant kit with their flashy bicycles in hand I think is a beautiful one.
This weekend I attended the “Tour Del Sol” in Saint George Utah. I’m sorry to say I missed the criterion and time trial but I caught the road race on Sunday. It was clear and sunny at 8 AM but nippy so most riders donned leg and arm warmers. The course started at scenic Gunlock Reservoir then wove around, over and through red rock mountains, quiescent volcanic peaks and desert scrub. It passed through open range cattle country too. If the mountains weren’t challenging enough, the riders could test their bike handling skills on the cattle grates.
It was exciting to be at a bike race again and I got a little restless as I waited for the riders on an uphill two miles from the finish. The surrounding rock formations and mountain peaks were photogenic even without the cyclists in the foreground so I actually had plenty to look at while I waited. Finally the racers started arriving. No matter the age, sex or loop the riders raced they all finished at the same spot. That made picking a place to wait easy.
It was nice to see so many women as well as older folks racing. Some of the guys may have had white beards but they gave it their best just like the young lads. The woman were racing hard also but they responded to my camera differently. Most men looked away from the camera, only a few smiled. The women on the other hand looked at the camera, smiled, and commented, i.e. “Where can I see your pictures?” I wasn’t expecting that question and I didn’t have a reasonable response. But I did have an epiphany, for my next career I’m going to be a photographer for women’s cycling. What a great gig! Taking pictures at exciting athletic events filled with people who are inspiring, attractive and fun to photograph.
Even though I was only a mile or two from the finish line I was the only person in sight for as far as I could see in either direction. Unfortunately bicycle racing does not have the crowd appeal of running so the riders don’t have the stream of encouragement that a typical runner has in a marathon or 10K. It was fun to speak to the riders and give encouragement as they struggled up hill after having ridden nearly 40, 60 or 80 miles. We joked with each other as they passed, they smiled, I took pictures and as they crested the hill many asked the same question, “How far to the finish?”
Bicycle racing is truly a beautiful sport with colorful riding gear and space-age bicycles and events set in scenic locations. If you haven’t seen a bicycle race lately (or ever) google one in your area, pack a camera and a few words of encouragement and head out. Did I mention it’s free to watch? I am sure you will be impressed by the men and women you see competing. Who knows, may be you’ll be inspired to dust off that old Schwinn Varsity and go for a ride yourself. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?