The Start/Finish Line on Puddingstone Drive.
Being a resident of Southern California, it is hard to believe this was the first time I attended the San Dimas Stage Race. How it got way from me for all of those other years, well, the list of reasons is long, but extremely distinguished. However, sparing all the excuses, I am just glad I finally pedaled my behind out to Bonelli Park for the 15th running of the event. And, I was not disappointed, either.
While the event is a three-day affair, with a time-trail up Glendora Mountain Road, and a Criterium in downtown San Dimas, the road race around Bonelli Park was the only day I could attend. The course was roughly seven-miles, and it had a bit of everything, from windy flats, to twists and turns, a hellacious up and down hill (known respectively as Cannon and Walnut Avenue’s), rollers through the park, and a trip over a dam. The latter was an issue on Saturday morning, as California is what California does; A magnitude 5.1 earthquake the night before had authorities inspecting Puddingstone Dam before the racers were allowed to cross over it.
With the Engineers giving the “All Clear,” the races commenced, as did the overflowing enthusiasm for the event. I had heard Racers were a rude, smug, self-inflated bunch of hooligans, and while some truly are, I found the bulk of the participants to be friendly, engaged, and just darn happy to be there on their bikes. How can one argue with that?
You can get "Up and Close" at cycling races. Just don't get too close.
I basically spent most of my time near the Start/Finish line, and also cruised the “Pits” a few times marveling at the very expensive, light, and exotic race machines, along with some very colorful kits some of the teams wore. Whether a professional team bus and support vehicle setup, to the small, independent participants in white, un-sponsored vans, all were there to race, and make sure they enjoyed doing it. That included the one guy who rode his bike to the event, with only a backpack as his means of “Team” support. Now that was a real enthusiast, racer! And, on the subject of enthusiasm, the Cat 5 racers (beginners) were giving it their all at the event just as much as the Pro’s did.
The upside of my day’s adventure was some really good, close racing, the awesome weather, the enthusiastic fans, and the announcer’s in the booth, whom were very informative and entertaining. In addition, I have never seen so many beautiful, expensive bikes in one place being ridden by so many super-skinny people (I really have to ride more). Also, I came home with fifteen, new, team water bottles!
The only downside to the day was at the Finish Line of the Men’s Pro Race. As the laps wound down, the crowd began to grow at the line, and that included photographers. Lots of Photographers. While I truly enjoy photography myself, the one thing I do know is to stay the heck out of the way of a rapidly approaching peleton. Well, even after being honked out of the way by the Referee’s car, the photo-hounds crowded back into the finishing chute just as the winner was celebrating (about twenty-yards after the line), and while I did not see the accident, I certainly did hear it. THUD!!! When the proverbial dust cleared, I saw two riders down, one I recognized as a rider from Team Jet Fuel Coffee –Norco, which I believe was stage winner Anton Varabei! The other was possibly third-place finisher Canyon Bicycles-Shimano’s Daniela Eaton. Depending on whom you believe, either Varabei hit the photographer, or Eaton hit the photographer, or they collided attempting to avoid a photographer. However it occurred, both riders went down after finishing 70-miles of hard racing, and the last thing they needed was a finishing chute full of people which should have been there.
The Pro Men's finish. In two-seconds the winner would not be celebrating.
Overall, a good show was put on by SoCal Velo, but sadly, they lost control of the event three-seconds after the Pro Men’s finish.
Apparently the issue with overzealous photographers is quite well-spread, as this article on "The Inner Ring" explains.