Time trial bikes, tandem bikes, hand bikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes. Bikes were everywhere in Bend last week. Unless you're a party pooper living on Skyliners Road or a worker for the ODOT maintenance crew, you probably agree with me, the more bikes the better! Despite the efforts of Skyliners Road residents to rid themselves of bikes and ODOT's best attempt to thwart us with chip seal (now they've chip sealed Highway 242 from Sisters to the gate on Mackenzie Pass Highway... ugh) Bend really may be becoming Bike Town USA.
Endorphins in the Air
The concentration of endorphins in the air in Central Oregon reached a record of 1,000 ppm this past weekend. More than 5,000 people participated in the Pacific Crest Triathlon Sports Festival in Sunriver, while some 200 mountain bikers raced at the Wanoga complex in the Pickett's Charge. That's in addition to the 750 cyclists who competed in the USA Cycling Junior, U23 & Elite Road Racing National Championships.
I had a chance to chat with some of the guys from the Yahoo! Cycling Team who were being housed by a friend. The team was disappointed to be returning to northern California without a stars and stripes jersey, but they posted several top-ten finishes.
"I love Bend. The courses were good and the energy of the people here is great. It's tough to leave," said Ryan Parnes who placed fifth in both the road race and the criterium and was ninth in the time trial. He'll be back, however, with his Yahoo! teammates to race in the Cascade Cycling Classic in a few weeks.
Well-deserved congratulations go to all the champions, but I was really most inspired by the paracyclists.
Some of the athletes had obvious disabilities, such as missing limbs, while others had less obvious disabilities such as brain injuries. They all shared a passion to compete. Not only did cool carbon fiber bikes abound, but also cool carbon fiber prosthetics. One young man had the fastest looking tricycle with disk wheels that I'd ever seen.
Back in the early nineties, I worked as the sports scientist for the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team. I worked with Craig Griffin, who was a coach, along with head coach Chris Carmichel, at the time. Now Griffin is the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Head Coach and was in Bend for the national championships.
I wondered how coaching disabled athletes compared with mentoring future stars like Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Fred Rodriguez.
"They are very, very competitive and sometimes their competitiveness is up to par with able-bodied athletes," Griffin said.
He said their training is similar to their counterparts and is just as difficult. He said more and more disabled athletes are competing in the Paralympics every year, something that is important for the public to see.
"It is overcoming boundaries, it is overcoming people's expectations and showing the world that these athletes are not disabled, they are very, very abled," Griffin said
It was also fun to watch local, and visually impaired sled dog racing star Rachael Scdoris team up with Sarah Max on a tandem they had just borrowed. I chatted with Jerry Scdoris, Rachael's father as we cheered on their time trial finish.
"They were really looking forward to competing against the reigning champion, but she was injured in a crash last week in Europe. Now they've qualified for the World Championships in Canada in August."
Gas sucks. Ride a Bike.
Even for the non-competitive types, this was bike-to-work week. Bend's 20th annual Commute Options Week ended on Sunday, but why not keep the wheels rolling? Bike to work. Bike to the bank. Bike to the Show Us Your Spokes Summer Concert Series at Parrilla Grill on Friday evenings in July and August. All proceeds will go directly to benefit Commute Options for Central Oregon.
Just think. If a girl with one leg can race her bike, maybe we can all ride to the grocery store every once in a while.