Thursday, April 16, 2009

What's Cooking In Long Beach

I came out to the Long Beach Bicycle Festival on April 4th, primarily to watch some criterium bike racing in a proper urban setting. Crits are usually relegated to out of the way industrial centers where not a soul moves on the weekend, and thus cheap permits for race organizers. I would have liked to join in the racing, but they did not have a race for entry level riders. So Meghan and I feeling in a transity mood, took the BBB 3 to the Green Line and finally the Blue Line to downtown Long Beach and walked to the race. It was also of interest to me to see how this event was to dove tail with the efforts to foster better cycling conditions in the LBC.

What made this a lot more notable than most races and bike events I've been to was the scale and scope that went beyond just racing. There were tons of people out to watch, many probably never having been to a bike race, and folks enjoying the food and booths setup along the Promenade. Bike advocates were advocating, my friends from Team Midnight Ridazz who are doing AIDS LifeCycle again were out fundraising. I picked up one of their t-shirts. Similarly to the Brentwood Grand Prix I raced in last year they featured in the middle of all the other races, a few kiddie races. Watching a mixed field of little kids, some of whom are out for blood, others out for a stroll, and on every sort of not made for racing bike, is quite entertaining.

Long Beach Grand Prix, Little Kids Race, To The Starting Line

Watching the Long Beach police and fire department only race was fun, but also rather sad. A core group of riders from the police force and fire department formed a peloton and basically left everyone else in the dust to be lapped multiple times. We took this opportunity to get some lunch at the wonderful little vegan cafe Zephyr, before the main event, the Mens Pro 1/2 race.

Men's Pro 1-2

Watching the pros and semi pro riders race was a whole different animal. They flew through turns and sprinted out of them like a whip. In the straights their tops speeds could be felt as the rush of displaced air fanned out at the crowd like a wave. In addition to break neck speeds, it takes endurance as the pro 1/2 race was the longest duration at 80 minutes. In the final third or so of the race, a 9 man break away formed that grew a respectable gap, and maintained it lap after lap to the finish line through focused paceline formation riding. In the end the break away had to break up to see who would take it, and John Murphy of Team OUCH, took the win with an impressive display of raw power.

The evening wasn't over yet, with a bicycle fashion show following the pro race, and most hilariously City Council tricycle racing following the fashion show. As live music play outside, in the adjacent bar the night's events were closed with Gold Sprints, the experience of which I wrote about earlier. The whole day was quite a lot of action, and I tip my cycling cap to the City of Long Beach for putting on such a top notch event for cycling, which included even more fun the previous night which I did not see. Also of note was a chance to hang out with The Epicurean Cyclist in his homeland and finally meet the woman who appears in all of his touring photos.

Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show
Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show Long Beach Bicycle Festival Fashion Show
Long Beach City Council Tricycle Racing

Long Beach has been embarking on some ambitious, by L.A. County standards, plans to improve cycling conditions and grow ridership. This includes bicycle boulevards, bike lanes, bike parking, and other improvements. I think Long Beach is a place to watch, and may very well out do Santa Monica in bicycle friendless in the near future, considering the lag induced coma that has been trying to get the LUCE process rolling. This event if nothing else proves Long Beach is putting cycling in the spotlight.

Complete Photo Set On Flickr

1 comment:

LisaNewton said...

Wow, thanks for the great recap. I wanted to go to the Long Beach event, but wasn't feeling too well that day.

I'm glad you put this up. Maybe Santa Monica will feel a little pressure to get moving since Long Beach is right on their heels.