Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The International Element...

Years ago, say the early to mid-1990s, while racing at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, the announcer made mention that there was a rider entered in the race who had come all the way from Switzerland. Suddenly the race took on a whole new meaning; it wasn't just a battle between the usual locals anymore. Even twenty years ago it was relatively rare to see racers from Europe here in the States, except for the larger events - the big one day races on the east coast, or stages races like the Coors Classic, Tour du Pont / Tour du Trump. In the years since then, foreign faces have become more familiar, even on domestic squads who only race the circuit across the lower continental 48.

This past weekend, at the Velocity Cross, the Mens A race was graced (I don't know if that is the right word, but nothing else is coming to mind right now) by Greig Walker of Velo Club Moulin, direct from Scotland. Now cyclocross is, or course, a big deal across the pond, but to find a European at a local West Coast race is still undeniably rare, and it was kind of exciting to have that foreign flare this close to home.

In 1990 I made my first trip to Ireland, and figured it might be a one-time chance to race over there. I had planned ahead, at least enough to have taken out an international racing license for that one year. Unfortunately, I left the matter of bike transport until the last minute, but did manage to secure one of those big plastic cases from a local bike shop and packed everything up. Then I started thinking: What happens if my rental car is really small (which it was)? What will I do with the case? Can I store it at the airport? What about the various transfers I have to make? Blah, blah, blah, and I ended up talking myself out of bringing the bike. Too bad, it means I will likely not have the opportunity to race in Europe. Anyway, back to the Scotsman; this reporter was not so intrepid, and failed to track Mr. Walker down after the race to ask the important questions. Did he plan on this race? Did he bring his bike, and finding the race was simply coincidence? Whatever the case, he made the effort and that is what is important. And that international aspect just added a little extra flair to the race.

For a second year in a row now, Dorothy Wong and SoCalCross have brought / are bringing UCI rated races, with international ranking points on the line. The first UCI race this year was at Spooky Cross in Irvine; the second will be in Griffith Park in early December. Last year's race brought some big name American riders to the venue; who knows maybe this year they will be joined by an international element too.

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