It’s cool when your hometown comes out and embraces a sport that has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. What’s even more amazing is that in the fifth largest city in California with the traffic to match, cycling is started to be woven into the infrastructure. This is due not only to a group of individuals who are cycling enthusiasts but also the efforts of a man who turns the pedals as a profession, BMC’s Tony Cruz.
Tony has big dreams for the city of Long Beach and some of them are coming true. One is the wide green stripe painted in the right lane that goes down 2nd street in Belmont Shore. Called a “Share Lane” it is a bike lane that gives cyclists the right to take the lane. This is obviously safer for cyclists but will also encourage the sidewalk bike riders to take to the street with a degree of safety rather than dodging pedestrians.
Today under the guidance of Cruz and a few other like minded individuals, stage 15 of the Tour de France was shown on the big screen at the Long Beach Art Theater. Not only was there the broadcast of the exciting stage projected onto the screen, but also a call-in by Versus Channel’s Frankie Andreau, himself a former teammate and then team director of Cruz, followed by Levi Leipheimer, at home nursing a broken wrist from his stage 12 crash. And of course there were giveaways courtesy of Jax’s Bike Shop such as waterbottles, t-shirts and goodie baskets given out to the lucky raffle winners.
If there was a stage to watch during this year’s Tour this would have made the short list. With the exception of the team time trial, the Tour had been on hold till this final week. Riders knew that any energy wasted the weeks prior would come back to haunt them in the final brutal march to Paris. Stage 15 was going to be the place where all the guessing and speculation of who was going to be the leader of Astana was going to be put to rest. In the end it was no big surprise as Alberto Contador decisively took the stage as well as the Yellow Jersey. The crowd enthusiastically cheered as Contador crossed the line at the summit of Verbier and equally as loud when Armstrong did one minute and 35 seconds later.
When the all the people had filed out of the Art Theater, picked up their valet parked bikes and said their good byes, it was obvious to see that the event had been a success. The viewing crowd had included a spectrum of bike riders: racers, fixies, weekend warriors, to fans all under the same roof enjoying the sport. And for me personally that is what makes cycling great, the comradery between riders. I have lost track of high school friends but I can still yell, “what’s up?” to people in the peloton I have known since I was a junior rider. Sure we may ride at slower or faster paces than before, but it looks like the City of Long Beach is trying to get all the area cyclists to arrive at the same place – a bike friendly city. I hope that we can all ride along.
If you’re looking for more information on cycling in Long Beach go to bikelongbeach.org