Cyclists zipped around a mile-long loop – touching wheels, attempting to avoid crashes, and trying to break away from the pack – at the 57th annual Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix on Sunday.
Waves of riders raced counterclockwise down North Valley Drive and North Ardmore Avenue in the races with 3,000 enthusiastic fans looking on. Racers of all ages and backgrounds competed in various events – 3-year-olds to 70-year-olds, from Southern California, Texas, Massachusetts and even New Zealand.
A newer addition to the event is the “kid’s zone,” introduced three years ago as a way to inspire kids ages 2-12-years-old to cycle, be active, and spend more time outside, said Mayor Amy Thomas Howorth.
“Quite frankly, when you’re a kid growing up in Manhattan Beach you do have a lot of options,” she said. “You can play volleyball, you can surf. It’s important that you inspire kids to be active.
“Somebody comes down as like a 4-year-old with all these cyclists going fast, and then they want to do it too,” Howorth said. “Any time we can promote that kind of activity I think it’s good.”
The Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix is the third-oldest bicycle race in the United States and is still a community driven event.
The pedal-fest is about inspiring others to race, Howorth said, not just highlighting those who already cycle.
“That’s why there’s a whole community feel about it. It’s not just a bike race that happens to happen in Manhattan Beach,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Steve Napolitano. “It’s local grown folks, it’s the kid races, it’s being able to be this close to the racers.”
Blake Baker, 3, jumped on his tricycle to race in the kid’s division as his dad bustled about trying to fix his bike after getting caught up in a crash.
Nearby, racer Manny Aguilar talked about caught up in a crash, too, injuring his collar bone after another racer’s bike flew into him. “Just touched wheels about 10 wheels from the front,” he said. “It took out the whole field.”
Riders said that once a crash happens everyone involved is out of the running, there’s no jumping back on to try and make up time.
The fierce competition is no “doughnut ride,” said Kate Veronneau, a women’s pro racer. Not that she doesn’t love a doughtnut ride.
“That’s the best — that’s a Friday morning chill (ride), and you end up at the doughnut shop,” said Veronneau, a full-time rider for eight years who has pedaled in more than 200 races all around the world. “I definitely like the fact that if you ride your bike a lot you can eat a lot. That’s definitely one of my favorite parts.”