Bob Rasner, Susan Gans, Heather Baroff and myself showed up in Ventura to ride up to Ojai to watch the Garret Lemire Memorial Grand Prix, an NRC event. The ride itself was very short, only 14 miles, and very easy. We stuck to the bike path, which was quite littered with branches, sand, and other debris from the recent storms, so it was something of an obstacle course. There was also some kind of run going on near Ventura, so we also had to avoid dozens of runners at the start. We even had to ford a stream at one point- Bob and I rode through, soaking our shoes, while Susan and Heather took off their shoes and socks and waded across, bikes over their shoulders.
| Ryan Lane leading Lance,
photo by Stephan Mayer
Interestingly, we ran into a very tall couple, on very tall bikes, way at the start of the ride who told us that they’d seen someone riding up to Ojai in a Discovery jersey. We all decided that it was perhaps some third string Disco guy, or more likely just someone in a Disco jersey bought at the local bike shop. I forgot about it.
We got to Ojai in time to see the Men’s 2 race, which included quite a few of our boys, including Aron Gadhia and the “winner,” (whose name I’ve forgotten). We then watched the Women’s 1/2/3 race, which was very exciting. Those gals are so strong, and the Helen’s girls looked just great.
We walked the course to find the infamous “hill,” and ran into Tom FitzGibbon who told us that he had seen a rider in a Discovery jersey, and that indeed it was Lance Armstrong. The rumors started flying that LA would compete in the Pro 1/2 race. We also saw Emmet (last name?) and also Claude Innocenti, who had ridden up on his motorcycle. By now we were also running into people like Stu Press and Marco Fantone who had finished their races and had wandered over to watch the women.
Heather, Susan and I made our way back to the start for the send-off of the Pro 1/2 race, and sure enough, Lance rolled up to the line, to the raucous cheers of the crowd which had swelled in size to fill the sidewalks. It was like trying to see the start of the Giro! Lance said a few words, even mentioning butterflies in his stomach, and the paparazzi (which included our own Casper Casparian) swarmed around getting their shots. Once the boys were off, we wandered down the street and ran right into Cheryl Crow, who had little Luke Armstrong by the hand. She is very tiny and slim, and, of course, very pretty. Heather said “Hello!” to her, and she smiled back then ducked into a pizza place. Heather went in there later and saw her again, along with the Armstrong twins. We got to the bike expo in the park, which was a nice addition. The weather was beautiful, the fans were out in force, and the mood was very festive throughout Ojai.
I left Heather to get her pizza and went back to the hill where we had watched the woman’s race. Bob was still there, along with Tom, Dara Rogers, Marco and several others. As strong as the women were, these Pros (and our boys, who hung right in there!) were just awesome, such power and strength and speed as they slammed up that hill over and over again. And they were literally inches from us, cutting it very close to the crowds. It was just spectacular, very exciting to see.
Susan had the right idea and went to the finish line to see local guy Harm Jensen win the race. Bob and I had to leave earlier than Susan and Heather, so we tore down the bike path (I had to work to keep up with Bob!), this time avoiding the water crossing by hopping onto busy Highway 33, right behind two T-Mobile girls. The only problem of the whole day was my flat tire near the bottom!
It was a really fun day!