Beaumont's Piece of the Classic!
The `Tour de Beaumont’ may be a long way from France. But as racing cyclists careen along twisty, mountain roads with the snow-capped peaks of the San Gorgonio and San Jacinto Mountains looming in the distance, you can close your eyes and see the Pyrenees rising above the French country side. And as a swarm of competitors round a sweeping corner in Bogart Park and pedal uphill beneath a canopy of trees, your mind’s eye imagines Etroits pass in Switzerland during the grueling Tour de France. Yet here they were right in the San Gorgonio Pass—racers whizzing past while fans on street corners evoked the sight of cheering crowds in faraway European villages.
On Friday, March 26th, the City of Beaumont’s Circuit Race clicked into high gear as a major attraction and Stage 1 of the renowned Redlands Bicycle Classic. Hundreds of cyclists and their crews captivated a city as they rode a challenging course over every possible kind of terrain. The start-finish line was right in front of the Beaumont Civic Center.
Mayor Brian DeForge marveled at his hometown hosting one of the most prominent and prestigious sporting events in Southern California. DeForge never raced quite like this in his day, but the event nonetheless transported the mayor back in time to his boyhood, when he would pedal his shiny Schwinn bike—with its big fat tires and wide Beach Cruiser handlebars—all over town. Later, he tooled around on a Stingray with its tall handlebars.
“The bike race gives Beaumont such an international flavor,” DeForge said, standing near the start-finish line. “It’s really phenomenal to have such a world-class event in our small town. These professional bike racers do it with style and rather rapidly. As kids, we only thought we were fast.”
Revved up for business
The cyclists and the Chamber of Commerce’s Business Expo kept things pumped up. Rick Tanner, who owns the Beaumont Bike Shop, got into the spirit. He pitched a tent at the Business Expo near his shop on Sixth Street. Tanner ordered a new selection of road bikes and kept two shop technicians on standby just in case any cyclists encountered tire or mechanical problems. “It can’t get any better than having a race right in front of your shop—a finish line within a half block of your store. We can’t have better exposure than that.”
Next door to the bike shop is Frijoles Mexican Food. Owner David Schuelke opened at 6:30 a.m. before the bike race. He added some new items to the breakfast menu—pastries and orange juice in addition to his famous breakfast burritos stuffed with bacon and onions. “We targeted the `early birds’ and got quite a few,” he said. “It’s such a prestigious event for Beaumont, and we’re honored to be a part of it.”
Thrills for visitors
Bike race enthusiast Paul Tavares and his cousin Mark Batungbacal and his wife Pam came from Riverside and set up lawn chairs in front of the Beaumont Civic Center at the start-finish line. He usually drives around the course, but decided on Friday to seek out a comfy spot close to all the action. “What’s the attraction?” Tavares mused. “Imagining you’re one of them. It pumps you up to the point where you go out and ride.”
After a day of racing, the trio planned to fold up their lawn chairs and head down the street for lunch at the Little Luau Hawaiian Barbecue. City officials say crowd-pleasing, signature events such as the bike race, the Summer Concert Series at Stewart Park, and the Cherry Festival spotlight Beaumont, while boosting the local economy.
The race day began with hand-cyclists using their arms to propel themselves around a 15-mile course. Beaumont residents Karen and Don Hoffman were on hand just before 8 a.m. to cheer their grandson Steven on as he competed in the race. He trained for weeks and rode 22 miles at a stretch several times a week preparing for Friday’s race, sponsored by Loma Linda University Medical Center’s PossAbilities program.
“I’m proud of the city for doing this,” Karen Hoffman said. “It means so much to Steven and the other hand-cyclists. This is a city that cares. “
The racing excitement continued to build throughout the day with women’s (68 mile) and men’s (105.7 mile) pro events. By around 3 p.m., the competition concluded as the cyclists sped toward the finish line. Crowds leaned against the barriers along the track, which were lined with sponsor boards.
The finish line
An announcer revved up the crowd during the last moments as the cyclists flew down Sixth Street after rounding Palm Avenue. “They’re blocks away from the finish line, so Beaumont, we’re going to need you to make some noise and welcome these riders here in a minute. Let’em know you’re here! Bang those boards, ring those bells, scream, shout and jump up and down and let these riders know that you appreciate their hard efforts… And your winner this afternoon is going to be Jelly Belly’s Will Routley bringing it home! Give it up for Beaumont… Stage No. 1 of the 2010 Redlands Bike Classic!”
And so after receiving their medals and trophy jerseys, the winning riders stepped down from the podium. They smiled for a few more pictures, gave some interviews, and then headed off to Redlands, where the excitement of the classic would resume another day.