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A pretty cool little write-up on cycling in Reno from our local city magazine....

Link with picts

CYCLING SUPERSTARS.
Written by Kurt Bickel


RENO HAS BEEN AND STILL IS TRAINING GROUND FOR CHAMPIONS OF THE BIKING WORLD FROM THE DAYS OF RENO NATIVE AND THREE-TIME TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER GREG LEMOND TO TODAY WITH ONE OF THE TOP CYCLISTS, RENO RESIDENT BOBBY JULICH AND THE CITY ALSO NURTURES A LARGE AND PASSIONATE CYCLING COMMUNITY. DISCOVER HOW THE TRUCKEE MEADOWS IS THE FLIGHT DECK FOR THE ADMIRATION OF ALL FORMS OF BIKES AND BIKING.

Everybody remembers the first time leaving the nest, the sans-training-wheels push from a parent who sent us flying off into the world on our first “real” bike.

For many, the flight stopped with the arrival of our first driver’s license. Yet, for some and especially, it seems, the people of Reno, that flirtatious affair never ended. It shows in the number of bike shops, clubs, races, and trails in town. It shows each June at the Tour De Nez, one of the top professional races in the United States and a festival of all things cycling, which this year adds the United States National Handcycling Federation Championships to the list of events (See related story on page 66).

It even shows in Reno’s own “Critical Mass,” a much more neighborly version of the “in-your-face” demonstrations occurring in large cities where large groups of cyclists fight with automobiles for space on the road. In ours, there’s no traffic stoppages; it’s just a way of keeping people aware that Reno is a city rolling on two wheels....

OUR MAN BOBBY
It’s past closing time at Bicycle Warehouse, yet there’s a steady stream of customers entering and exiting the Lakeside Drive shop. Inside, they rifle through boxes of red, black, and white cycling clothes emblazoned with CSC in large red letters. It’s a garage sale of sorts, a benefit for Hurricane Katrina relief. While owner Dave Eastwood handles the money, a thin, professorial-looking man named Bobby Julich watches the activity between handshakes and conversations with buyers. The clothes are his and he’s on vacation at the moment, enjoying a chance to straighten up his Reno home before returning to his full-time job.

This June, Julich will be back at work in Europe. His desk will be an $8,000, ultralight, carbon-fiber racing bike, his workplace the CSC Racing Team, and his boss a young Italian named Ivan Basso. The team’s ultimate mission is to win a small bicycle race known as the Tour de France.

Basso took second last year to Lance Armstrong, making him co-favorite with German Jan Ulrich, to win this year’s race (running July 1-23). When the Tour begins its lung-searing climbs into the mountains, 34-year-old “Bobby J,” Reno’s top cyclist, will be setting the pace and cutting the wind for Basso.

In addition to helping Basso take second in last year’s Tour, Julich won the Tour of Benelux, the Criterium International, and the prestigious Paris-Nice stage race, finishing the season ranked seventh in the world.

He holds the distinction of being one of two Americans besides Armstrong to stand on the Tour De France podium in Paris, and in 2004 he realized a childhood dream, taking a bronze medal in the Olympics.

“Next to the birth of my daughter, Olivia, and the day I married Angela, that was the happiest day of my life,” Julich says.

Featured in two recent cycling documentaries, Pro and Overcoming, Julich’s path to success was a roller coaster. Cycling, Julich says, “is probably the toughest sport out there,” which made it important to find a place to unwind.

“When my wife and I were dating we were living in Sacramento and we’d come up to Tahoe to hang out,” he says. “We really loved it up here. In ’99, I was here for the Sinclair Imports party (the distributor for Campagnolo bike components in the United States). It was my first chance to ride around Reno. We bought the house not long after that.”
There’s really no off-season for professional cyclists, and most look to break up time on the bike with other sports to maintain their incredible fitness level.

“You can do so many things here — snowshoeing, skiing, mountain biking — you’re training at altitude, a big plus. And, of course,” Julich adds, “there’s that LeMond mystique.”

TOUR DE FRANCE LEGACY
Greg LeMond, to be exact. Before Armstrong came LeMond. Local boy from Franktown Road. World champion. First American to win the Tour de France (1986). Nearly killed in a hunting accident, he won two more Tours (1989 and 1990).

LeMond’s moving away left some fans bitter, and his feuds in the press with Armstrong have tarnished his image, but in the hearts of many locals he still is king. They speak in awe of his 27-minute ascent of Geiger Grade, and of the “LeMond Loop,” a 100-plus miles (including Geiger and Kingsbury grades and Spooner Summit), seemingly all uphill, that strong riders might attempt twice a year. LeMond would ride it three or four times. Weekly.

HOT ON THEIR HEELS
If you were looking for the next LeMond (or Julich or Armstrong), you might join the few hundred people milling about Air Center Circle (near the airport, off Longley Lane) on a summer Tuesday night, watching as a pack of rainbow-hued predators flash by to the sounds of cheers and cowbells. Like all hunting packs, they move quietly and in unison, the only sound is the clicking of gears like teeth snapping at prey.

Welcome to the Reno Wheelmen’s twilight race series. It’s a family affair; other than skill level (self-designated as A, B, or C), the races are open to men, women, and teens, with teens (“Juniors”) and women scored separately. Leave the beach cruiser at home; there’s nothing casual about the racing.

“The C’s are really fast,” comments Dan Brown of Bicycle Bananas, whose shop often donates prizes and gift certificates to the winners. “Several of the women who race the class are top triathletes. The B’s are ultra-fast, and the A’s are ... well, you got guys like Angermann and Melcher.”

Jeff Angermann, who runs the Silver Sage Sports Performance clinic, is a former professional racer and three-time National Collegiate Champion. Local high school teacher and former University of Nevada, Reno, tight end Bubba Melcher won the 2001 and 2004 U.S. National Criterium championship. Keeping pace with this fast crowd is a tall, lanky teen named Joe Trujillo who both Melcher and Angermann see as having great potential.
“His dad was a tremendous athlete and is willing to support him 100 percent,” Melcher says, “and Joey’s got a lot of people who want to help him succeed.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES
That Joe Trujillo is racing at all in 2006 might be considered remarkable enough, given that the young rider found out just how hard a sport cycle racing can be last July.
Rocketing around a corner on the last lap of a race in Minden, Trujillo inadvertently jammed his pedal into the pavement, flinging his bike out of control, and careening the then-15 year old directly at an oak tree at 30 mph.

His father, Mark, was just in front of him during the race.

“I heard the crash behind me,” Mark Trujillo says. “I kept looking back for his yellow and black jersey. Where’s the yellow and black! When I didn’t see him, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.”

When Mark made it to the scene of the crash, he went into shock.

“There was blood coming out of Joey’s ears,” he says, “people yelling and screaming ...”
The younger Trujillo was airlifted from Minden to Washoe Medical Center. The injury toll was extensive: fractured skull, wrist, and jaw; a lacerated liver and bruised lung. It was three days before he woke up and almost a week before his memory returned.

“I remember most of the race, but not the crash or the hospital,” Joe says, adding, “which is probably good.”

He was riding a stationary bike a month after the accident.

“I couldn’t ride a regular bike because the doctors were afraid of me falling on my head,” he says. “Then I had to have jaw surgery, so I was eating mashed potatoes through a straw for a while. Kind of tough to train.”

Joe exacted revenge on the oak. Driving by the accident site one day, he found the tree had been cut down.

“I still have a piece in the garage,” Joe says, grinning.

He has big plans for 2006. Talent and hard work produced an invitation from Team Spine, one of the top California race teams, to join their junior program. For a young man who dreams of being a pro, and of one day racing in Europe, the crash was a short setback, and a chance to learn firsthand the generosity of the cycling community. During his recovery, he received hundreds of “get-well” e-mails from around the world, many from professional racers. And the Wheelmen kicked in money to replace his bike, which was destroyed on impact. His choice of brands was obvious for an up-and-coming Reno rider.
He picked a LeMond.

LIVING CAR-FREE
“I don’t own a LeMond,” says Nick Lee of Sparks. “I’ve got a lot of bikes, though, let’s just say over a dozen. What I ride depends on the weather and if I need lights or not.”

For Lee, bikes aren’t about going fast; they’re about going. Everywhere. Because since January 2000, Lee’s car has been sitting, unmoved, in his driveway on four flat tires.

“I lost my job as a CFO back in ‘96, and I had enough stashed away to retire. I looked at how little I used my car and how much it cost, and I figured I could do without it. I’m basically a cheapskate,” Lee chuckles.

“People think it’s hard, going without a car, but it’s not. You just find the center of the universe, a place where you can get a routine, have stuff nearby. It’s like the bible analogy about letting your roots run deep.”

It was Lee’s three border collies that posed the real problem.

“They eat a lot, and I couldn’t carry 150-pound sacks of dog food on the bike,” he says. “So my friend, Paul Horsley, and I were talking and we came up with the idea of building a trailer. I’ve got six now, all different sizes. Biggest things I’ve moved in them were a couple of those 8-foot boat deck chairs, and some Exercycles I bought cheap. And one of the dogs likes to ride in the trailer, too.”

The dogs figure prominently in Lee’s routine. For three hours a day he takes them for individual walks next to the bike, burning off the notorious border-collie energy. And after his morning ride?

“I go riding,” he says. “I might head over to a bike race or ride, go shopping, whatever. Some weekends, I’ll ride a century (100 miles). I think I rode 18,000 miles last year, but that’s not much. Paul puts in a lot more miles. All that riding is good though; I love buffets so I can go and really eat all I want.”

So with all those miles, why the Exercycles?

“I decided to turn my heat off in 2003,” he says. “I figured if the troops are having to suffer in Iraq, that was the least I could do. So when I get cold, I just get on and pedal for a while.”

A PERFECT FIT
Working with a 2,000-degree blowtorch, Jenny Frayer isn’t concerned with staying warm. Her concern is making sure sections of steel tubing fit together in a perfect joint.
She picks up a mangled bunch of tubing.

“This is the first frame I built,” she says. “It went right out the door to a race and I spent the entire time watching and waiting for it to break under the rider. It never did though, until a year or two later when we forgot to take it off the car’s roof rack one day and drove it into the garage ceiling.”

Frayer is one of three frame builders in Reno, alongside Mike Galeoto of GSR, and the legendary Roland Della Santa (who built bikes for Greg LeMond). She specializes in frames for people who have trouble fitting on an “off-the-shelf” bicycle.

“For women, it’s tough to get a good fit,” Frayer says, “same for really tall people. I went through a lot of bikes before I figured out that the really small and large frames were an afterthought for most manufacturers.”

Frayer’s shop area has few high-tech tools. She fits and files each joint by hand.
“It’s time consuming, but it gets Zen after a while,” she says. “I’m not really interested in going mass production.”

Frayer moved to Reno in 1972 to attend UNR, and never looked back.

“I was driving up to school from Southern Cal, and saw this little lake on the map. I drove over to take a look. It was Tahoe,” she laughs. “Reno’s gotten so big, but every time you think about moving, you look around and realize: where else are you going to go?”

In addition to building frames, Frayer is an accomplished racer: a five-time District Time Trial champion, and three-time District cyclocross champion. She sums up the draw to bicycles in two words: “bad knees.”

“I’m missing most of the cartilage in one knee, the doctors say the only option at this point is an artificial joint,” she says. “That’s the beauty of cycling, if the bike is right, it’s easy on the joints. I figure as long as I can keep riding, I’ll put off surgery.”

NIGHT RIDER
“Bad knees,” says Pete Rissler. He’s standing with several other riders at a trailhead. It’s well after sunset on a cold winter Thursday.

“I blew out my ACL, couldn’t run anymore, started to get fat and lazy,” he says, “so I took up mountain biking.”

Rissler is ground zero for the knobby-tire set. Want to know where a trail goes? Ask Rissler. Interested in racing on the dirt? Rissler sets up the Nevada Cup and Wheelmen twilight mountain series. Your child wants to race? Rissler and local teacher Doug Moore’s latest project is the Sierra Youth Cycling League. Last year, they drew 50 or more kids to the races, and this year they hope to get most of the local middle and high schools on board.

“I’m really just a caretaker,” Rissler says. “Other people do the work starting this stuff up; I just kind of keep it going when they have to drop out.”

Time commitment for a caretaker? Rissler pauses and says, “Well, I took eight or so days off last year to work on bike stuff.”

Like Jenny Frayer, he hasn’t let bad knees slow him down. Prodded, he recalls several championships he’s won.

“I’m really a mid-pack kind of rider,” he says, “which is where I finished at the Mammoth Nationals last year.”

No matter, three other Reno riders won, and several more missed by a place or two.
Throw a rock in town, hit a champion. The night rides?

“Same sort of thing,” he says. “Mike Hernandez started doing them and then moved down to California. So I just sort of kept them going. Like I said, I’m just a caretaker.”
Rissler and his fellow riders switch on their headlights, and take off down the canyon. White beams glitter off the snow, marking their progress until the pinpoints of light disappear into the Reno skyline.

WEEKEND WARRIORS
On a summer’s Sunday, Mike Debold flips over the “open” sign at High Sierra Cycling, the last shop at the south end of town.

In a few minutes, the stream of riders tackling Mt. Rose will start rolling in, picking up bits and pieces for their assault on the highest year-round pass in the Sierra. They’ll attempt it on all manner of bicycles. “The really fast guys make it in under an hour,” Debold says, “but just making it to the top is really an accomplishment.”

Down in town, the Procrastinating Pedalers are getting ready for their regular Sunday group ride. Several friends meet at the Deux Gros Nez for coffee, checking out the cycling memorabilia while they plan the day’s route. A family unloads their mountain bikes at the White’s Creek trailhead south of town. And over the hill in California, a group of Reno Wheelmen discusses strategy for the day’s race.

They share one thing in common: like the moment after that first parental push, in a few minutes they all will be flying.
 

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Thanks

It's nice to see the press getting the sport out there. Since the recent gas price hike, I have noticed an increase in cycling stories.

In fact, today on the AM radio in NM, I heard them advertising "ride your bike to work day" this May 19th... :)
 

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