If you haven’t noticed it yet, you certainly won’t miss it this weekend as cycling fever takes over Tehachapi with yet another Tehachapi GranFondo presented by Kaiser Permanente.
I’ve been witness over the last few weeks to the preparation or the “practice” for the upcoming ride. It usually starts around late July or early August as bike paths around town and the Fondo routes are inundated with cyclists preparing for arguably the most demanding race of their lives. This is essentially the Tour de France for local cyclists and a real challenge for those coming from out of the area.
Believe me, plenty are coming in from out of the area. Hotels will be full, restaurants busy, streets jammed with visitors and spectators. It’s not only a ride, it’s a tourist attraction that has gained notoriety all over the state as one of the best-run events in California cycling. It gives local businesses yet another weekend to take advantage of tourists, and the money they leave behind. Only one person can walk away “King of the Mountain,” but economically, everyone is a winner.
I did my share of cycling as a kid. Actually, back then it was simply my transportation. I never wore a helmet (don’t be like me kids), or a cycling jersey or fancy shoes for that matter. It was shorts and a T-shirt or something more-weather appropriate for Tehachapi. My rides weren’t limited to the warm days either; transportation essentials know no temperature limit when you’re 11.
Did I ever imagine as a kid that one day those same roads I peddled on trying to ride to Old Town for a haircut and a few minutes at the arcade would one day become a haven for two-wheeled-18-gear enthusiasts? Absolutely not, although I won plenty of imaginary races as a child. Matter of fact, I’m still undefeated in that realm.
My days of cycling glory, imagined or not, are behind me. However, I have a ton of respect for anyone willing to ride a bicycle for 100, 86, 62, 32 or 18 miles, the length of the Fondo routes. Earlier this year I told my wife, “I think I might ride in the Fun Fondo this year,” referring to the shortest route. She replied with, “You realize the Fun Fondo is still 18 miles, right?” That I didn’t and hence the reason I am not registered. 18 miles? That’s like driving to Mojave. I don’t even want to ride my motorcycle that far.
But, if you are braver than I, hats off to you. And by that, I mean those little cyclist hats with the tiny bills made famous by Wesley Snipes in the film “White Men Can’t Jump.” Hats off for your dedication to sitting on a bicycle that long and peddling an ungodly distance.
I do happen to own a home on the route. So, it’s been fun the last few years to wave at these brave souls as they peddle by on a Saturday morning. My favorites are the regular Joes just out to push themselves. I always give them a honk or a wave, knowing they aren’t under any pretense that they’re about to set a record. They’re just trying to finish. There’s a lot of pride in that and respect from those who recognize it.
Cycling is building an active following in Tehachapi. Our climate, altitude and availability of bike paths is attractive to the rest of the state. I don’t cycle, I don’t own any spandex or whatever they call it these days, but I respect the sport and the financial impact it brings into our community.
The cyclists are coming. I’m already tired just thinking about how far they are going to ride, but excited about how much their passion has helped this community.
Corey Costelloe has covered the NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides and works in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.