Junior stage race is highlight of the season for Washington kids

  
  


By Bob Stephens
 
A few members of the Revel Consulting-Rad Racing NW Club, which put on the race
A few members of the Revel Consulting-Rad Racing NW Club, which put on the race
Jim Brown has accomplished a lot in cycling, but his most recent challenge – a junior stage race – was the most satisfying.
 
The Rapha Northwest Classic Junior Stage Race was a two-day, three-race event and the first of its kind in the state of Washington. It promises to be a season highlight in the Great Northwest for years to come.
 
“It’s the pinnacle of anything I’ve ever promoted,” Brown said. “I’ve had Belgians and pros at my races but putting this on the map is a big deal to me. I’m proud of it.”
 
USA Cycling Director of Development Steve McCauley wasn’t surprised that Brown’s club, Revel Consulting-Rad Racing NW, put on a good show.
 
“Revel-Rad Racing has been a USA Cycling Center of Excellence and the consistent leader in junior development programming in the Northwest for the last 12 years,” McCauley said. “I was not surprised to see they organized what was the largest junior stage race in the USA this year, and I hope other clubs around the country will follow their lead in 2013.”
 
Brown isn’t inventing the wheel, but is breaking new ground, at least in this country.

“It’s hard to find a junior-specific stage race outside of western Europe,” McCauley said.
 
While eyes were focused on the Olympics on July 28-29, juniors cyclists descended on Elma, Wash. Brown’s goal was to attract 75 riders and 92 showed up from Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia.
 
Brown described himself as “the visionary and money guy” while co-promoter Erik Anderson “is the nuts and bolts guy.”

“I raised the money for the race and Erik was the guy down in the trenches.”
 
“I think we’ll be at 150 to 200 riders next year,” Anderson said. “We’ll get a lot more kids from Canada and Northern California and Utah. In Washington, I think people might point to this race. It’s a month after nationals and could become a target for kids.”
 
Brown predicts the race “will blow up” and is anxious to enhance the racing schedule for juniors.
 
“We’re trying to create a little better pathway for these kids,” Brown said. “I want to do my part for our region.”
 
Brown plans to meet with accomplished Washington cyclist Tyler Farrar, 28, who won a Tour de France stage in 2011 and two stages of the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado last month.
 
“I’m going to brainstorm with Tyler about our event in November when he gets back from Europe,” Brown said. “All the kids in Washington look up to him and he came out of this system that we’re trying to improve.”
 
Brown said his event may become a festival next year, with a fourth race and third day added. One of his riders, David O’Brien, approves of that proposed expansion.
 
 “Junior racing has had its ups and downs in the Seattle area,” O’Brien said, “but it’s definitely on the upswing now. This race is a part of that.”
 
O’Brien won the stage named after Brown’s father, who died in 2011. A year to the day before that race, Brown spoke at his father’s memorial service.
 
“About a month before the race, my mom gave me my dad’s motorcycle, the one I’d given to him,” Brown said. “I rode that and followed the race and watched David win. That was very special to me. It made me proud.”
 
O’Brien began riding at age 10, and has been in Brown’s club ever since.
 
“Jim is one of my heroes,” O’Brien said. “He’s brought so much to my life, teaching life lessons and what’s important.”
 
O’Brien said it was exciting to have a race just for juniors.
 
“That was definitely huge,” he said. “Usually you have a senior race with a junior race stuck in the middle of it. This was all about juniors. That was cool.”
 
Croix Cameron, an 11-year-old in Brown’s club, was the overall 11-12 winner. He was stoked to ride in a stage race only an hour from his hometown of Seattle.
 
“It was special,” Cameron said. “I’m just starting out – it’s my second year – but I’m trying to be serious about cycling.”
 
Max O’Neal, who turned 17 in August, won the 16-17 division while riding for Herriott Sports Performance. The Seattle resident had raced in only one stage race previously – the Tour Idaho.
 
“It was awesome to have a stage race just for juniors,” O’Neal said. “It was a really cool opportunity to have so many kids in one place. We had about 50 riders in my race, and you don’t see that except at nationals.
 
“And it was a bonus to have it so close to home.”
 
O’Neal said the prize list was “incredible.”
 
“They had very generous sponsors,” O’Neal said. “I got about $1,000 in cash and merchandise. It’s the most I ever came away with, by far. That really sends a message. It shows how hard the promoters worked on this.”
 
O’Brien said incentive provided by prizes is important for beginning riders.
 
“The prize list will make this very popular,” O’Brien said. “It’s above and beyond what kids expect. Getting a pair of wheels or glasses can make a kids’ year. When I was 10, I’d spill my guts to win and maybe get a pair of socks. We don’t race for the prizes, but it’s great to have them.”
 
Cameron was certainly impressed.
 
“I thought the prizes were absolutely amazing,” he said. “They were just spectacular.”


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