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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel Correspondent
May 5, 2011
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Bike Month in Santa CruzAs National Bike Month rolls to a close, it’s been a bumpy ride for cyclists during the past few weeks on both the local and international fronts.

Throughout May, cyclists and event organizers have had to contend with challenging weather.

Rain showers impacted many Santa Cruz County cycling events including the Strawberry Fields Forever Ride, an annual century ride organized by the Cyclists for Cultural Exchange. Yet despite the stormy skies, 800 riders braved the wet roads to ride the scenic South County course [about 1,100 registered]. Perhaps they were inspired knowing that chocolate-covered strawberries awaited them at the ride’s end.

The same weekend, the second annual Scotts Valley Grand Prix and the first local Xterra triathlon drew hundreds of participants and spectators. The Xterra mountain bikers at Wilder Ranch State Park got a solid mud splattering during the biking portion of their races.

While local racers and riders had to endure soggy spring conditions, the real storm was brewing — again — in the realm of professional cycling. Lance Armstrong faced allegations of doping made by his former Tour de France teammates. The most significant accusations came from George Hincapie, who helped Armstrong achieve his status as seven-time Tour de France champion. These latest allegations, publicized on 60 Minutes and elsewhere, were aired during the Amgen Tour of California pro stage race, which also fell victim to weather whims, as Stage 1 was canceled in its entirety due to snow fall at the start in South Lake Tahoe.

One of the Tour of California riders who intimately knows the ins and outs of professional cycling from his own extensive race resume is pro rider Ben Jacques-Maynes of Watsonville. A member of the Bissell Pro Cycling Team, along with his twin brother, Andy Jacques-Maynes, Ben was reluctant to comment on the latest news surrounding Armstrong but clearly advocated cycling without the use of drugs.

“It’s a touchy subject,” Ben Jacques-Maynes said. “I’ve always believed in clean sport and lived by the ideal of clean competition. I know that I compete clean. Honestly, that’s the one thing I can guarantee in cycling. … I don’t know who to believe or what story to get behind. I can only be sure of myself that I race clean.”

Jacques-Maynes’ Tour of California ended with a broken collar bone during Stage 5 from Seaside to Paso Robles as a result of a pile-up crash.

“It was frustrating, but this is just one of those things that happens in cycling: guys crash for no reason,” Ben Jacques-Maynes said. “We were just cruising along.”

With a flexible titanium pin implanted after a first surgery and a second surgery scheduled for today, Ben Jacques-Maynes is optimistic about a rapid recovery.

“I feel like I am ahead of the curve,” he said. “I haven’t worn a brace all week. I think I’m looking at another three weeks of recovery instead of the normal six weeks [due to the pin]. I’ve already been on the trainer this week.”

Ben Jacques-Maynes, like the rest of us who care about the sport of cycling, wants the truth to emerge. So we just have to wait.

Meanwhile, on the bright side for cycling locally, three new events coming up in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties offer some fun opportunities.

Santa Cruz County Cycling Club member Rita Leon, who currently lives in Albuquerque, N.M., invites women to join the inaugural Babes on Mountain Bikes, a weekend clinic for women that includes sessions on mountain bike skills, yoga and nutrition. The weekend includes events and rides in both Santa Cruz and Monterey on June 25-26. Pre-registration is required and riders must be age 16 and over. Details: www.bicyclesyogaandyou.com.

For fans of multisport events and those who love mountain biking at Wilder Ranch State Park, there’s the Adventure Challenge, a four to six hour race, June 25, in Santa Cruz. It is part of the NORCAL Adventure Race Championship Series. The race include trail running, mountain biking, coasteering and several physical and mental challenges along the course. The race will be staged at Wilder and starts at 9 a.m. There are two-person team and solo-race options. Details: www.norcal-ar.com/2011-events/wilder-ranch-ar-sprint.

The same folks who present the Sea Otter Classic are debuting a new event this fall, the Gran Fondo Bella Cipresso, on Oct. 8 in Monterey County. Building on the popular Gran Fondo events offered at Sea Otter Classic during the past two years, the Gran Fondo Bella Cipresso offers two options: a 62-mile road bike route or 20-mile mountain bike route. Both start and finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and include fully supported rest stops. Details: www.CipressoGranFondo.com

Karen Kefauver, www.karenkefauver.com, is a freelance sports and travel journalist based in Santa Cruz and an avid cyclist. She blogs about cycling for the Sentinel at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.

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