I went to the 2016 induction ceremony for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame Saturday night. Once located in Somerville, New Jersey, a few years back the hall moved to Davis, which has been alternately called, “Bike City USA,” and “Bike Capital of America.” It’s remarkable that the city of Davis has so taken on this mantle that they actively courted the Hall of Fame to be relocated to this city of less than 100,000 people.
Perhaps I should have been a bit less surprised when Mayor Robb Davis spoke to those assembled for the sold-out ceremony. Davis commutes by bike and noted that more than 20,000 of the students at the University of California Davis commute to campus each day. If they didn’t have world-class bike infrastructure the town would turn into a massive goat parade each day. More impressive was Mayor Davis’ obvious passion for the bike; he asked the audience to close their eyes and think about riding, then solicited words to describe the experience, and he was only too happy to seize upon terms like happiness and freedom.
Inductees for 2016 were Steve Larsen (male competitor), Mari Holden (female competitor), Leigh Barczewski (veteran road and track competitor) and Robin Morton (contributor). Their resumes are the stuff of legend. Larsen not only won a national championship in mountain biking, he went to the world championships for road, track, off-road, cyclocross and triathlon. It’s an unmatched record. Holden is a world champion and Olympic silver medalist. Her wins include national championships (both road and ITT), Redlands, Wilamtte, Gila, the Women’s Challenge, and the mountains classification at both the women’s Giro and the women’s Tour of Germany. Barczewksi was a sprinter of note in the 1970s who won several national championships, earned silver at the world championships (on tandem) and competed in the match sprint at the ’76 Olympics. Morton was the first woman every to manage a pro cycling team, but since moving on from team management she has made a name for herself in event promotion. She’s best known today for her company g4 Productions, which is a woman-owned event-promotion company.
Recounting exploits of yore: Barczewki, “Fast” Freddy Markham, “Handsome” George Mount and Jerry Ash.
For the induction the hall of fame staff created videos to survey the careers of each of the inductees, recounting high points and reminding us of history-making rides, like Holden’s ride in the TT at Sydney, and the awful void left by Larsen’s death at 39. Five kids. Forget the athletes he was helping. Five kids. Afterward, the inductees each spoke (in Larsen’s case a close friend spoke on his behalf) and gave a the audience a view from their seat. Holden gave a remarkable speech that was a testament to drive, dedication and parental support. Barczewski’s time at the lectern was comprised of a series of race tales, culminating in his silver medal ride in the tandem sprint at the world championships. Barczewski was stoker to captain Jerry Ash; he did a fantastic job of evoking the feeling on the track, the tight space he was afforded behind Ash, the trust he needed to follow him as he dove down the track, and how the Germans took them off the track and crashed them. The entire audience cringed. Morton regaled the audience with her experience at the Giro d’Italia where each morning the male team directors would vote on whether she would be allowed to ride in her team vehicle in the caravan. Just think about that. You’d think that someone speaking on Larsen’s behalf would focus on what a badass that guy was, but much of his talk was devoted to what the former pro had done to bring others into the sport and how devoted a father he was. It made his absence that much more acute.
Once the brought the lights back up, people crowded around the inductees to hear tales too colorful for the microphone. I took a spot in Barczewksi’s circle and marveled at what grit those guys needed to even reach international racing given the lack of support available here in the U.S. at the time. May his example, and those of Larsen, Holden and Morton help to inform us going forward.
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