Cyclists are a diverse bunch. Some are quirky, some are smart, some so fast you’re not sure you can hang on and some are funny, really funny. Once in a generation, you find a rider who contains each of those gifts by the shipping container. They invariably touch lives and remain memorable long after our last encounter.
Chris Hipp was one of those rare individuals. The California-transplanted Texan had raced at the PRO level since the 1980s. He was known as a determined, fearsome and fair competitor. He raced across the United States and had the good fortune to call guys like Bob Mionske, Steve Larsen and Seth Pelusi teammates.
Hipp was best known by his nickname, Hippstar. Rather than compose something that doesn’t quite get to the heart of the man, to do him justice I turned to brothers David and Roger Worthington who have known the Hippstar since the 1980s, and with him founded team Labor Power in 1990. Few know him the way these two do.
The arcane and the sublime Legend of The Hippstar …
Cycling great and True Original, Chris Hipp forever ended his earthly Tour de Force on July 14, 2009. He was riding his bike near his home in Redwood City, CA. Chris was understood by few, but respected/admired/entertained by many. A complex cat with many layers.
Chris was a guru, a best friend and Labor Power Teammate from 1994. His radius of influence spans from his original stomping grounds in Dallas, Texas (where he united with my brother Roger Worthington to form Labor Power) to the U.S. edges of the East and West Coasts … and beyond.
For those of you asking “Who is Chris Hipp?” Truth be told, he was a closet genius who created new computer server and graphics software. Such an esteemed egghead that the New York Times has already assigned a featured Obit on his life.
For those of you asking “Who is Chris Hipp?” truth be told, just yesterday the swarming media blitz focused on another Texas Warrior named Lance Armstrong. Imagine Lance, currently sitting in 3rd place after 10 stages in the TDF … surrounded by 800 reporters from 45 countries. All feeding off him for The Story of The Day. And the man who owns an untouchable 7 Tour Titles stops dead in his tracks. Within hours of our quirky, warm friend’s passing …
Lance Armstrong Twittered:
Just heard the news. I’m stunned. Knew Chris Hipp since the 80′s. He was a great man. We’ll miss him. RIP Chris Hipp (1:52 PM Jul 14th).
Within hours of the sad news we heard from 100′s of blogging cyclists, including Bob Mionske (formerly with Saturn Pro Team, currently practicing bike law in Wisconsin):
I met Chris in Dallas over 20 years ago when my team was in town for the Tour of Texas. He told me all about his battles with some junior and kept telling me how strong he was. I scoffed at him. Maybe this kid was good compared to HIM but I was not impressed. This ‘kid’ is going for his 8th Tour de France this week…. A few years later Chris and I were teammates on Celestial Seasonings. Very cool guy, lots of power and super smart. Could sprint with all the hot shots on the team which irked them, to my delight. I met lots of incredible riders in my day but if I had to hang around with someone off the bike I preferred intelligent, creative and funny and Chris was tops in all three.”
For the record, on a red-ant infested crit course outside Richardson, Texas, the Hippster out kicked Lance on many Tuesday Night “World Championships.” That was … Back in the Day. Still, while myself and Roger race the Masters age-grades events, Chris at age 48, was still competing and winning against the young guns … he called them the “Pro Dreamers.” Chris was wicked fast with a high top end and gnarly skills. When the comp got squeamish, the Hippster got calm … yet fierce. Let them scrub speed! I will close!
With Chris and his common-law-wife Lorraine, I was fortunate to travel to the south of France, then Barcelona, Spain, the last two Octobers. Some people say the Hippster had a European style … those who knew him better believed he had an Extra-Terrestrial Style.
He was the steely Marvel Comics character, Captain Nimrod (see the Labor Jersey art design) … visiting us less advanced human Nimrods from a far away Planet Nimrodicus in a far away galaxy. Which perhaps explains how he was able to communicate with cats, dogs, birds, emus, aardvarks and llamas on this planet. He had “reptilian bird” instincts within. Hippstar lived his life in graceful Flight. Soaring, diving, arcing, whirlybirding like a cosmic prankster in the sky.
He truly loved Lorraine. They had a wonderful love and mutual fanship. Back in Texas in the 90′s, Lorraine and my brother Roger saw the soft side of the otherwise stoic Dream Crusher.
I have a sweet image of the two. My Last trip to Nor-Cal, to race the majestic Pescadero Road Race was in June. After the long drive, I knock on the door and hear Hipp chirp: “Hey-Man-Whats-Goin-On…C’MON IN Hawkstar!” I entered to find a muscle-ripped, and battle-scarred, barebacked Hippstar sitting on a chair, watching Speed Television (they enjoyed any type of racing on the telly—from Monaco Gran Prix Trials, to the Tuscaloosa Monster Tractor Pull!) Lorraine was carefully grooming Chris’ granite head with the shears. They turned and smiled like two shining lighthouses. I was instantly at home. I also remember coming up to race the historic Mt. Hamilton this year. I brought Chris the “Nimrod Racing” kit … a goof that he loved. We both wore the kits at the local “Wrecked ‘em” ride to the ripple of giggles and bemusement of the pack. “Nimrod Nation” lead by Captain Nimrod and his disciples! After Pescadero, we donned the same kits for a really cool ride semi-parallel to the San Andreas Fault line, across the Golden Gate to Sausalito. After lunch, a train ride south back to Redwood City. We were joined by Lorraine and her sweet friend Tanja. I cherish those adventures.
Chris decided to avoid the climbs at Mt. Hamilton and Pescadero. But he was as geeked up to participate as I was. Why? Because this allowed him to follow both my race and the Pro race, on the road, on his moto, with the camera clicking. He would zoom down those technical descents, up the valleys to find the perfect vista to capture the colors of the pel and the countryside. On his website, he posted his photos, including videos of the sprint finishes. He really was an artist and photo-journalist. Flying on his moto, carving corners like no other, without laminates, Chris had the street credit to infiltrate the caravan of officials and support. I know for a fact that the promoters and even the Bluecoats gave Hipp a hall pass. Nobody else could pull that off.
I believe he knew his time was limited. So he documented every epic ride like maybe it was his last. And boy, did he know how to have fun on the bike. He was the Mayor of Norcal. The leader of the Famous Hippstar Adventure Rides.
The Hippster was fast. He could go from uber-stoic to uber-silly in 8 nano-seconds. From distant to generous in 7 nano-seconds. From wooden to kind-hearted in 6 nano-seconds. From here and gone in … I dunno. How does one quantify the space and time of a starburst, a piece of art and an echo of light, love, and cackling laughter.
Someone said that as hard as Chris turned the screws in a race, he didn’t have a deathwish—he had a lifewish. Someone else said he crammed 200 years of living into 48 years. Those two statements really encapsulate him for me.
Tonight the foxhole is less safe without him. But alas, he was 12 pounds of joy and wisdom in a 10-pound bag. Chris, per your advice … I will do my freaking hardest to spread the overflow of light and tranquility which you unselfishly gave. I will do my best to live in the moment as you taught. And if I come up short, while in the Grind … I know, you will forgive … and you will wait for me, cause I can’t find my Gaw-Dammed left shoe….
Chris. You Oak. You Legend. You Capitan. You Supernova. You Masterpiece. I will never, ever forget you. And I love you.
Chris Hipp died today. Worst sentence I ever wrote. He was on his way to an early morning training ride. He never got there. Apparently suffered an aneurysm. I’m fairly certain he would’ve won the city limit sprint otherwise.
Lorraine has been comforted all day by many of their friends. She’s an incredibly strong and brave woman — I know Chris loved her deeply.
I know I speak for many of you when I say the obvious—we’re hurting. We lost a strange and unique friend. He was many things: a hard core spee-r-inter, an inquisitive explorer (he loved maps), a cybergeek (he invented a server gizmo called the Blade but never got the credit he deserved), a pioneer in graphics (he wrote my law firm’s first news letter in 1990), a student of technofop (he preferred Gary Neuman to Jimi Hendrix), and one of the warmest guys on the planet, which is odd because he always complained about not being warmed up before the final sprint. He helped found Team Labor Power in 1990. In the past few years, when I took an extended time out and others moved on, he kept the Labor dream alive, single-handedly and with pride.
He helped write the cyclist’s dictionary, giving us words and phrases like: “pounding idiots,” “stoopid sport,” 12k dreamer,” “gritty not pritty,” and of course “EEEDEEEOTTS!.” He had an uncanny ear for odd sounds. He could entertain himself for hours making exotic chirps, trills, flutters and hoots. I think he was actually able to talk to the birds who frequented the feeder outside his window. I know he was able to talk to his cats.
We’ve all got a million Hipp Star stories. In the near future, we will want to hold a tribute to the Hipp Star. Thinking out loud, perhaps a Friday night tribute dinner followed by a group ride the next morning. The trick is in finding a time that will be convenient to greatest number of people.
Chris’ remaining survivor is his brother Michael, who lives in Dallas. Chris and Lorraine met in Dallas about 15 years ago and they didn’t migrate to Redwood City until about 2000 (don’t hold me to the dates) so they have about a zillion friends in both states.
Stay tuned for details about logistics of the tribute (he’d like that I used that word—he pretty much admitted that he was “logistically impaired”). We want to celebrate the quirky trajectory of his life. He’s one of the few people I’ve known who really did mature like one of those fine wines you hear about without losing his playfulness. In my view, Hipp had found his stride. He was poised and comfortable with the size and scope of his life. He was the guy you wanted to share a foxhole with when the bullets started flying.
You just knew he was going to keep his cool and help get you out of there unscathed. He made me feel safe. “Never quit,” he always told me, with a mixture of sternness and optimism. “You never know what will happen in the end, you just might rally.
Peace be with you Brother Hipp Star. May you always take that Great Big
City Limit Sign Sprint in the Sky.
Labor for Life,