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‘On Richmond’s Wheel’ Second Edition Set for Release

June 22, 2015 10:28am

“On Richmond’s Wheel – A Celebration of Cycling” will be released this June 27 at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. It’s a project that I began back in 2010. The first self-published book came out in 2012. With the 2015 World Road Cycling Championships coming to Richmond in September, I felt like the book needed to be expanded to really connect with the world audience. Aynsley Miller Fisher co-wrote the new book to include more material on the culture of cycling in RVA. The book’s publisher, Wayne Dementi of Dementi Milestone Publishing, is the perfect person to take on the task of describing all things unique to Richmond.

Riders from Endorphin Fitness out for a pedal session.

Riders from Endorphin Fitness out for a pedal session.

So, you’re thinking, it’s a book about cycling in Richmond. Yes. And no. Yes, because cycling has become an important part of Richmond’s culture. No, because much of what makes cycling great in RVA has nothing to do with riding a bicycle.

Richmond has these great events that people from Central Virginia have been a part of. “On Richmond’s Wheel” describes many past events that no longer exist. It describes what riding a bicycle means, and meant, to Richmond.

When I talk to people about the book, I get to listen to fond memories of Richmond’s past. Then I get the question, “whatever happened to that ride?”

I began researching cycling in Richmond to celebrate the long running and popular Bryan Park Training Series. This is a weekly Tuesday night training event that is kept simple and is reasonably priced.

“It’s like an Amish barnraising,” said Matt Marchal, of the Altius Cycling Team and long-time promoter. “You cannot put a value on the work done on this race.”

Riders climb the famous Libby Hill cobblestones. Credit: Richmond.com

Riders from the U.S. National Team climb the famous Libby Hill cobblestones. Credit: Richmond.com

The volunteers who run Bryan Park make racing there special. The current promoter of the series, John Messersmith, said of the volunteers, “Wendy (Hawkins Conner) brings a competence, an enthusiasm and a love for the racers that simply cannot be purchased at any price.  The racers feel it, we feel it and it makes the difference between merely a race and an event look forward to being part of.  Likewise, Tom (Balaban), Carolyn (Gobles) and Dave (Richards) are integral parts of the series and their mere presence raises the comfort level and enjoyment of the races.  So much so that it is palpable at the start line.  Our team members and other volunteers who man our corners are not just warm bodies occupying space.  They know the racers, they cheer for them, they heckle and they share both the excitement of success and pain of being dropped with folks as they roll through corners.  Our volunteers are a critical component of our success and absolutely essential yet it has virtually nothing to do with economics.  They are essential because they are the personality and life of our series; they elevate it from merely 18/25 laps around a loop to an evening you don’t want to miss.”

Dick Howard, who is essentially the father of modern bicycle racing in Richmond because of his work promoting races and cycling events, began the Bryan Park Training Series more than 40 years ago. The race was initially a Richmond Area Bicycle Association event.

British cyclist Mark Cavendish his

The world will be watching when the UCI World Cycling Championships come to Richmond in September.

Then the race was taken over by Team Richmond. Then it was taken over by the small club PDO (no one remembers what PDO stands for). Then it was jointly run by Richmond Ciclismo and PDO. Then Richmond Ciclismo. Then Altius.

More than 40 years of racing at Bryan Park. The race was almost snuffed out a few times.

“Twenty percent of the people do 80 percent of the work,” Howard said. He was describing why the Capital Classic, a popular road bike race in Byrd Park, stopped. He said he couldn’t get enough people to volunteer for this elaborate race.

I can’t talk about Richmond’s cycling history without bringing up the importance of cycling to the city in the 1890s.

I find it interesting that one of the cultural differences between cyclists of the 1890s and the Richmond cyclists of the modern era is how race organizers and judges are viewed. In the 1890s, the judges are mentioned in high regard and the competitors are barely mentioned. Today, the competitors are the story and the judges are rarely mentioned.

I also find it interesting that Mark Junkermann created and promotes the cyclocross race in Pocahontas State Park called “Monster Cross.” This is a race that he would love to race but never has. Too bad because Mark would do well in his own race. All the joy of riding the event is Mark’s gift to you.

Aynsley, the co-writer of On Richmond’s Wheel, did a great job summarizing the work of many of the can-do advocacy groups in the city. Frankly, I needed her help. There are so many groups and too many projects going on in the City of Richmond for me to wrap my mind around.

Dementi Milestone Publishing recognized the importance of your cycling passion. The second edition of the book, “On Richmond’s Wheel – A Celebration of Cycling,” was made to show the world that Richmond’s cycling culture is unique but is as passionate, if not more so, about cycling than anywhere else in the world. You disagree?

As I’m typing this, another news flash comes across my computer. Bud Vye received the Governor’s “Lifetime Achievement” Transportation Safety Award. When Bud is not riding, he is walking around the General Assembly lobbying on cycling’s behalf.

The 2015 World Road Cycling Championships is around the corner. How many times have you been asked, “Are you going to be in it?”

How did you answer? Mark doesn’t ride in the Monster Cross but how should he answer “Are you in the Monster Cross?”

Hey Richmond, the World Championships is YOUR race. What are you going to do?

Here’s something. Go to https://richmond2015.volunteermanage.com and volunteer to help.

Or go to www.rvahosts.com. You see, not all of the bicycle racers coming to Richmond in September are millionaires. They are just passionate cyclists – like you. RVA Hosts gives the people of Richmond and opportunity to help racers make Richmond their home.

Richmond’s passion for cycling made On Richmond’s Wheel a success. Thank you. If you would like a copy of the book, please check first with your local bike shop or any of the sponsors of your favorite event.


About Tom Houff



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