SportsEvents Magazine

NOV 2016

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Page 40 of 59 November 2016 41 t SPORT Report he light of a full moon gracing the iconic Misión San Antonio de Valero provided a stunning back- drop as Stefan Rothe flashed across the finish line in a blur while the deafening roar of an estimated 15,000 fans echoed throughout downtown and brought a close to a full day of bike racing at the Red Bull Last Stand. For 50 laps on the half-mile race circuit around the Misión com- monly known as the Alamo, Rothe, from nearby Austin, TX, fought off 49 cyclists in aseemingly endless battle to stay out front in the first-of-its-kind format for a road cycling event. On each of the laps in the final, the last rider across the line was eliminated, until just two riders remained to race for the title. "That was super exciting," San Antonio native Mitch Hill said with a broad smile and sparkling eyes. "I ride my bike as much as I can but I can't ride that fast. We just came down to check this out and it was great to watch. Very entertaining." Bicycle racing has been around ever since the first folks climbed aboard two wheels more than 150 years ago. There are road races, off-road races and track races. Never, however, had there been a race like this. "We wanted to come up with something that was fitting for an iconic site like the Alamo," race promoter Ravi Rajcoomar said. "Red Bull wanted something unique if it was going to sponsor a road cycling event." The event combined the short-course, 40-mph-plus speeds of a criterium with the miss-and-out concept of a track event to give fans and racers a fresh experience. In addition to the typical road bike with multiple gears, the race included a division for fixed-gear bikes used in track racing that are an increasingly popular choice among young urban commuters. "It was a little confusing at first but once you understood what was going on, it was great," said spectator Marilou Fauteux, who came from Montreal, "because there was a sprint every lap!" That was part of the lure that brought Caroline Poole down from Montreal to race in the women's event that had a prize purse equal to the men's. "In a regular criterium, you can place yourself in a position where you don't have to work very hard until the last few laps," Poole said. "But here it's all about being in the front because you can get attacked from behind and suddenly you're out!" As a sponsor of many unique cycling events, Red Bull histor- ically has stayed away from road events. Undaunted, Rajcoomar continued to pitch ideas until he struck gold with the combination of a new idea and an old American monument. "I knew we couldn't have just any other event here because we have to get away from the irreverence for such a reverent site," said San Antonio councilman Roberto Treviño, a cycling enthusiast himself. "The spirit of the cyclist is in the spirit of a warrior, how they mentally prepare. This is more a mental race than a physical race. That it's called the Last Stand is this idea that you push yourself beyond what you thought you could, push beyond the threshold to display incredible courage and emotional strength." Fans that lined the streets throughout an afternoon of qualifying and four thrilling final races sensed that spirit from start to finish. "This is great for the fixed-gear and track cycling communities, to get to race like this," said spectator David Centers, a bike me- chanic from Washington, D.C. "I'm all for anything that brings the different communities together." The race won over the cyclists, too. Thinking out of the box helped get San Antonio officials behind the race. "As a cycling fan, I appreciate this," Treviño said. "But also, as a councilman, I know the city needs events like this to showcase the city as a progressive, international city that can shake off that image of being fat and inactive. This is a thriving active community with great weather year-round. We want people to come visit and see our World Heritage sites. "We need to think beyond the typical sporting events. This is Texas and football is king. But the king in San Antonio is the Spurs and there is no greater international team than the Spurs. I love that they set a great example of how you think outside the norms. A race like this is in line with how San Antonio thinks. We're a little different. We have a great diversity and intersection of cultures. This is where Texas was born." n J.R. FIRST IMPRESSIONS ON A LAST STAND The Red Bull Last Stand in San Antonio, TX John Rezell

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