Junior cyclists help bridge gap at Manhattan Beach Grand Prix

Racers must handle a hairpin turn before sprinting to the finish line at the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. Photo

Racers must handle a hairpin turn before sprinting to the finish line at the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. Photo

The 55-year-old Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix is the nation’s second-oldest, one-day bicycle race for elite cyclists. Over the years the races have also included popular kids races. Missing, however, has been a race for teenagers.

That has changed this year. New to the MBGP, which takes place Sunday, will be a 50-minute race for Junior males, ages 15-18. The 1,500 in prize money will awarded 10 deep.

“Junior male racers have been asking for longer races and more prize money, Race Director Greg Aden said. “They are a rowdy and aggressive bunch. This year we decided to give them just that. “

Also new this year will be the Chevron Kids’ Zone for children two through 12 years. The area at the Start/Finish line will include free face painting, color hair spray, temporary tattoos, hot dogs, cookies, a photo booth, balloon animals and prizes.

“We are very excited about the Chevron Kids’ Zone,” said Rod Spackman, Chevron’s Manager of Policy, Government and Public Affairs. “We have always viewed the Chevron Manhattan Beach Grand Prix as a fun event for families. With this new area for kids, we hope to attract more racing fans and their children to come spend the day at the Grand Prix.”

In addition to the nine races and the Chevron Kids’ Zone, the event will include food vendors, local exhibits, and antique road and cruiser bike shows.

“You could say this is the year of the kids,” said Ted Ernst, a local racing legend who founded the MBGP in 1962.  “We have had community kid’s races every year since the inception of the event, but had a tough time getting junior racers involved. I’m glad to see the change and that the next generation of possible National Champions and Olympians have a race to showcase their talent.”

Redondo Beach resident and longtime racer Kevin Phillips grew up adjacent to the MBGP course and is thrilled the event has added a Junior race. Last weekend his son Ryder won the Under-15 Junior National Track Championship in Trexlertown, Pa.

Kids' races have been a part of the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix every year since the event began in 1962. Photo

Kids’ races have been a part of the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix every year since the event began in 1962. Photo

“I won the little kids race at MBGP when I was 4, but have not raced the last few years as they did not have a junior race,” said Ryder, who races for team Ironfly. “To finally have a junior category to race in is great. I grew up watching my parents do MBGP, so it’s cool to finally do it myself.”

Phillips believes track racing translates well to the road.

“The speed you develop on the track is a big advantage because on the road we have junior gear restrictions,” Ryder explained. “You have be able to spin really good and the track is the best way to develop that skill.”

Also competing in the Junior race will be 16-year-old Jon Gorski, the 2015 Junior State Track Omnium Champion and a member of the South Bay Wheelmen.

“I’m amazed at how great many cyclists there are in my age group,” Gorski said. “I raced in Cat 4 at last year’s Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. There race has so much history and I feel honored to part of that tradition.”

Gorski trains three times a week at the Velodrome in Carson and feels his experience of sprinting around the oval track is beneficial.

“Manhattan is a tough course. It takes skill to handle the hills and sharp corners,” Gorski said. “There are many opportunities to pull away but the race really comes down to putting yourself in a good position for the final spring to the finish line.”

Sunday’s race marks Chevron’s 26th consecutive year as the title sponsor of the event, which attracts more than 700 contestants, including the world’s top cyclists from six continents.

The 1.3-mile clockwise course on Valley and Ardmore starts and finishes at Live Oak Park with the first of nine races beginning at 7 a.m.

The kids’ races (ages 2-12; $10 entry fee), will be held at 12 p.m. with each participant receiving an official race number, t-shirt, medal and goodie bag.

The Women’s Pro 1-3 race follows at 1 p.m. It will be started by local Assemblyman David Hadley. The featured race of the day, the Men’s Pro 1-2 race, begins at 2 p.m.

For additional information, visit mbgp.com.


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